Marc McGovern'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? 

I think I was about 8 or 9 years old and in the 3rd or 4th grade. My class took a field trip to the MFA. I remember being in awe of the building when I first walked in. It was the largest building I had ever been in at that time. The excitement continued as we walked from room to room. I’m not sure that I really understood or fully appreciated the art work at the time, I just remember that my jaw dropped many times that day.

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?

Since joining the Council four years ago, I have also served as the Finance Chair of the City Council. In that capacity I have had the opportunity to help shape the city budget which, as you mentioned, has increased funding to the Arts Council. I can’t say that I would support a specific funding stream for the arts, it would depend on where that stream comes from, but what I can say with confidence is that I will continue to support increasing city funds for the arts.

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?

One of the things I have learned over my years of service is that no one is an expert on everything. I am a social worker who has worked for 25 years with some of the most vulnerable children and families in Cambridge and across Massachusetts. My expertise lies in battling homelessness, poverty, hunger, drug addiction and the lack of affordable housing.  My social work background has also taught me how to bring people together who and surround myself with people who are experts. This is what I did while working with the Sierra Club, Green Cambridge and Mother’s Out Front on environmental issues and with cyclists to promote safe streets. This is a long way to say that I don’t have the answers to how I would use art to build these connections, but what I do know is how to surround myself with people who do. I would work with not only our city departments but also with local artists to forward policies that promote art in our community. One idea I’ve had is to work with Eversource and other “owners” of our utility poles to have them painted by local artists.

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?

Yes. I think we should push developers for every community benefit we possibly can. I love the fact that many of the new developers are working with the Cambridge Community Art Center in the Port to create public art while building.

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?

I would like to see the Foundry building offer low cost studio space. I also think the City could look at creating and subsidizing studio space. According to a policy order filed by Councillor Mazen last year, many artists earn enough money to qualify for Cambridge’s inclusionary zoning program, however the City does not do a great job of outreach to artists and many other groups. We need to do better.

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?


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 a former member of the Cambridge School Committee and 4 time budget co-chair, and current City Councilor and 4 year Finance Chair, I have a long record of supporting funding for art in our schools and after school programs. The Cambridge school budget has increased every year for the past 10 years. The money is there if the school departments wants to spend it on art, and I will continue to push that they do.

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?

Art is essential for a thriving, engaging city. It is incumbent on all institutions, including our businesses, our city and our universities to help promote and fund public art.

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.

  1. There is a small park on my street that used to be all concrete when I was a child. Now, this small park is a quite, secluded place to sit and relax. It has metal, art work and stone, as well as a cool, half dome in the middle. I like to sit there and relax.
  2. My other “Place” is not really a place. I love looking at the murals created by the children of the Community Arts Center that hang on construction sites in Kendall Square. These murals are generally of local residents, many of whom I know, and I find them a great way of connecting the community with new development.
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