John Stefanini'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?

I have been fortunate to have been connected to art, culture and creativity my entire life.  As a small boy I accompanied my mother to classes, galleries, museums and exhibits while she worked on her masters degree in art and music at Framingham State University. I was fortunate to have art and music at Memorial School and throughout my years in the Framingham School system.  
That early exposure, education and human connection, has motivated me to learn, support and participate in efforts throughout my life. We have taken our two girls to Danforth, Garden in the Woods, Academy, Fountain Street galleries, Amazing Things, and so on, to teach and and expose them to the treasures in our community.  When we travel, art and culture are always on the itinerary.

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.  

Framingham is blessed.  Unfortunately, my two most recent experiences have been political in nature working unsuccessfully to preserve the Fountain Street Galleries and the frustrating conversations to convince others of the value of a partnership between Danforth and Framingham State.  We need to provide greater support and assistance for our art, culture and creative communities.

Addressing City-wide 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?

We need to incorporate leaders in this community to into our decision-making at every level to ensure that arts, culture and creativity are part of our decisions.  For example, the renovation of the Nobscot plaza should include a public art component.  Development mitigation money should be pooled, as it is in other cities, to fund public art.  We need to look to private spaces for exhibits and activities that promote art and culture.  Working with small businesses to use space as place for local art.  Working with grade school students.  We can look to successful ventures such as the Framingham History Center for guidance. Our municipal planners can partner with Framingham State University, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and others in developing a community master plan that helps us to establish and nurture a more robust foundation for our arts and cultural activities.  We need to partner with our local foundations, corporations, small businesses and institutions, to accomplish these goals.

Although the mayor is not responsible for setting the school curriculum, I will encourage and advocate for field trips and learning with members of the START partnership - so our kids stay connected to their roots and get introduced to the arts and culture. Important starting stone for future careers in the arts.

We need to ensure that our arts and culture institutions meet the needs of our residents and continue to contribute to our vibrant community for generations to come. We need to assist the growth and development of arts and culture venues to preserve and enhance these tremendously rich resources.

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?

We need to leverage these incredible assets to strengthen our neighborhood and generate economic activity.  I envision a Framingham marketplace where local farms can sell their produce, local artisans can sell their goods, and teenagers can have a space when they want to get out of the house.

I would like to see artist lofts developed similar to those being built in Boston’s Seaport District to replace the Fountain Street Galleries and work with communities leaders to identify a location and secure financing to make this a reality.  I would also establish exhibition space, including within the Memorial Building, and working space for artists.

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?

I will give leaders in the community a prominent role in my transition and administration to guide our community-wide strategic planning process.  I would look to set aside a percent of mitigation funds for the arts.  Lastly, I would set up a working group to identify site for artists lofts, public exhibition space and working space for artists.
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