Jamie Eldridge'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?

Arts and culture play a significant role in my hometown of Acton. The Acton-Boxborough Cultural Council supports many important cultural programming, to a diverse group of performances. In addition, the town of Acton sponsors many musical performances, community events that focus on arts and culture. As a result, people in Acton feel closer, more connected, and that helps heal many divisions in town. Arts and culture also help the local economy. For example, the Acton Discovery Museum, and musical events at NARA Park in Acton, bring families from all over Massachusetts, to spend money that boost the local economy, including restaurants, cares, stores, and retail outlets.


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?

I am very focused on stimulating local economies, and better supporting small businesses. This involves two issues I care deeply about, zoning reform, and investing in transportation and public infrastructure. Zoning reform allows a community to carry out a vision for all of its residents, and I believe would help further prioritize arts and culture in communities. With better transportation and public infrastructure, all residents, regardless of income level, could access art, museums, theater, and non-profits looking to build theatres, museums, etc., to expand, through the Mass Cultural Facilities Fund.


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 have seen how Chinese New Year’s celebrations have engaged with Chinese-American senior citizens, some of whom are isolated, to connect with the larger Chinese-American community. I believe the creative community can welcome greater public participation in art events, that connects with people who are less well-off, and sometime isolated in the suburbs, to connect with more residents in town. In addition, we need to see more art centers, public theatres, in every community, to send a strong message that everyone is welcome to arts and culture events.


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 will continue to fight for passing the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations, to increase by hundreds of millions of dollars investment in public education, which will allow schools to focus more on art education, which currently gets pushed out by other curricula. In addition, advocate for universal pre-K, to bring arts education to kids at a younger age.


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 would fund the Mass Cultural Council at $100 million. The modest investments communities get is great, but this is 2018, we are a wealthy state, it’s time for the Legislature to step up. 


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 would advocate for $100 million for five years, to increase to $20 million per year.


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 will advocate for more funding for cities and towns to purchase or buy artists studios, or subsidize them, so that market forces don’t push out artists.


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

Increase the Mass Cultural Facilities Fund, and more state aid for towns and cities to buy space for artists, so that they don’t get pushed out by market forces. Also, prioritize some affordable housing dollars, for artists’ studios, to encourage artistic diversity in every community.


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 speak at the committee hearing on the program, and write about the program in my weekly newsletter.


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 will fight for universal health care as a right, and make sure it covers arts therapy, to ensure universal coverage for this proven and effective treatment.

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