Alanna Mallon's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection
We’ve all had defining moments in our lives. What personal connections with the arts and creative expression have had an impact on your life and views of the community?  

Before my activism to combat food insecurity and my current position at Food for Free, I was a children’s clothing designer who attended MassArt. I loved my design career and was lucky to have the opportunity to work in a field that allowed me this creative outlet.

City Investment in the Arts
As a City Councilor, how would you ensure Cambridge arts and creative community receives the funding it needs to fully realize its potential as a driving force in the community? While city investment in the Cambridge Arts Council has increased over past few years, direct support to the arts and cultural community does not meet the demand. Would you support a dedicated funding stream to provide funds for the creative community? At what financial level should the city invest in the Cambridge arts and creative sector?

The arts are a vital part of every community, especially here in Cambridge, and funding for the arts would be an important priority for me as City Councillor. Our schools are an excellent vehicle for city-wide investment in the arts. I founded the Arts Council at my children’s school (Tobin Montessori), with the intent of bringing more performing artists and visual artists into the classroom, as well as children’s authors. Children’s authors and illustrators came in to work with classes, each grade level began a partnership with an area museum, and 8th graders received drama instruction through a partnership with Wheelock College, which allowed their staff to visit the schools several times a year for workshops. Just a small sampling of the many diverse programs offered at each grade level are:

Kindergarten - David Hyde Costello author/illustrator "I Can Help" followed by a puppet project

1st grade - ES Redmond author/illustrator "The Unruly Queen" & "Felicity Floo visits the Zoo" with an illustration project

2nd grade - Giles LaRoche author/cut paper Illustrator  "If You Lived Here" with a cut paper project of Cambridge

3rd grade - Visits to both the DeCordova Museum and Harvard Art Museum

4th grade - Attending a concert at the Boston Symphony Orchestra

5th grade - Field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts  

6th grade - “Ballet Rox” trip to see the Nutcracker in Roxbury

7th grade - Central Square Theatre play

8th grade - ICA wall talk & Wheelock family theatre partnership, where Cambridge students and staff from Wheelock College collaborated in drama workshops, involving both multi visits from staff to our school, and an ICA site visit

Supporting a Diverse and Inclusive City
Cambridge is a diverse and thriving community. How would you use the creative community to build connections that maintain and support the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity that makes this city thrive?

We have a moral and social justice imperative to protect the diversity of our City, and art plays an integral role in doing this. We need to make sure that the art we fund, produce, and showcase is reflective of all of our residents and their talents. What I like about local markets like Central Flea is that it feels authentic to our City, as the artists and vendors featured there are from all facets of our community. If our art isn’t reflective of our diverse neighborhoods and residents, than some people will be left out, and this is not the spirit in which Cambridge should be promoting our arts community.

Public Art and Creative Placemaking
Cambridge’s public art program is the oldest in the country. The city has a long history of supporting public art, yet caps and limits on funding have hampered artists’ abilities to fully engage and serve the communities. Would you consider expanding the program to require a percent for arts on private development projects, as well as public ones? Would you support expanding the use of % for arts funds beyond visual arts to performing arts?

Central Square is a designated cultural center, but we are severely lacking in our investment, which would make this urban area thrive. Events like Central Flea have been extremely successful this past summer, and I want to continue to capitalize on the location, unique businesses, and desire for community in the square. The city should not only be preserving things like public murals, but creating additional space for them, allowing artists to make Central Square a unique place of their own. Additionally, Cambridge Common is a great space for outdoor community concerts, or free public theater performances, like “Shakespeare on the Common” which happens every summer in Boston.

Space to Rehearse, Create and Live
The lack of affordable studio space and housing makes it hard for artists to stay in Cambridge. How would you keep artists of all backgrounds in the city and provide the support necessary to thrive?

Neighboring cities have been adopting numerous creative solutions that use the arts in conjunction with affordable housing. We should be working to create specific housing districts for artists and other “makers” in the community so that certified artists are allowed to live and work in the same spaces at a reduced cost. We have a unique opportunity to implement this in our City, because the MIT Museum space will soon be vacant. The City Council needs to prioritize bringing culture back to our cultural center, and we have a thriving artist community that can help us make that happen, provided they are not shut out by high costs.

Public Events
Some community institutions and artist groups have problems gaining access to public spaces in which they can gather, perform, create, and connect with the public. Would you encourage ways to allow more activity in community spaces?

Community spaces should be extremely accessible to artists and performers. Not only are they an accessible way for artists to display their work, but these community spaces also offer low-cost ways for families and all of our residents to gain exposure to art. The City can help by sponsoring these events, and supporting them through their vast communication networks. It’s also possible to get the public more involved in creating art, not just viewing it. Many communities open city wide projects to design contests and take submissions from everyone in the community. This not only increases community buy in to public projects, but also gives artists an additional chance to contribute to our city.

Youth Engagement
Engaging students with the arts in school and out of school is essential to educating the whole child. While the CPS arts education curricula provides access to many, we need more participation in arts education. Cambridge’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 Cambridge have a connection to the arts?

As I mentioned above, art for our young people was so important to me that I started an Arts Council in my children’s school that created arts “rite of passage” trips or programs for each grade level. In a city as diverse as Cambridge, it’s important to expose all of our students to the various forms of art at an early age, particularly for those who typically don’t have access due to cost or transportation. Art can be an important way to organize thoughts, understand math and connect with your own soul in a way you didn’t dream possible. As a community, we need to prioritize these exposures and experiences for our young people. Without art, music or drama many of our students would be unable to express themselves. In a complicated world, we need to be giving our students the tools to express themselves in a healthy way. As a City Councilor I would ensure that arts for our young people are a priority.

Corporate and Institutional Support for Arts and Creativity
Cambridge is home to many large corporate offices and world renowned educational institutions, whose workers and students enjoy Cambridge’s cultural assets. What responsibility should these institutions have in supporting arts and creative expression in Cambridge?

Museums at our universities can expose more of our residents to art by offering discounted or free passes for Cambridge residents, especially to our students, seniors, and low income residents. I would also like to expand the kinds of programs for CPS students and our local universities can help us with that, whether it's sending art students in to classrooms on a more regular basis, encouraging more field trips to museums, or offering summer arts programs. Corporate partners in the area can also give opportunities to local artists by commissioning art for new or existing locations, or hiring design teams and other art-based positions straight from our community of local artists.

Your “Go to” Places
Cambridge is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations.  Please tell us about two places where you have had personally significant connections to the arts and/or cultural experiences.

I love both the ART in Harvard Square, for the thought provoking theater performances and the newly renovated Harvard Art Museum. Both are gems in Cambridge and I feel so lucky to live in a community that has such amazing arts amenities.


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