Michael Gatlin'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 are a big part of my family’s life. For several years, I was a season ticket holder at the Boston Ballet. My oldest daughter danced at the Walnut Hill School and is now a part-time ballet teacher. We have a particular love for Shakespeare and count Shakespeare on the Common as an annual highlight.

I am involved in economic development efforts if Framingham and have worked to encourage the arts as part of that activity. I am currently working to help create a “Boston After Dark” style Arts magazine to help advertise art events in Framingham.

I am a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Danforth Museum, and represented the Danforth when it purchased its current location from the Town of Framingham. We also visit the Museum of Art and the Gardner Museum in Boston on a regular basis. The arts are reflective of who we are, as individuals and as a society. Whether is a painting, or music, or dance, arts are crucial to our humanity and self-understanding. I also worked to bring a building mural by Sorim Bika to our Downtown as a beautification project.


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?

My priority issues include pre-k education and elder issues. I think the arts are a piece of both of those priorities, particularly for our older citizens. 


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?

Both experiencing and creating art lessen any sense of loneliness and help to create relationships. At its core, all art is communication.


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?

With the advance of MCAS and similar measure of achievement, I fear that arts education of every type has taken a beating. With the inadequacy of educational funding to our schools, not just arts education but participation has been relegated to a secondary status. In my view, arts education should be valued as highly as any other academic discipline, and participation should seen as being as enriching and important as participation is sports. I would work to correct funding inadequacies and encourage educational standards which include arts education.


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?

We need to increase funding levels, notwithstanding the competition for state dollars. I’m not always certain that the wider population appreciates the value of the arts as a public good, and that needs to change. I’d like to see a return to 1988 levels, allowing for inflation, at a minimum. I think we need to do a better job talking about and creating partnerships between the arts community and our educational institutions to help create greater understanding in that regard. Local communities can be helpful here; in Framingham, a planned apartment construction project will include artist live/work space which will help to supplement the public money brought into the area.


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 would be a supporter of this Program, and would work to have it seen as a factor in economic development, not just as art for art’s sake (which, by the way is a good thing). I believe that this might help broaden support for this 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?

It always comes down to funding, but I would work to increase funding for these initiatives. There is no question that art is therapeutic and is a public health asset. By providing display areas for arts of this type, more community awareness can result, not just for the artist but for the value of therapeutic art and lead to greater support for the spending of public dollars to encourage these types of artistic program.

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