Yvonne Spicer's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

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

Whether enjoying a play or relaxing to jazz music at home, the arts are a necessary part of my daily life. But my love for the arts transcends casual enjoyment – as a leader in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and more recently STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education, I have come to appreciate the enormous impact that the arts have on the young minds of our children and youth. In STEAM curriculums the arts are integrally incorporated into the learning process. The creativity skills our students acquire fuel their ability to design experiments, think critically, understand the processes, and ultimately solve the challenges put in front of them. When adding skillfully designed art classes and projects to a curriculum for science, technology, engineering, and math, the resulting STEAM-based education has proven to be more impactful.

As I reflect on my experience as a college student at SUNY-Oswego I performed in a play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. I played the role of the Lady in Red. At one point my character was also the main narrator of a tragic tale in which a Vietnam veteran suffers from drug addiction and PTSD, but was unable to adapt to life after war. Acting the Lady in Red made me keenly aware of the pain and suffering that poverty and war can bring on. I had expected the immersion experience of a painful reality. What I hadn’t expected was the transformative reaction of the audience. It opened my eyes to the power of theater and unlocked my desire to connect with others on a human level in a public way that only the stage allows.

Arts and Culture in the City
Framingham is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations. Please describe one or two significant arts and or cultural experiences you have had here recently. 

The campaign trail has had the expected impact of more often thinking of the importance of the arts than sitting back and enjoying them in recent months. (Ordinarily I am a regular at theater performances.) On several occasions – including several times at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant downtown, Pho Dakao – I have had the chance to enjoy local jazz artist Kaoruko Pilkington and her trio’s amazing performances. Their outdoor concert at the McAuliffe Library, for example, gave me a pause for both enjoyment and appreciation of the connection that music fosters between people in the community – a connection that transcends our differences and brings us together as one Framingham. The experience also reminded me of the importance of partnering with our libraries as an excellent vehicle for bringing our residents and artists together to foster appreciation of the arts, relaxation, and creative thinking. 

I also believe that art is most impactful when it is brought to the people, in our daily lives. Every time I see the amazing mural that Sorin Bica created for downtown Framingham, it brightens my day and makes me think of the amazing diversity of Framingham’s people. Every musician I have met during the Concerts on the Green this summer and every craftsman I have talked to at our fairs have provided food for my soul.

Addressing Citywide Issues
Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in helping to improve multicultural relations in the city? Given the economic impact of our arts and cultural organizations on the local community, how would you strengthen our creative economy?

I believe that strong communities must always be investing in arts and music programs in schools, as well as across the community. The arts can spark life-long creativity in our young people and are some of what gives communities like Framingham our unique identities. The arts, like sports, bring people together. Giving opportunities to artists from different cultural backgrounds from Framingham and beyond, allows all of us to relate better and to appreciate each other more. Art and art programs can attract new people to Framingham and can become economic drivers for new businesses. But we also need to make sure that we support our community of artists by dedicating both spaces and opportunities for their work to shine. The loss of the Fountain Street building should not discourage us; on the contrary – it should make us plan better and smarter for the future of the arts community. 

Working with the Economic Development Industrial Corporation (EDIC) and our Parks and Recreation Department, we will incorporate the arts into our public spaces. All of our new projects – whether it is a splash pad for our littles ones, a dog park for our “best friends,” or a green pocket park for a densely settled neighborhood – we will look at how we can incorporate more murals, sculptures, and other touches of art throughout our living spaces and amenities across town 

As mentioned above, our libraries provide an amazing array of services to our community – from the educational and entertainment value of reading and programming for children and adults, to assistance with resume writing and food drives for those in need. Our libraries are evolving into community centers which bring us all together. I will continue to encourage and support the work of our libraries and will look for ways to further fund and incorporate art programs and maker spaces for our residents. 

Last but not least, we should explore partnerships between our schools and other educational institutions, companies, and small businesses and our art institutions. Last week I voted for the town not to exercise its right to first refusal to purchase the Maynard Building which will allow for the merger of the Danforth Museum with Framingham State University and for the Danforth to remain in Framingham. Going forward we should pursue partnerships with our educational institutions and non-profits as a way to expand the reach of the arts. 

An Arts Destination
While Framingham 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 utilize our community to make Framingham a place where people want to live, work, play, and visit?

As Mayor, I will work with the Framingham Cultural Council and the START Partnership leaders to maximize the impact of our cultural town jewels and to spearhead attention on local arts. Our jewels like Nevins Hall, Village Hall, The Amazing Things Arts Center, Framingham History Center, and Cushing Park can be put to greater use. We will identify the best ways to bring more cultural events to Framingham, the potential audience from around the state and beyond for our cultural events, and the best ways to reach that audience. 

As mentioned above, at Town Meeting I voted for the town not to exercise its right to first refusal to purchase the Maynard Building which allows for the merger of the Danforth Museum with Framingham State University and for the Danforth to remain in Framingham. This is an excellent step towards making the Framingham Green an arts destination for Framingham residents and beyond. 
Most importantly, I will work with representatives from all of our cultural institutions. In other words, you – our creative community – will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to incorporating the arts into all aspects of our city’s landscape, community life, and creative opportunities for artists, residents, and children. Together we can create a plan for a permanent home for the arts in our community.

Your Priorities
The start of a Mayor’s tenure often sets the Administration’s tone and priorities. When elected, what actions will you take in your first 100 days to provide support and resources to the creative community?

As a part of my first 100 days in office I will:

  • I will work with the Framingham Cultural Council and with representatives from all the cultural organizations interested in shaping the future of the arts in our community. We will craft a strategic plan to possibly establish a Downtown Cultural Center (centered around the diversity of our community) and a second HistoricalCultural Center on the Green (incorporating FSU/Danforth and the Framingham History Center).
  • Reach out to the START Partnership and draw on your experience and passion for the arts to plan out the next steps in making Framingham an arts destination.
  • Work with FSU to support the Danforth-FSU merger/partnership and to ensure that the newly established arts center in the Maynard Building meets the needs of the Framingham residents for an art space on the Green.
  • Start working immediately to identify a viable long-term alternative(s) for the Fountain Street Building and to attract/keep as many of our artists as possible.
  • Personally engage the schools and the Superintendent to ensure that arts and STEAM programming is available and reaching all of our children.
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