Katjana Ballantyne's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection
Somerville is fortunate to have a rich cultural community. Please tell us about two instances in which you have had personally significant experiences with the arts and/or culture in Somerville.

Arts & Culture are important to a community. It was part of what attracted me to stay here. As an immigrant who was raised in a ethno-centric community, it was a relief to come to Somerville in the early 1990s and see a community trying to address the diversity & inclusion topics. I speak 3 languages and have lived and traveled in many places around the world. Early on I was attracted to the diverse restaurants; Ethiopian, Italian, Portuguese, Haitian, Serbian, Turkish, Nepalese-Indian to name a few. I am continual visitor of Open Studios, and totally support Mudflat acquiring its own space in Lower Broadway many years ago. My children participated early on in; Open Air Circus, Arts in the Garden (when first established), playing musical instruments, riding bikes to tour the Christmas Illuminations throughout Somerville in December. And, we are a huge fan of Porch Fest.

City Investment in the Arts
How would you ensure government continues to support the creative community? As an elected official how would you ensure the Somerville cultural community receives the funding it needs to be a driving force in the city and region? At what financial level should the city invest in the creative sector? Do you support incremental increases, and if so, at what percent?  How might this relate to the Arts Council and staffing? Do you believe that investment in infrastructure for the arts in Somerville will prove valuable in sustaining and growing our creative ecosystem and cultural economy?

What I have I done so far while in office nearly 4 years...

I have supported all municipal budget requests to support Arts & Culture in Somerville, introduced city staff to small business owners who could offset some costs to SomerStreets festival on Holland St/Teele Sq. I also worked closely with MarKa, developer of the reuse of the former Powderhouse School to include in their project; arts venue, outdoor amphitheater, about 70 foot long outdoor wall mural on retaining wall... And, recently, I worked with the property owner of the empty lot in Teele Square to include arts component to their proposed project...

Proposed project description:

Boutique hotel, ground floor cafe, small community art gallery space, green garden wall next to adjacent building, roof top restaurant, onsite underground parking, circular entrance driveway for hotel entrance, potential to redirect traffic on Clarendon Ave. for two way traffic flow up to property boundary. The meeting is Oct. 30, 7pm at the West Somerville Community School, cafeteria.

Cultural Infrastructure and ArtFarm
Three years ago, Somerville started the planning process to redevelop the former waste transfer site into a site that would support the physical infrastructure needs of both the arts and urban agricultural community.  Do you, as a candidate, support this effort?  At this site? And if so, what can you do to ensure it becomes a reality? Considering that the City views itself innovative, which aspects of ArtFarm do you find innovative in a way that would reinforce the culturally progressive nature of our changing City? ArtFarm has received 1.4 million in outside investment — do you support further City investment to make Artfarm a permanent cultural resource for Somerville? In addition to ArtFarm, what are other strategies and means can you imagine that would further develop and support the cultural infrastructure of the City?

Yes, I support Art Farm and would help in finding a permanent location.

Supporting a Diverse and Inclusive City
Somerville is a diverse and thriving community. How would you support creative community to build connections that maintain and support the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity that makes this City thrive? How would you ensure that immigrants play pivotal roles in shaping our cultural infrastructure? Do you see immigrants getting priced out of Somerville as a problem — and what are your ideas to retain our immigrant communities, and thus sustain our diverse culture?

How do we keep our community affordable  and welcoming for low income immigrant population in our community. Develop and Work for affordability --- Somerville needs to increase its commercial tax base, support all efforts to have the 20% Inclusionary Zoning requirement for new construction be built on site now, and delayed to a future time, increase and expand afterschool options, connect local people to local jobs and provide them the workforce skills training to improve themselves so they can earn higher wages. And, with the horribly divisive language being promulgated nationally Somerville being a Sanctuary City is something I am proud of.

Public Art and Creative Placemaking
Somerville does a wonderful job of supporting art and artists in public spaces through it’s many festivals and civic events; how will you ensure this continues and reflects the diverse community? How would you expand upon the “temporary” events and create more permanent works embedded in the Somerville landscape? Would this look like a traditional percent-for-permanent-art program, tied to development, similar to Cambridge? How could you leverage the expansive private development occurring in the City to invest in sustaining arts and culture?

Space to Rehearse, Create and Live
The lack of affordable studio space and housing makes it hard for artists—not to mention working class families and immigrants— to stay in Somerville. How would you keep artists of all backgrounds in the city and provide the infrastructure necessary for them to thrive?  What specifically can the City accomplish and how can it leverage private development to provide more live and work spaces for artists?  Do you support current initiatives including work/live housing for artists and fabrication zoning to retain creative spaces?

Youth Engagement
Engaging students with the arts in school and out of school is essential to educating the whole child. While the Somerville school curricula provides access to many, we need more participation in arts education. Somerville’s out of school youth arts organizations continue to service thousands of kids, yet struggle to raise the resources needed to meet student demand. How would you invest in arts education for students of all ages, both inside and outside of school to ensure all youth in Somerville have a connection to the arts?

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