Lance Davis'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.

It may be a too-easy answer but two of my favorite days of the year in Somerville are HONK! and Porchfest. I love roaming around the city for Porchfest, as much for the conversations you strike up along the was as for the music itself.  And what more can be said about HONK!? My family and I have marched in the parade the past several years and the feeling of community is unparalleled. 

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?

I believe the role of the government in funding arts and the creative community should be primarily to create opportunities to experience the arts for those who otherwise would not have that opportunity. With this in mind, I do support continued investment in the Arts Council and its related programming. What is more relevant in the context of the powers of the Board of Aldermen is that we fight for stronger measures to address the issue of housing affordability in this city.  This includes, among other things, higher percentages of inclusionary affordable housing in our zoning, along with zoning that allows the sort of live-work creative space so critical to enabling artists to continue living in our city.

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 do support the realization of the ArtFarm vision. I was impressed and excited when it first was announced because it represents the sort of open access to public art that I believe is critical in a diverse urban environment. 

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?

Housing affordability is the most pressing issue facing this city. The very diversity that has made Somerville such an attractive place to live is being lost as housing prices increase. Among other initiatives, I support increasing the top inclusionary zoning rate to 25%; establishing and increasing the commercial linkage fees for jobs and housing funds; the proposed transfer fee and tenant right of first refusal bills that are pending at the state level; and better regulating short-term rentals (like AirBnB) so that units remain in the rental and ownership market. My colleagues and I have worked extremely hard fighting to address this issue and we will continue to do so.

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?

One of the best ways we can increase permanent public art is to push for it to be incorporated in private development plans.  This has been done with varying degrees of success over the years and it will be important to follow through on this sort of requirement to make sure that the art/installation is maintained appropriately over the years.

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?

I do support the inclusion of work/live housing and fabrication zoning. The initiatives detailed in my responses above will address housing affordability generally and that will help many diverse populations to be better able to remain in Somerville.

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?

Youth arts programming in school as well as outside of school is both a strength and an area that needs to be expanded.  I will continue to support the Somerville Arts Council when budgets are requested to expand these programs.

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