Julian Cyr'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?

Growing up on the Cape and Islands, the arts played a foundational role in my upbringing. The first political activity I was ever involved in was advocating for a Proposition 2 ½ override to save the arts and music programs in my high school. Later, my interest in public policy was peaked through an internship at Provincetown’s Fine Arts Work Center. The Outer Cape (where I grew up) is a community of creators and misfits, from poets to painters to everything in between. Our pristine nature draws artists and craftsman from across the world to our shores; they also play a significant role in our tourism-based economy. With the arts playing such a day-to-day role in our economy and my life, it is impossible to overlook their importance. The arts are what bring communities together across class, race, and political divides. I’m proud to support our Cape & Islands artists and creators, and pledge to continue to invest in the important role art plays in our 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?

A large obstacle for many artists and creatives is housing in the region. The cost of living on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket are quickly driving the cost of owning a home out of reach for many. In order to keep our economy strong and our communities vibrant, we must find solutions for affordable housing and reform our zoning laws to make it easier for artists to create in-home studios and workspaces.

While there is so much work to be done, I am proud to have filed legislation to make it easier for first-time home buyers to save for a single-family home in the Commonwealth. S.1507 allows any individual to open an account with a financial institution and designate the account, in its entirety, as a first-time home buyer savings account. The first time home buyer savings account is tax deductible during each tax year.


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?

Artists that live together, create together. I am fully supportive of the artist collectives here on Cape Cod, and support zoning and housing reforms to help create and subsidize these residences. No one should have to be lonely, both personally and professionally, and I am eager to help combat social isolation through increased funding for mental health programs in addition to zoning reforms.


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?

Students should always have access to arts education. Period. Education funding is critical to the schools in our district, so that all students are able to enjoy a diversity of programs that broaden their horizons and challenge them creatively. I am proud to have supported efforts for additional revenue for public education, and was devastated to see that our Republican-appointee Supreme Judicial Court denied voters the opportunity to vote on the Fair Share Amendment in fall of 2018.  In the next session, I will seek to identify and actively promote legislation to help us fund these critical programs.


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 a strong supporter of restoring MCC to level of funding that the they historically had in the 1990s. For the coming fiscal year, I will lobby to secure $20 million for MCC.


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.

At what level do you suggest the Commonwealth fund this program?

I supported an amendment to secure $75 million funding level for MCFF in the Senate’s economic bond bill; unfortunately we were unable to move above the $50 million threshold. I support expanded funding to $75 million (and ultimately more).


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 hear that this is a problem in Boston, it is a concern for residents on the Cape and Islands as well. Massachusetts zoning laws haven’t been updated since 1975, making it increasingly difficult for our commonwealth to zone for affordable housing, live and work spaces, and artist collectives. Not to mention the vibrant organizations that seek retail spaces for galleries, offices, and workshops.  I am proud to have co-sponsored and actively promoted Great Neighborhoods legislation to reform the Commonwealth’s planning, zoning and permitting laws. I will continue to fight for legislation that makes it easier for families, seniors, and artists to stay in their communities and find housing by providing housing choices.


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

Affordability doesn’t just hurt homeowners, it impacts business owners just as hard. I am fully supportive of grants and a trust fund established via legislation to support community organizations and exhibitions.  I would also be open to exploring a tax credit for creative business owners to help offset the costs of creative work 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 co-chair the recently reconstituted Creative Caucus with Rep. Mary Keefe. We intend to plot a strategy for the new legislative session that will deliver wins for the creative community, including a meaningful investment in the Commonwealth’s public art program.


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?

I have personally witnessed the transformative impact of art therapy, and am fully supportive of programs to broaden access to it for folks in recovery, the elderly, and those in the juvenile justice system. As the Cape suffers from the impacts of opioid addiction, these programs are important to me. These programs need to be invested in, and I would support measures to create and fund these programs in the state budget. Additionally, I can speak with the Barnstable County Sheriff's office and the Cape Cod Correctional Facility to better understand how we can broaden access to these important programs.



Do you like this page?

Community Impact

The Drama Studio is one of a handful of youth theatres in the United States that offers quality, range, and depth in its acting training programs. For Springfield-area youth, the Studio's conservatory program offers an unusual opportunity for training that prepares its graduates (all of whom are college bound) to...