Cheryl Tully Stoll'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?

My most indelible memory regarding the importance of the arts to society came when I was in the 7th grade at Walsh Middle School. Framingham celebrated its 275th anniversary that year.  I was fortunate enough to have Joann Sewell and Pat Zucchi as my music teachers. Our music and social studies curriculum was structured around a combined musical and educational program paying tribute to Framingham’s rich immigrant history. The theme was “A Welcome to Strangers.”

The end product was a high quality musical tribute to the immigrants who migrated to Framingham and created such a wonderful and rich community. Our chorus toured other schools, nursing homes and additional venues throughout town performing this wonderful music program. That was where I learned how critically important musical expression is to our society.

This was a remarkable project. So remarkable in fact, that we also professionally recorded and published an LP record album which commemorated the entire effort. The other advisors on that remarkable project were social studies teacher Quentin Sewell and AV Specialist David Wilder. I still have the album today—and a turntable to play it on.

Additionally, I was very active in photography while at Framingham North High School. I find that visual expression can be one of the most powerful and moving art forms.

I have also done improvisational theatre on a drug education program for parents and youth and understand how captivating pleasurable and educational theatrical expression can be. The art and value of storytelling has helped shape every society’s individual narrative.  The written word is a very powerful tool

I am a very strong believer in the value that all of the arts provide our society. Not just monetary, but spiritual, intellectual and emotional. They are an outlet for expression that is invaluable.

I am deeply committed to the arts and have been working for nearly a year to help save the Danforth Museum and Art School in Framingham.  

Over the past few decades I have fought to preserve and expand access to arts education and extra-curricular activities in public schools.

We reduce athletics fees for our students in Framingham two years ago. Currently I am working with members of our school committee to eliminate all student activities fees. I believe that extra-curricular activities are part of educating the whole student and every student should have the same access to participate in what appeals to them regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. Overall, the amount the schools collect in fees is an immaterial dollar amount given the overall budget. There is no reason that we should put unnecessary obstacles in front of full student development.

Every student has the right to reach their potential, and when we reduce our creative offerings for budgetary or any other reason we do a tremendous disservice to our children. Some students find their passion in STEM and/or sports; but others’ passions live in music, drawing, theatre, creative writing and other areas. They may never have a chance to discover their own innate gifts if we don’t provide them with the opportunity.

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. 

A friend and I had lunch at the Art House Grille on Water Street in Framingham several weeks ago. It was fun walking around after our meal admiring the work of all of the different artists displayed there.

Based on that experience, we decided to hold an event there enabling others to discover that neighborhood gem. Everyone loved the place and a whole new group of Framingham residents now know the business and will hopefully go back and support the establishment and the artists.

The new Springdale Barrel Room started by Jack’s Abbey Brewing and the AF-TV studios are organization that hosts local visual artists on the walls of their offices and studios.

With today’s busy lifestyles, the more we can integrate the arts into our everyday life the better our quality of life will be.

I also had a wonderful time this summer attending a free outdoor Jazz Concert at the McAuliffe branch of our library. It was a concert sponsored by the library and a local business and was a wonderful way to pass a summer evening. The more of these types of partnerships and events we can provide, the better the quality of life in our community will be.

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?

We need to better integrate our creative economy with our regular economy. It will be a win-win situation. For starters, please see my Art House Grille example above.

As our city’s economic development activities become more focused, we also should be playing a role in helping local arts organizations and businesses to do cross promotions.

We have so many gifted artists in our community who come from all nationalities; we need to make opportunities for these people to display and perform so that we can realize the full richness all of our residents have to offer.

I have also had conversations with leaders from local Arts organizations, such as Amazing Things Art Center, about dovetailing Brazilian themed events with the Tropical Club across the street. If done properly, it could work out well for both organizations and provide additional cultural enrichment to our Brazilian community while helping the financial sustainability of a valued arts organization.

Additionally, in the past our library system used to have a program where people could check out art works for an extended period of time so that they had the chance to rotate the art in their homes and offices. I would like to see a feasibility study conducted regarding resuming this type of program. Not only would artists get more exposure, residents and businesses would have an opportunity to better connect with individual pieces of visual art and photography. If the program gave the library patrons the opportunity to purchase the pieces they checked out, it would be a cultural and financial win for people in our arts and general communities.

I have also been working hard for many months to help Danforth Art garner the necessary political support, to create a permanent relationship with Framingham State University that would create an Art Museum, Art School and Arts Center on Framingham’s Common. Their tremendous collection should not leave Framingham, and the potential this proposal has to enrich our community is unlimited.

While we have opportunities in this area, we also have challenges. One of the biggest is that the creative economy in Framingham faces is the high cost of rents and real estate in the area. While the town was able to rent space in town-owned buildings in the past at nominal fees, the failure of the boiler system in the Danforth Building hurt some of our valued organizations. Amazing Things is currently the only independent arts organization located in a town-owned building. I have worked with them to find ways to get non-profit discounts on certain things from the town, but there are laws regarding what types of support we can legally provide non-profit organizations. It’s a challenge that we are going to have to work together on to improve the situation.

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?

One of the things I would like to see the city do is to work with our artists and arts organizations to find ways to help promote our creative economy. One way that comes to mind is with themed festival weekends that could encompass all forms of the arts including performing and visual. This would draw people to Framingham and enhance the presence and cash flow of our arts organizations in our community.

Our local businesses would benefit from these events and the city would reap the benefits of our local options tax on restaurant receipts.

Another component to making Framingham an arts destination involves making appropriate venues available for events at reasonable costs. The library department seems to do this better than any other, but their space is limited and due to overtime costs, they have to have iron-clad closing times. Even with these limitations they manage to host a multitude of cultural activities throughout the year.

The rest of our departments need to look at what the Library Department does and see what we can learn from them regarding making facilities more accessible at reasonable rates. One thing that enables the library branches to do as much as they do, that the Town Hall, Senior Center and Schools don’t have in their favor, is that they are open seven days a week and are budgeted for that, so it’s not an extra expense to open up on a Saturday or Sunday for daytime events.

City leaders, arts leaders and potential sponsors should work together to study what other communities have done to stimulate their arts organizations and follow the best practices available to achieve our potential.

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