Rufus Gifford'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?

I believe the arts play a critical role in our society – providing opportunities for children to develop creativity and self-expression, offering an outlet for social commentary, serving as an economic driver, and creating cross-cultural connection that contributes to the vibrancy of our communities, among many other benefits. As U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, I had the chance to host and attend many cultural events that brought together artists from the United States and Denmark, driving home the important role that arts and culture can play in fostering cultural understanding, creating lasting partnerships, and spurring economic development.


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?

One of the challenges I have talked about throughout my campaign has been ensuring that everyone in the 3rd District has access to a good job that pays a living wage. I think the creative economy plays an important role in achieving this goal, in multiple ways: first, arts and cultural events attract many people to our communities – supporting a range of jobs in hospitality, dining, and other industries. Secondly, we must recognize the value of working artists and be intentional about addressing the challenges facing artists (and other workers), including increasing costs associated with housing and healthcare, and barriers to establishing and operating small businesses.


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?

The arts create a unique opportunity for creative collaboration and connection that does not exist elsewhere in society. Whether it’s actively participating in artistic groups or organizations, or engaging with the creative economy in other ways, many people rely on the arts to connect them with others in their community. The connection to alleviating loneliness speaks to the essential role that the arts play in improving public health – one of the many benefits of a thriving creative economy that may not be immediately evident.  


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.

In accordance with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently redesigning school and district report cards.  These reports cards will 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 am a strong supporter of arts education – it plays such an important role in developing both “hard” and “soft” skills for young people. I would support full funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program under ESSA that provides federal resources that states can use to expand arts education. Furthermore, I would work with arts organizations in the community to create innovative public-private partnerships that allow working artists to engage with students, which will both benefit students and help build a pipeline of working artists that will sustain and expand our creative economy.


4. Public Access to the Arts and Humanities

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are the nation’s vehicle for supporting the creative sector and providing public access to diverse opportunities for participation in the Arts and Humanities. The Trump Administration’s FY18 and FY19 budgets recommended eliminating both the NEA and NEH. However Congress, in a bipartisan show of support, rejected the Administration’s proposal and instead authorized a $2 million increase to both agencies.

How will you protect national funding for the arts and humanities and work to increase opportunities for everyone in your district to access art, culture, and creativity?

I would certainly support continued, robust funding for the NEA and NEH. I would also support the CREATE Act, which will expand a number of federal programs designed to support the development of the creative economy – I believe that the best way to expand opportunities for residents to participate in arts and culture is to create a thriving creative economy.


5. 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 believe we should ensure that federal funding streams supporting children, the elderly, and those struggling with addiction – including CHIP, Medicaid, and Medicare – cover proven art therapy approaches that have been demonstrated to improve health outcomes for patients. I would also work with other legislators to ensure that art therapy is available to those who need it where they are – by exploring ways to offer therapy in schools, public housing, and other settings.  


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...