Michael Blanton's Response to the Cape Cod Arts and Cultural Questionnaire

Arts and Culture in Your District

Cape Cod is blessed with a rich mix of arts & cultural organizations. Please name two places in the district where you have had personally significant arts and cultural experiences.

Cape Cod Community College – Music & Theater: I actually started my college career at 4Cs as a music major, performing with the college’s chorus and chamber choir, and was later recruited to the MasterSingers of Cape Cod. I also performed with the college’s Janus Players. I was well prepared at our local institution for further education that culminated in volunteering with the Pops By The Sea concert, tryouts for the Tanglewood Chorus of the Boston Symphony and acceptance to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

The College Light Opera Company (CLOC) at Highfield Theatre in Falmouth. Continuing my love of theatre on the Cape and elsewhere, I have been a regular patron of this fine summer stock experience. I have taken my son Kai to ‘Les Miserables’ and Gilbert & Sullivan performances, cultivating a love of drama in him as well. Kai is currently cast as a guest artist in ‘The Sorcerer’ and was just recruited to serve as assistant stage manager for the 2016 summer season, so we will be spending even more time giving to this effort.

Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Creativity and innovation are vital skills in a student’s education and in workforce development in our 21st century economy. How will you champion arts education? Would you support joining ten other states to make one year of arts education in high school a requirement for admission to the state university system?

STEAM – I was very excited about my friend Mass. State Representative Sarah Peake’s concept of expanding the curriculum incentives in the state’s focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) studies to also include an Arts component. As a former director and marine science educator for Woods Hole-based OceanQuest, I would regularly create custom tours for New England K-12 science students in which I would introduce them to Dr. Betsy Broughton, an oceanographer who stressed the importance of cross-disciplined education, including foreign language study and artistry. In addition to becoming a world-renowned expert in certain areas of marine science, she explained to aspiring oceanographers about her study of French and German to translate important treatises that she would reference in her textbooks, which she also illustrated!

Yes, I would support that 10-state requirement of one year of Arts education for state college admission.

Economic Development

There are countless vacant buildings and storefronts from Falmouth to Provincetown, including the Hibel and Armory buildings in downtown Hyannis. What incentive might you use to entice landlords and/or businesses to partner up with our local artists to bring new life to vacant main street buildings?

In Bourne, as the town’s representative to the Cape Cod Commission and a de facto member of the town’s Main Street Steering Committee, we applied for a state grant to encourage property owners to participate in a street façade improvement competition and awarded tens of thousands of dollars in grants to the winners. Aesthetically pleasing storefronts that would entice business growth in their own businesses as well as serve as an encouragement to neighboring properties were promoted. I would propose to partner with private property owners to use vacant or underutilized properties as ‘local art incubators’ and promote an awareness of the importance of arts and culture in the community, as I advocated in Bourne for the Hoxie Center at Sagamore Beach for Art, Science, Education and Culture, an adaptive reuse of a vacant town-owned school structure. I supported the use of Community Preservation Act funds to be used to rehab the structure and bring cultural programs to the town.

Nonprofit art and cultural organizations support more than 45,000 jobs, spend $2.1 billion annually, and generate another $2.5 billion of economic activity. How will the legislature foster an environment that supports the creative community and tourism across the Commonwealth, and particularly on Cape Cod?

The Cape has been an attractor for artists of every sphere for decades, and helped to lay the foundation upon which the Cape tourism economy has been built for almost one hundred years. Tax incentives for large scale development have been routinely awarded to bring businesses to our area; we should explore a similar treatment for arts, theatre, music and architecture that embodies the spirit of the ‘community character’ for which the Cape is known. There have been state-wide campaigns to market the Commonwealth as a place for people to live and thrive (remember the ‘Make It In Massachusetts’ slogan?), and we should propose plans to showcase the unique cultural offerings in on Cape Cod, such as the Cape Symphony Orchestra and the Cape Cod Museum of Art, network the various museums across the state, and ensure that the Mass. Dept. of Tourism has adequate funding to encourage visitors to consider these in visiting or relocating to Massachusetts.

Addressing Cape Cod’s Socioeconomic Issues

Cape Cod faces many economic and social issues, among them homelessness, addiction, and limited services for both youth and seniors. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving the district’s social and economic challenges?

Those persons affected by homelessness and addiction are often very talented individuals with a story to tell, one that educates and edifies those around them while also serving to help chart a path to meaningful contributions to communities and a road to recovery. We have seen the rise in amateur videography transform into moving local documentaries about both of these crisis areas. The Art Incubators that I mentioned above could also serve in part as ‘artistic expression colonies’ for individuals in these communities among others. I would encourage relationships and funding for building alliances between shelters and rehabilitation centers and art institutes, local professional development course offerings and business development incubators to employ people in transition in efforts that would not only encourage their artistic expression borne out of their life challenges, but would also be the next stepping in stone in their personal and professional development in new directions while also spreading their talents around Cape businesses that could showcase the efforts of these neighbors in our communities. Think wayward youth and directed ‘street graffiti’ mural projects for municipal structures, seasonal outdoor theater improvisation brought into the schools to teach about the dangers of addiction, or having artists supervise along Habitat for Humanity builds with contractors so that the finer points of paint, interior design, landscape design become more significant parts of the build. Arts, Music and Theater can be brought into the shelters and recovery communities to encourage recovery through artistic expression, story-telling and promoting an understanding of their dilemma and the human condition.

Thank you for the opportunity to share, expound and to be considered for your endorsement. I look forward to hearing from you!

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