Jeff Santos' 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?  

Music is especially meaningful to me. I've always loved the band U2. The first time I went to a U2 show in Meadowlands, NJ. it was more like a religious experience than a rock concert. After the concert people continued to sing the last song called "40," the chorus of which was "How long must we continue to sing this song? How Long" which brought me together with 20,000 other fans wondering how long will it take to fix the world's problems? The lyrics and song "Pride" about Martin Luther King Jr are also very affecting:

("Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
In the name of love
What more in the name of love..."

I play those songs and a few others at the opening of my radio show. I'm also a film buff. I love documentaries to feature films from Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and others that tell the story of America. The ability to tell a story and communicate ideas to the masses is critical and creates a better Nation, a better Commonwealth, a better Cambridge. It's what drives my passion for what I do as a talk show host.

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?

Especially given likely funding cuts to the arts budget in Washington and possible cuts to the state budget by Governor Baker, we need to raise our funding level to at least keep it at the current level if not raise it given the demand. Instead of giving tax cuts from a $156 million budget surplus, why not invest that money into the Arts, Education and other areas that would significantly improve the quality of life in Cambridge, increase educational outcomes and attract more visitors and business to our city.

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?

Art improves the overall quality of neighborhoods and brings people together through shared art and cultural events. When people feel good about their neighborhoods, they develop more of an ownership and stake in the future of their neighborhoods, often leading to increased civic participation.

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?

I would be in favor of "percent for the arts" funding on private, corporate and public development. The definition of arts should include arts, creative institutions and sites, creative culture of all sorts- performing arts, writing, crafts, experimental, sculpture, visual, music, individual artists, etc.

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?

Affordable Live/Work spaces for artists need to be created similarly to affordable housing. Other towns have done it (Somerville, Lowell). Most of the funding available to artists has been primarily for public art projects. We need to help individual artists stay in Cambridge as well.

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?

Yes. There should be both public and private spaces made available, not just to perform but also to create. Pop-ups could be encouraged in empty storefronts. Makerspaces can be funded. Zoning restrictions and permits can be loosened to encourage more art and cultural activities.

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?

More funds need to be allocated to the arts and cultural budgets for schools. Rather than thinking the arts are a drain on the city, people need to be educated to understand that art and culture generate income to surrounding businesses, creates jobs and attracts visitors to the city that spend almost double what local residents spend on the arts. Arts education and involvement helps young people develop problem solving and thinking skills which lead to better overall education outcomes.

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?

There are many underused large corporate lobbies all over the city that could be used for artist performances and projects as well as gallery space. There could also be a corporate arts + culture surtax on businesses locating in Cambridge and a special fund. Many businesses already sponsor many art events and this can be ramped up to higher levels.

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 going out to hear live music, especially jazz in small clubs. Cambridge is lucky to have several- Ryles, Regatta Bar (and Scullers right over the border). In the past there were others, now gone, like 1369 (which still exists as a coffee house). As small businesses, they are also at risk with rising costs of rent and real estate. We must protect these small venues that nurture artists and make Cambridge a wonderful place to live.


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