Kevin Tarpley's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection
Somerville is fortunate to have a rich cultural community. Please tell us about two instances in which you have had personally significant experiences with the arts and/or culture in Somerville.

I look back to my own classroom experiences where we had art in are school, regular schedule field trips to the Youngstown Art Museums as well as those in Cleveland, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a youngster growing up in Ohio. And yes, it is true that the introduction to the arts can inspire. It inspired me to learn to love history. Looking at the various works of art made me want to learn more about the background behind the art work of historic figures and events.  Second, as a member of the Board of Trustees; I supported the request by the executive director to redirect Academy resources to implement to establish of a regular arts class for our 6th through 8th Graders because of what art meant for me. Also, that the art be part of our Afterschool program for that time that we can support and fund it for these same reasons.

City Investment in the Arts
How would you ensure government continues to support the creative community?

I believe a portion of city resources should go to support the Arts in the interest of celebrating our greatness, progress and failings ​so that the story of Somerville, Massachusetts and America is not loss due to outright neglect. Secondly, I believe that we need to learn from other communities as to how we can magnify the role and expansion of the Arts here in the city.

As an elected official how would you ensure the Somerville cultural community receives the funding it needs to be a driving force in the city and region?

I would sponsor an increase in funding on behalf this need. Serve as an advocate when asked and participate in efforts to support this need.

At what financial level should the city invest in the creative sector? Do you support incremental increases, and if so, at what percent?  How might this relate to the Arts Council and staffing? Do you believe that investment in infrastructure for the arts in Somerville will prove valuable in sustaining and growing our creative ecosystem and cultural economy? 

Cultural Infrastructure and ArtFarm
Three years ago, Somerville started the planning process to redevelop the former waste transfer site into a site that would support the physical infrastructure needs of both the arts and urban agricultural community.  Do you, as a candidate, support this effort? At this site? And if so, what can you do to ensure it becomes a reality?  Considering that the City views itself innovative, which aspects of ArtFarm do you find innovative in a way that would reinforce the culturally progressive nature of our changing City?  ArtFarm has received 1.4 million in outside investment — do you support further City investment to make Artfarm a permanent cultural resource for Somerville? In addition to ArtFarm, what are other strategies and means can you imagine that would further develop and support the cultural infrastructure of the City?

As a former elected official; it would be very irresponsible of me to make a financial projection with a clear understand of the city budget, However, I do know that the city is in a better position than it has been for some time. There are many demands for increases across the budget.

I do not like the idea of using a former dump for an ArtFarm. I would support identifying a more pristine location and I would like to see how we could use the arts throughout the city and in partnership through the creation of “Pocket Parks” for limited recreation, reflection and preservation of land.

Supporting a Diverse and Inclusive City
Somerville is a diverse and thriving community. How would you support creative community to build connections that maintain and support the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity that makes this City thrive? How would you ensure that immigrants play pivotal roles in shaping our cultural infrastructure?

As a person of color; it would be shameful of me to say anything other than “Yes.” Secondly, I would have to register, why is this even a question in this time period?

Do you see immigrants getting priced out of Somerville as a problem — and what are your ideas to retain our immigrant communities, and thus sustain our diverse culture?

The answer for this has to become a concern of Somervillians as property owners as well as a question that need to be addressed on the part of the city leader. I also think that we need to have a process to study this issue and answers to support the immigrant community as well as the working poor who love living here in Somerville.

Public Art and Creative Placemaking
Somerville does a wonderful job of supporting art and artists in public spaces through it’s many festivals and civic events; how will you ensure this continues and reflects the diverse community?

Here is where an elected official has to serve as willing advocate and champion for a cause and the leaders of that cause must set the path for that advocate to serve.

How would you expand upon the “temporary” events and create more permanent works embedded in the Somerville landscape? Would this look like a traditional percent-for-permanent-art program, tied to development, similar to Cambridge? How could you leverage the expansive private development occurring in the City to invest in sustaining arts and culture?

I believe these are areas where new development projects can be used to support these efforts as part of a “Community Benefits” package, which again should be decided as part of a process lead in conjunction with community/neighborhood residents of the targeted project area. As the former Ward 2 Alderman. This was the process we used to address development and community needs.

Space to Rehearse, Create and Live
The lack of affordable studio space and housing makes it hard for artists—not to mention working class families and immigrants— to stay in Somerville. How would you keep artists of all backgrounds in the city and provide the infrastructure necessary for them to thrive?

I believe that the city of Somerville may not want to become a landlord but, I believe the city could become a pass through for accomplishing this desired outcome.

What specifically can the City accomplish and how can it leverage private development to provide more live and work spaces for artists?  Do you support current initiatives including work/live housing for artists and fabrication zoning to retain creative spaces?

As I stated, the city itself may not want to become a developer or landlord to accomplish this stated desire. However, with a comprehensive plan in shaping the city going forward. I believe we could address this need with community input and deliberate inclusion of this need in any such plan.  Secondly, here again, as an advocate on behalf of the artist community I will have you all educate me on the key issues and successful examples accomplishments in other cities where this type of collaborations is in place.

As the former Ward 2 Alderman, we as a Ward has one of the most well-known Artist Communities in the Boston Metro Area at Brick Bottom. There is not any other building like Brick Bottom left. What is being asked in my view is a deliberate shaping of space for these kinds of spaces. I believe that this could be accomplished only with community support as part of a community plan for shaping our city.

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

I think that needs such as this should be part of the “Community Benefits” package as a means of increasing support. A portion can possibly come from the city budget and I believe that other funding efforts must be supported. The city could use non-profit partnership(s) to help support this effort as well. Young people and their development in this area must become a greater priority for the city as well to encourage positive development. 

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