Jesse Clingan'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.

My family legacy is reflected in the public murals in Somerville.  My late mother represents Native Americans at the center of the 1997 “Somerville Immigrants” mural by Be Sargeant on Park Street and the silhouettes of my wife, my daughter and myself are featured on the “This Is East” mural on Cross Street.

I love to participate in the many arts and cultural festivals in Somerville throughout the year. You can see me marching in the annual HONK! Parade, taking in music at porchfest and visiting a local artist during Open Studios. My daughter loves art and we encourage her to explore her creative side.  We love to see her perform with her summer drama camp at the Armory.  

Somerville Artists have a long history of building community unity and making our city unique. Art transcends all boundaries. 

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?

As Alderman I will review the city budget and make sure that the Arts Council and Community events continue to be supported by the city.  Our Arts Council does a terrific job.  Arts Education is shown to help children do better in school and while so many surrounding communities are cutting art in their School Budget, in Somerville it needs to be a priority.  

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?

I support the development of the ArtFarm.  I will advocate for Artist Space on that site and look for public/private partnerships to make sure it becomes a reality.  I like the concept of having dedicated space to create, play and build community around art.

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?

Our cultural and economic diversity is what makes Somerville great.  I am in favor of increasing the inclusionary housing rate from 20% to 25% to maintain that diversity.  As the green line comes to Somerville we need to make sure that our unique and immigrant-owned local small businesses are not priced out. We currently have a wide variety of Ethnic Food and Cultural Festivals and I will promote these community events and encourage people from all cultures to join in and get a taste of all we have to offer.  We need to support immigrant organizations and communities by meeting them where they are at and asking them what they need to make the city work better for them rather than assuming we know what they should have.

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?

Public Art makes a community a happier place.  We need to protect our public murals and find ways to create more to fill empty spaces and make them reflect the neighborhoods and cultures in Somerville.  The Neighborways program can be expanded throughout the city.  They add art to streetscapes which adds beauty and it also creates safer streets and traffic calming.

The city of Lynn recently did a citywide arts project where they invited artists from many cultures to create mural designs that reflected their diverse community and a Beyond Walls project that added creative artistic lighting to dark underpasses and public spaces.  I would like to see more projects like this in Somerville..  In addition to city funding, investment in the arts could be part of a community benefits package from developers, grants can be applied for and we can solicit public donations at our city art and cultural festivals.

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?

The city is about to undergo zoning reform.  We need to include options for live/work spaces and fabrication zoning.  Some houses include outbuilding, sheds, garages or in-law apartments that could be converted to include studio use.  Increasing our supply of low to moderate income housing will help both families and artists.

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?

Participating in the Arts as children instills pride and self-esteem. It helps develop real-life skills and leads to better grades.  When children are encouraged in self-expression it will increase a sense of belonging to their community. The effects as seen in the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” are real.

All Somerville students currently have the opportunity to learn an instrument for free.  They can learn Videography at SCAT.  I’m excited about our new Fab Lab program at the High School which is open to everyone.  Teen Empowerment presents a full day of original performances at their annual Peace Conference.  We need to encourage more kids to take part.  Some kids will thrive in the art world who might not be as comfortable in our traditional sports culture.

The schools could take more advantage of our area museums for inspiration with field trips and encourage a whole approach where creative and artistic influence can be integrated into core classes.

Do you like this page?

Community Impact

The Drama Studio is one of a handful of youth theatres in the United States that offers quality, range, and depth in its acting training programs. For Springfield-area youth, the Studio's conservatory program offers an unusual opportunity for training that prepares its graduates (all of whom are college bound) to...