Angel Cosme's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

1.Your personal connection
How has your personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity had an impact on your life and your view of the community?

My name is Angel Cosme, I am Puerto Rican, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1976. During this time, a revolution of music was taking place in NYC that created the genre of music we now call Hip Hop. I grew up in various Housing Projects in NYC and later in Rhode Island that were mostly comprised of African Americans and Latinos. My cultural identity was rooted in these experiences and the contributions of Puerto Ricans in Hip Hop was something I took great pride in. As an adolescent, music was a cornerstone of my upbringing and I amassed a collection of tapes and CD's from various Rap artists in the late 80's and early 90's that helped to shape my view of the world. Listening to Hip Hop was a way of releasing tension and relating to the experiences portrayed in the music was an outlet for me and those I grew up with. Later as an adult, I used the study of Puerto Rican History (culture) as a way of enhancing my identity which lead me to a love of learning. I then re-enrolled in college in 2008 after dropping out in 1997 and obtained my BA in Psychology with minors in Latino Studies and Anthropology in 2012 and went on to obtain my M.Ed. in 2013. I am now a Special Education Life Skills Teacher. My experiences with the art form of Hip Hop and my identity as a Puerto Rican remain pivotal identities in my adult life and how I view the world.

2. Arts & Culture in Brockton
Brockton is home to a mix of arts and cultural organizations.  What is your story about the impact of a local arts or cultural institution in our city?

Through a local community leader and former City Council candidate, I was introduced to the Sound Lab Music Studio. My then 11-year old son, Josiah was creating music and this gentleman informed me that there is a music studio that offers classes to youth. I enrolled my son in a 12 week music producer program and this experience has proven to be a blessing for my now 15-year old son who remains creating and producing music. It is his outlet, passion and life goal. My son has gone on to produce music for a documentary entitled, "Out of Bounds" by Noube Productions and this film went on to be nominated for a New England Emmy. Josiah is also producing music for his latest film entitled, "Protect, Serve and Care," which deals with the interconnection of police and community relations. Josiah also went on to co-produce a music track for the Brockton Youth Cypher II which was produced by the Sound Lab. Given my relationship with the studio, I volunteered to write a grant that resulted in over $80,000 over two years for the Sound Lab to offer a comprehensive music program for at-risk youth, a project I am very proud of. The Sound Lab is a gem for Brockton. Realizing this, I proposed a occupational volunteer experience for my students where they volunteered a couple of hours a week at the studio helping with their remodeling project while gaining valuable occupational and volunteer experiences so my relationship with the studio continues. 

3. Addressing City-wide Issues
What are specific examples of how the arts, culture, and creative community can help solve social problems?  What are your ideas about how the creative community can drive economic development in Brockton?

Before teaching at Brockton High School and Southeastern regional Technical High School, I worked at Independence Academy, a Recovery High School for students in recovery from drugs and alcohol. As a history teacher, I constantly though of ways to make learning engaging and relevant to my students. Knowing that students, regardless of race or gender, related and gravitated to Hip Hop, I used it as a form to engage my students and to help them to critically think about life and social ills that surface throughout society. One example of a lesson I conducted was when I was teaching about the Civil Rights Movement. I aimed to encourage students to harness the power of Hip Hop as a medium for social change and the pursuit of social justice. I helped them to think about the power, influence and following that Hip Hop had in order to encourage them to create, support and promote the opportunity to create socially-conscious lyrics that tackle issues such as racism, sexism, poverty and oppression in all its forms. 

Brockton has a significant number of artists who identify with Hip Hop and who use it as a medium for their creative expression. Others gravitate towards creating visual representations in the form of painting or sculptures. If we could tap into these talents and help support the creation of economic opportunities to use these gifts to challenge oppression and to promote economic development, we would have capitalized on a great opportunity while helping the artistic community to gain monetary compensation from their creations. We can host gallery exhibits where artists can sell their work, host poetry slams and Hip Hop shows, theatre productions that promote social consciousness as a way to build Brockton, challenge inequalities and to showcase the talent that exists locally. To do so requires leaders, educators, elected officials, the business community and the like and I am committed to playing my role as Teacher, Candidate for City Councilor, Father and supporter of the arts to ensure this occurs.

4. Arts Education and Programs for Our Youth
What is your stance on the importance of arts education in schools? Do you support funding of the Creative Challenge Index? The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has pledged to update the Commonwealth's art education curriculum (last updated in 1999) as well as report on access and participation in arts education in school districts. How will you support arts education in the Brockton Public Schools, in the face of never-ending underfunding?

As an Educator at the Secondary level, I fully support arts in the schools. As a Special Education Teacher and former Clinician, I understand the multiple-intelligences we posses and the various learning styles that we inhibit. We must realize that not all of these modes of learning are exclusive to academically-centered educational offerings. Some of us are visual learners, some prefer to learn hands-on and still others prefer kinetic opportunities (e.g. dance) as a form of preferential learning and expression. Therefore, we must promote, enhance and create opportunities for the arts in all its beauty and forms for our youth within the school system.

As an Educator, I fully support funding of the Creative Index Challenge and an updated and robust emphasis on Arts Curriculum that is robust, innovated and state of the art because of arts' ability to transform, uplift challenge and allow creative expression, elements of education that are all often too ignored and left as an afterthought. As a Life Skills Special Education Teacher at Brockton High School, I have the freedom to bring in guests and take my students into the community to showcase opportunities such as exposure to the arts and I have and will continue to expose my students to such opportunities, Furthermore, I can and will use my connections at the District to ensure that all students are afforded such opportunities. Although the District faces a dire financial outlook, we must harness the power of the community, local businesses and institutions to continually put arts in the forefront of our student learning objectives.

5. Partnerships with the Creative Community
How would you promote public-private partnerships to support the Brockton creative community?

Retaining and promoting Art Week Brockton is one way that we can ensure that local artists are provided venues and opportunities to showcase their talents. We could also create sponsorship opportunities for local businesses to contribute funds and spaces for local artists to exhibit their work. Contests supported by businesses offering incentives for various forms of art competition is another example of such partnerships. The City could develop a centralized platform or database taht will feature evens centered on the arts. We could designate such places as "artist-friendly" businesses and zones to highlight their financial and promotional support. The support could consist of opportunities to sponsor courses that offer instrument lessons, vocal coaching, poetry slams, rap shows, art exhibits, craft classes and the like at places like the Sound Lab, Stacey Adams Building, the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton Symphony Orchestra, music businesses like Central Music and the Brockton Public Schools. Studies show that art education improves a student's ability to further excel in the traditional courses such as math, science and English while helping them to develop communication skills, problem solving strategies, creative expression and openness so the benefits of such partnerships are profound on many levels. As City Councilor and as an Educator, I fully support such endeavors and will use my role, within the confines of my limitations to promote and support such opportunities. 

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