Kateri Walsh's Response to the Arts & Culture Questionnaire

1. Personal Connection

Springfield is blessed with a rich mix of arts and cultural organizations.  Please name two places where you have had personally significant arts and/or cultural experiences.  How have these organizations positively affected your life? 

My connection to the Arts started at an early age. My mother was an Art teacher and artist. She instilled in me an appreciation for art and culture.

As a mother myself I brought my children and now my grandchildren to Springfield Museums, supported art contests, festival and always supported programming for Art Education

 In my capacity as a Springfield City Councilor, I attend school presentations and Community events including The Community Music School Forums, Springfield Renaissance presentations, Stone Soul Picnic, Mattoon Street Art festival to name a few.

2. Addressing Citywide Issues

Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving social problems such as safety in the downtown district?   

For many years, I have had the honor to serve on the Springfield Central Cultural District’s board where I have worked with people of various backgrounds, all dedicated to the renewal of Springfield’s downtown. The Cultural District sponsors dozens of events for the community throughout the year. In sponsoring programs like “Utility Box Paintings,” "Painted Piano Project,” and “Art Stop,” the Cultural District is making the arts and culture more accessible to our entire community, by breaking down traditional barriers for access to the arts—showing everyone that the arts matter. 

This is important for a few reasons: First, studies suggest that children who are exposed to the arts and culture are more likely to graduate from high school, and are more likely to excel in math and science - subjects critical for success in a global economy. Second, the arts and culture are an economic engine for our city. For every public dollar invested in the arts and culture, we receive $7.00 worth of economic output locally. Those are people who visit our museums, eat in our restaurants, and stay in our hotels. The new “Amazing World of Dr. Seuss” at the Quadrangle is estimated to generate $16 million in economic impact for Springfield alone. 
Yet for all of our cultural assets, we are not doing enough to highlight the vibrancy that the arts bring to Springfield. We are not investing public dollars in the arts at the same rate as other, similar cities. The arts and culture are not part of our economic development strategy. We do not focus our efforts on the arts in the same way that we focus on new manufactures, tourist destinations, and businesses. In fact, it's the arts and culture that will bring new investment into the city — spurring development and sparking the economic revitalization our city is yearning for. 
Exciting things are happening all over Springfield, and as a City Councilor, I’m proud to play a role in Springfield’s renaissance, but we cannot rest solely on the progress that we’ve made. Without infusing the arts and culture into Springfield’s lifeblood we are missing key opportunities for new investments and greater economic development. 

3. An Arts Destination

While Springfield 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 Springfield a place where people want to live, work, play, and visit?

Last year, I joined several members of the business, tourism, and arts community to learn about creative place making. Springfield is full of cultural assets just waiting to visited and enjoyed. We’re the home of Dr. Seuss, and a new museum dedicated to his work and life. We have a symphony orchestra, a stage company producing high quality productions, a zoo, and rich parks with beautiful architecture. We need to highlight our assets and make them part of our identity. We should use Basketball and Dr. Seuss as hallmarks of our community, ensuring that people around the world know that Springfield not just the city of firsts – but a city that gave the world memorable characters like Horton, The Cat in the Hat, and the Grinch.

4. Your Priorities

When elected, what actions will you take to provide support and resources to the creative community?

On the City Council, I am committed to investing in the arts. I will introduce legislation creating a “percent for the arts” program, requiring one percent of the budget in a publicly funded project to be spent on public art. This model has been successful in other urban centers like Cambridge and Boston and it will be a catalyst for other investments in the city.
We need a real strategy for the future, and a dedicated office in City Hall that is responsible for growing a cultural economy. This office will focus on building sustainable, walkable neighborhoods infused with arts and culture that will create a sense of community for all residents. Cabinet level positions like this exist in cities across the country, working to leverage existing cultural assets to spur new development and growth.

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