Patrick O'Connor's Response to the Create the Vote Candidate 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, culture, and creativity play a large role in my daily life and in the interactions I have with members of the community. I believe that the South Shore is home to some of the best centers of creativity in the Commonwealth. From the South Shore Conservatory to the South Shore Arts Center, we are home to some fantastic and creative centers where the people of the district can freely express their creativity. We also have outstanding art, music, and other creative classes in our high school and available to residents in municipal buildings across the district.

2. Addressing District-wide Issues

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

My two priority issues this year was to create a registry for those that abuse disabled individuals in group homes and to create a statewide safe sleeping environment for every child of the Commonwealth through a free baby box for every newborn. The creative community plays a large role in being able to organize likeminded individuals for causes that are important to society as a whole. We use a graphic designer from the district to create creative art to attract people to learn more about our initiatives through social media platforms.

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?

I believe the creative community could put on various workshops for individuals through various outlets and offer people an escape from the loneliness they are feeling. Whether that is an art workshop at the local senior center or a graphic design course at the library or a free concert on the Town Common, there is a lot that the creative community can do to assist with the loneliness people feel in todays society.

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?

I have always been supportive of initiatives, whether at the local or statewide level, that would increase funding for the arts. I go to various events, promote through our social media presence and word of mouth different concerts, classes, musicals, and events throughout the district. We recently brought the Weymouth Drama Club to the State House to meet with the Governor after they won the State Championship. All of these things, coupled with advocating for appropriate funding, support, and awareness of the importance of arts in education is something I take great pride in doing.

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 co-sponsored Senator Hinds amendment to boost funding by 15% ($2M) to $16M total. I have supported every earmark to increase funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council and would like to get the Massachusetts Cultural Council funding to as high as fiscally appropriate. I have been to many events and seen many projects that were sponsored by MCC money and they are such fantastic events and displays that really bring the community together.

Created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2007, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund has granted $110 million in matching grants to help restore the Commonwealth’s most treasured historical and cultural landmarks, and fund visionary capital projects that revitalize our communities. As the Cultural Facilities Fund comes up for reauthorization in 2019, there’s interest to increase the Fund to $75 million for five years, allowing the yearly allocations to increase from $10 million to $15 million and meet the increasing demands of projects.

5. 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?

The first thing I did when I took office was reach out on social media, to local art clubs, to senior centers, and to the local newspapers to say that the walls in my State House were going to be covered with photographs, paintings, and other artwork from people who live in the district. My walls are the canvass of the South Shore that tells an amazing story of great people who want to advance shared priorities and showcase the beauty of the people and landscape of the district. I could not be more of a supporter of public art. I will co-sponsor the legislation and advocate for the bill to get passed, including testifying at a hearing. One of the bills I sponsored this year was to have Massachusetts appoint a Musician Laurette to advance, support, and promote all of the amazing music talents of the Commonwealth. I was able to get this bill passed in the Senate. There is a lot of support for the arts and this bill and I would be happy to be one of the people that help get it passed the finish line.

6. 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?

I think we need more access and funding for programming that goes directly to the needs of these vulnerable populations and promote them getting involved because of the therapeutic nature of creating something. I would work with sheriffs, veteran service organizations, and senior center directors to make sure these are being highlighted to these groups and if additional funding is needed please reach out and we can work to develop additional an at-risk arts grant to ensure these programs are being offered.

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