Christina Eckert'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?

Creativity is extremely important. In my early professional life, I was a writer. Now I am a full-time mother, and I encourage my children to pursue their artistic interests. My oldest son has pursued music since 2nd grade; playing in the school band has been essential to his intellectual and social development. My middle son has an interest in film editing, and I am encouraging him to pursue that.

As a parent volunteer, I helped raise funds for the school band. As president of Masconomet Education Foundation, I have helped fund improvements to the school auditorium for music and drama performances. In our small town, such performances are an opportunity to bring the whole community together for a shared experience; most families participate in these opportunities.


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?

1. Public Education. We need to re-work the Foundation budget and bringing more state funding into public education. The creative community can help by creating awareness campaigns, and even by throwing creative fundraisers to fund specific projects in the schools in their district. For example, in my children’s district, the parents put on a talent-show type event that raised $50,000 for education initiatives in our school.

2. The Environment. Now is the time for an investment in clean energy that will pay off for future generations. I also support efforts to maintain clean air and clean water standards. Again, the creative community can help with awareness campaigns. Activities like concert series in public parks can help bring awareness and funds for environmental issues.

3. Women’s rights. Now more than ever, we need to strengthen laws that allow women sovereignty over their bodies. Women also need support such as maternity leave, equal pay, and affordable housing. The creative community would undoubtedly be able to come up with creative campaigns to illustrate the importance of these rights.


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?

Social media seems to both help and hurt in the area of social isolation. Perhaps the creative community can come up with social media campaigns to reach out to those who feel lonely and then back it up with live cultural events that encourage isolated individuals to interact face-to-face. It’s important for everyone to feel that they’re not alone.


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?

This is an area near and dear to my heart, as my son has personally benefited from music education at his public school. I have no doubt that his music education increased his ability in math and sciences and also his newer interest in creative writing. I would love to work with the DESE on arts education, and help re-work state-wide curriculum requirements to include and fund -- an arts curriculum. The benefits are not simply cultural; they are academic and social as well.

For out-of-school programs, I would work with the creative community to research the programs that are working, and look for ways both to support these programs, and introduce/adapt them to more communities.


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?

My community has benefitted from the Mass Cultural Council’s funding of our LCC, which provided grants for the school band to perform for seniors, at Pawtucket, and even at the State House! I would look at the demand for LCC funding and support and advocate for restoring the 1988 levels or more as demand increases.


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?

Here in MA, our historical and cultural landmarks are not only treasured, but important to our economy. An extra $5 million annually for 5 years seems a reasonable cost for something that is priceless.


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 would work with my Boston-area colleagues to support their initiatives in this area.


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

This should be part of an overall effort to make housing and workspaces in Boston more affordable for everyone. We can identify potential spaces for these needs, and designate funds so that the city or state can buy or lease these spaces for these purposes.


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?

My hope and expectation is that a new wave of state reps will arrive in the next session, work together, and get this initiative (as well as others) onto the governor’s desk quickly. The reason that I am running is that I am frustrated with the length of time it takes to pass common sense legislation like this; I am determined to collaborate with my colleagues to get more done in the next session.


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?

This is a great idea. I would enjoy working with MASSCreative, and the creative community, to add programs like this to the budget.

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