Judith Flanagan Kennedy's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection
1. We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has affected your life and your view of the Lynn community?

It has been a real pleasure for me watching the Lynn Auditorium come to life.  When I became Mayor in 2010, the Auditorium had been presenting, on average, three ticketed shows per year.  It was not air-conditioned, so shows were presented only during October through April.  The bartenders were usually workers from City Hall or their relatives, and the dressing rooms looked like prison cells.

Since 2010, I have led the transformation of the Auditorium into a first-class regional entertainment venue.  We installed air conditioning, hired a professional booking agent, security service and bartending company, entered into a contract with Ticketmaster to reach a wider audience, and renovated the dressing rooms.  This year, we are on track to present fifty ticketed shows.

Watching the audience members, from Lynn and beyond, leaving a show and saying, "Can you believe this is in LYNN?", makes me feel as though the Auditorium has enabled us to improve and enhance the perception of Lynn, both in the eyes of Lynners and those visiting.  After living through years of Lynn's reputation as a bad city and a rough place to live, it gives me great pride to see that perception changing both within and from outside the city.  I'm very proud of, and grateful for, its success.

Arts and Culture in the City

2. Lynn is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. What are two places where you have had personally significant arts and/or cultural experiences in our city?

One experience that comes to mind is my attendance at the photography exhibit "Off the Grid," which featured photographs taken by Lynn's homeless to chronicle a view of Lynn through their eyes.  I have one of the photographs, of a deserted Lynn train station on a rainy March night, hanging in my home.

The second experience (two, actually) was in doing a guest appearance in the Arts After Hours productions of "Putnam County..." and "Silence!."  I had been very involved in theater productions in high school, but drifted away from theater in college and beyond.  Appearing in those shows caused me to miss the camaraderie of a production, and has made me eager to get involved in more productions once my work schedule permits.

 Addressing Citywide Issues

3. Lynn’s current challenges include a recent increase in violence, the opioid epidemic, and city finances. How would you integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving these challenges? Please give one or two specific examples.

One way of using arts to address these issues is to take greater advantage of the art therapy programs offered by RAW Artworks.  Drugs and violence are often the manifestation of an underlying psychological problem for the individual, and perhaps by engaging troubled young people in such therapeutic programs, we may have a better chance of avoiding the self-destructive behavior later in their lives.

Financially, we are considering adding a Facilities charge of $2.00 to each Auditorium ticket sold.  Based upon 2016 attendance, this charge would add about $200,000 per year to the city's treasury.

4. How would you use Lynn’s arts and culture community to revitalize the city so that businesses and customers flock to it? Please give one or two specific examples.

The success of the Auditorium is an obvious driver in Lynn's economic revitalization.  People are going out to eat before the shows, and staying around for a cocktail after the shows.  The owners of Rossetti and R.F. O'Sullivan's have specifically cited the success of the Auditorium as their primary reason for choosing Lynn for the expansion of their restaurant holdings.  More recently, the Beyond Walls mural exhibit has attracted thousands of visitors from as far away as England, and has given these visitors a new reason to come and discover the new Lynn.

The City Council’s Role in the Creative Community
At a time when the Trump administration proposed dismantling the National Endowment for the Arts and the State Legislature chose not to increase investment in the Mass Cultural Council, we need local leadership and support for arts and culture here in the city—now more than ever. Describe how you will address these funding concerns in the following areas:

5. What three revenue sources will you consider creating or using to increase the city’s financial investment in the creative community?

We will continue to seek grants through the Mass Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.  We have also used the funds guaranteed by the state's net school spending formula to maintain a robust Fine Arts department in the Lynn Public Schools to ensure that all students are exposed to a variety of art, music and creative classes.

6. What are your program priorities and where will the funds be allocated?

I have already hired the city's first Cultural District Director, and once we have addressed the shortfalls in the city's budget, I would like to provide a small staff to the Director.  Until then, the Office of Community and Economic Development and the EDIC will continue to place a high priority on arts and culture funding.

 An Arts Destination

7. While Lynn is growing as a community, the city has yet to fully leverage the strength of our arts, culture, and creative community as a means for branding and attracting residents, employees, and visitors. How would you integrate the arts into your plan to make Lynn a place where people want to live, work, play, and visit?

Again, the city does not currently have any surplus cash, so I can only answer this question as a hypothetical.  If there were funds available, I would hire a small staff for the Cultural District office, and would also like to invest in a smaller (about 500 seat) venue to give local and smaller artists a space to perform before an audience.

8. The Downtown Lynn Cultural District is a core driver of DTL’s revitalization—yet it currently lacks the infrastructure, budget, or city leadership advocacy it needs to thrive. What would you do to significantly support the District?

I have already trademarked a slogan for the City of Lynn, but budgetary constraints have delayed our ability to roll it out.  The slogan is "Lynn. For real."

Although we applied for the trademark about two years ago, the murals, our creative people, our artist's live/work spaces, and our collective personality fit very nicely into its sentiment.  Once we are able to build a branding/marketing campaign around this slogan, I believe that our arts and cultural scene will enhance the meaning naturally and forcefully.

 Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

9. Studies indicate that art instruction should be a critical part of education across all academic disciplines, as it develops the whole child. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has pledged to update the Commonwealth’s arts education curriculum and report on arts education in schools and districts. What will you do as Councilor-At-Large to support arts education in the city’s schools and our community?

While I agree that the DTL Cultural District is short on infrastructure and funding, I disagree with your assertion that DTL Cultural District lacks "city leadership advocacy."  I led the process that resulted in the Central Exchange District being named one of the five inaugural places being named as a Cultural District by the Mass Cultural Council.  I have hired the first-ever Cultural District Director.  And, I have just applied for a Cultural District redesignation that would expand the borders of the existing district.  I intend to continue such efforts in my next term as Mayor.

As I noted in my answer to Question 5, we have a solid Fine Arts program in place in the Lynn Public Schools, and I have ensured that it has been fully funded by the School Committee in my eight years as Mayor.   I try to attend every citywide concert and art exhibit that showcase the talents of our youth.  (I even played clarinet at one of the concerts.)  Our district has received national awards for its instrumental music programs.  I support our competitions that send our vocalists to the  Handel and Haydn Society, and our dancers to performances of The Nutcracker.  As the parent of two accomplished musicians who started their lessons in the Lynn Public Schools, I will continue to support the availability of an arts education for every child in our schools.

In the first 100 days of my third term, I will be traveling to the APAP (Association of Performing Arts Professionals) convention in New York City to network with representatives from other performing arts venues to discuss new and innovative practices to maximize the value of the Lynn Auditorium.  I also intend to apply for a grant to assist us with funding a support staff for the Cultural District Director.  And, I will be working on creating corporate sponsorship opportunities at the Lynn Auditorium, which could bring additional revenue into the City.




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