Christine Barber's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

1. The Role of Arts, Culture, and Creativity

What role do arts, culture, and creativity play in your life, your family, your community? What impact does it have?

The arts, and music in particular, have always been very important to my family and to me personally. The emotion that music can unlock – whether it was in learning the piano as a child or hearing an orchestra play – is key to what it means to me to be human.

The impact when people share in music – and most often I experience this at local, outdoor festivals open to all in the community – brings us together in a different way than other event.

I am very interested in arts that are accessible to all – meaning that all can appreciate great art, and that each of can participate in creating art in some way. I am proud to support a number of those efforts in Somerville and Medford, which have such strong arts communities.


2. Addressing District-wide Issues

Just as any other part of the state, we face many economic and social issues here in the district.

What are your priority issues? What role can the creative community play in addressing these challenges?

Public health is my main priority, and I believe that health is mostly what happens in our everyday lives. The arts help to boost our economy and provide jobs, provide creative outlets from violence and stress, and brings people together who may have very different backgrounds and experiences. All of these are critical to improving our public health.


There is a growing body of data and science that’s telling us that loneliness is more prevalent than we thought. Former U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy even compared the mortality effect associated with loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

What do you think the creative community can do to address social isolation?

See my answer above about music. But another example that I am stuck by is at many local festivals, there are participatory activities that allow members of the community to engage in art – painting, writing, drawing. The Medford Arts Center has commissioned an “art bus” to bring art into the community and has done activities at local parks, schools and other city events. By engaging kids and adults in this kind of creative work, it is another way to bring people together and share a side of ourselves that we may not be able to express in our typical lives, and makes a stronger community.


3. Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Research has shown that arts education increases achievement across all academic disciplines, enhances student engagement, and fosters development of critical thinking and learning skills.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently redesigning school and district report cards to include measures for arts education participation. In addition, DESE is updating arts curriculum frameworks for the first time since 1999.

What will you do to increase access and participation in arts education for youth both in school and out of schools?

Somerville won an award from the Mass Cultural Council last year for out-of-school arts programs, and at the event I was struck by the incredible creativity of young people from throughout the Commonwealth. Arts in- and out- of schools are a critical part of learning, and helping students develop.

One of the critical challenges with arts is in equity – ensuring that all children, at all grade levels, have opportunities to have education on music and visual arts, and take part in arts projects.

I support greater funding for the Mass Cultural Council to bolster their support for out-of-school arts programs.

I support DESE requiring a measurable arts curriculum that includes both in- and out-of school time and has a strong focus on equity.  


4. The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

Public investment in the arts strengthens local economies, attracts additional investment, and ensures resources serve the public interest. For the past three years, the Legislature has level funded the Mass Cultural Council, investing $14 million in organizational support for the creative community. In 1988, the Mass Cultural Council gave out more than $27 million in grants, nearly twice what we do now.

At what level would you fund the Mass Cultural Council?

I am proud that the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto to the FY19 budget to fund MCC at $16 million. Yes, there is more to do. Legislators have been working with advocates over the past few years to make the strong case that arts positively impacts the economy, education and health of our communities. I think there is more we can do to highlight the arts as a necessity, and commit to continuing to increase funds for MCC. The Commonwealth should fund this program at $20 million.


5. Space for artists and arts organizations (For Greater Boston Districts)

Active arts organizations and artists make neighborhoods safer, more welcoming, and improve overall quality of life. Yet, as Greater Boston’s development boom continues, the creative community is consistently being priced out of space to live, create, and present art.

From the eviction of artists at the Piano Factory in Boston’s South End and the EMF building in Cambridge, to the possibility of the Huntington Theatre losing its mainstage home on Huntington Avenue, Boston is in danger of losing the vibrancy and cultural diversity which make the area a desirable place for businesses to move and people to live.

How will you work to ensure artist live work spaces are included in development plans?

I am a strong supporter of more affordable housing throughout the state, and housing for artists is part of that vision. In Somerville, we have taken steps to designate some areas as artist live/work spaces.   There is more to do here, and I think linking artists with other affordable housing advocates, the local Community Development Corporation, and others building housing in our communities is critical.


How will you encourage the development of affordable rehearsal, exhibition, and performance space for artists and cultural organizations?

I will continue to support increasing the funds for the Cultural Facilities Fund, as well as pursue funding in bond bills to address the needs for arts and cultural spaces.


6. Public Art

Public art helps build vibrant and connected neighborhoods and the arts community plays a vital role in the development of cities and towns. The rest of New England and 22 other states have a Public Art Program, which establishes that public art will be an integral piece of all new state construction. The Legislature is considering The Massachusetts Public Art Program, legislation that would invest approximately $2 million a year in the creation and preservation of public art on Commonwealth-owned properties.

What will you do next session to help get the Massachusetts Public Art Program to the finish line?

I will cosponsor and support the Mass Public Art Program – this fee could help to designate new public arts spaces throughout the Commonwealth. In order to make this a successful campaign, I think more stories about how public art improve the community would be helpful. In Somerville, murals on highway overpasses improve public safety and foster a sense of community and connection. In Medford, mosaic murals done in collaboration with local students help youth and the community learn about local history and the environment around the Mystic River. Linking the public art to our local communities helps to tell the story of its impact and importance.


7. Art and Public Health

Expressive art therapy is a proven and effective treatment to improve cognitive and sensory-motor functions, help cope with traumatic experiences, decrease depression and anxiety, and aid addiction recovery.

How would you ensure veterans, young people in the juvenile justice system, the elderly, and those suffering from addiction are able to access art and creative therapies?

Outside the Lines is a program in Medford that works with people with developmental disabilities to create art. The program is therapeutic, and the artists also have a shop on Etsy to share their creations with others. I am supportive of arts as a therapeutic tool.

I work closely on programs with justice-involved women. At the urging of the legislature, the Dept of Correction now holds a summer camp at Framingham for the women to spend the day with their children. There are a number of arts at this event – music, crafts. As I have watched the women engage with their children, it is apparent that the arts are therapeutic and healing for both. As I continue to work with women both in the justice system and in re-entry programs, I will push to include the arts as an important part of the program.

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