Tami Gouveia'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?

As a native Lowellian, arts and culture were key to shaping my upbringing and understanding of community. I was so incredibly lucky to grow up in a city that celebrated its history as an industrial hub and cornerstone of the labor movement, while also embracing the new diversity and upcoming generations that brought different languages, foods, music and dance. As a child and teenager, I was often immersed in music through my father’s band and had the opportunity to explore music making and creative expression through my school and the many neighborhood festivals Lowell hosts. I had the opportunity to express myself individually, while also being part of something much larger and deeply satisfying. In Lowell, we were never just acknowledging our history -- we were actively creating new history as well by pulling on our past and continuing to innovate and rewrite what it means to be a Lowellian today.

This richness and sense of community carried with me throughout my college years and adulthood. Now, living in Acton, a suburb much different than Lowell, arts and culture continue to impact me, my family, and my community in unique, but equally impactful ways. Like me, my kids have had the opportunity to explore their artistic selves in school, with my eldest son -- now a senior in high school -- applying to university photography programs after having been enthralled by the courses he took at Acton-Boxborough High School. And also like me, my kids have been able to benefit from the ways in which celebrating arts and culture brings us together as a community and fosters a greater sense of pride and commitment to one another. Whether it is the Bruce Freeman Trail, local community theaters, or the numerous summer film, music, and arts opportunities at NARA Park, my family has benefitted from the various programs in our District that blend arts, recreation, socializations, and history together.

I am incredibly grateful for my childhood in Lowell, the lessons I learned there, and the opportunities I had to grow and thrive. And, I am equally proud of the community I am part of now and how we continue to provide these types of opportunities to the next generation so that all residents of Massachusetts can continue to be great innovators, creators, and community members.


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 healthcare, the environment, and public transit/affordable housing.

I have worked with communities and states throughout our country to improve health outcomes for residents. From my work on major public health initiatives, I know that any effort to improve health must start from within the community. This means going beyond the doctor’s office and looking at how our state’s infrastructure impacts individual health, including access to green space, commute time, recreation, and of course, the arts. I believe the creative community plays a critical role in building healthy, thriving communities and that the arts are a crucial tool in addressing mental health, addiction, and stress-related health issues. As State Representative, I hope to partner with artists and creatives to develop and build upon existing initiatives to increase access to and state support of the arts in our communities.

In terms of the environment, the creative community has been a strong partner in building an appreciation of nature throughout cities and towns in our state. As State Representative, I hope to leverage the often shared values of artists and environmentalists by bringing more voices to the table when advocating for legislation that preserves our planet for future generations.

Thriving arts and culture communities lead to strong local economies. Unfortunately, artists and creatives often face challenges continuing to afford rental and housing prices in the communities that they have helped enrich. I hope to partner with the creative community to address our systemic public transit and housing issues because I believe the personal experiences of many artists and creatives may help us move towards more meaningful and equitable solutions.


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?

As a public health social worker,I know how serious issues of social isolation can be on one’s mental and physical health, particularly for seniors in our community and low-income residents who may be limited by a lack of access to transit or an ability to afford the cost that is associated with many community programs and groups. However, throughout our state and nation, we see truly cutting edge example of the arts operating on a grassroots level to bring people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds together. Through community theater, art shows, free concert series, public art installations, classes, and community outings, the creative community can be a catalyst to bringing people together to engage in both creating and appreciating the arts. My hope, as State Representative, is to be an effective partner with the creative community so that some of the access issues that limits participation among seniors, those with disabilities, and low-income families, can more easily engage in these types of programs


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?

Too often, arts programs are put on the chopping block due to budget constraints, suppressing children’s ability to not only express themselves but flourish as well-rounded individuals and strengthen learning in other subject areas. This issue is particularly frustrating for me as I have seen firsthand the positive impact that arts education has had on my children and I am so grateful that they have been able to access classes in photography, pottery, sculpture, and painting through Acton-Boxborough Schools. But not every child in our Commonwealth has these same opportunities and that is unacceptable.

As State Representative, I will advocate for more robust funding of public schools overall and a more equitable recalculation of our Chapter 70 Funding Formula so that students have all the resources they need to learn and thrive. I will collaborate with other advocacy groups, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, to ensure there is specific funding for arts education and for teacher professional development opportunities that encourage teachers to incorporate the arts into other subjects, such as science, English/Language Arts, and math. Having worked to secure millions of dollars of funding to addiction prevention during my pubic health career, I also acknowledge how critical federal and state grant programs are for non-profits and educational institutions to initiate and sustain art-based youth empowerment, employment, and other out-of-school-time programming. As State Representative, I will be a strong proponent of grant programs that make it possible for leaders and educators to do this critical work.


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 deeply disappointed by the lack of legislative support to further fund the Mass Cultural Council and arts programming generally. Getting our kids out of the school building and visiting museums and cultural landmarks is important for learning and appreciating the world around them. Community festivals that bring us together to celebrate our heritage or experience perspectives and culture that are new to us are important for social-emotional growth and learning in a diverse world. The Mass Cultural Council ensures these important things are getting done. It ensures our local communities are able to hand the mic over to youth, parents, artists, and other community members to initiate their own arts and cultural project for their communities. As State Representative, I will advocate for funding levels that allow the MCC to fulfill its mission and provide access to all communities in our Commonwealth.


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 am so grateful that the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund has supported key institutions in the communities of my District, including the Discovery Museum in Acton and the Umbrella Community Arts Center in Concord. These, like the other projects supported by the Facilities Fund, are institutions that support our Commonwealth’s community and residents’ ability to grow, learn, and thrive. Given this, and the increasing demand, as State Representative I will work to ensure that the funding formula supports our communities and their ability to grow.


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?

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

Massachusetts is in dire need of mixed-income housing and a transit system that connects rural and suburban communities to regional urban hubs, including Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Worcester, and Springfield. The dearth of affordable housing puts undue burden on too many of our residents who are trying to contribute to our community, such as artists, as well as those who are hoping to age in place.

That is why, as State Representative, I will bring the voices of our communities and the most underserved to the table when creating a comprehensive plan to address our housing crisis. In the past decades, legislators have dealt with housing in Massachusetts in quick-fixes and bandaids -- we are far beyond this point. We must bring the needs and experiences of everyone, including artists, service workers, young people, teachers, and seniors, to the decision making table if we hope to craft legislation that fixes this issue in the long-term and ensures that Massachusetts is an inclusive and affordable state for everyone.


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?

As the Executive Director of Tobacco Free Mass, I worked for over three years to negotiate legislation to raise the age of tobacco sales to 21. In other words, I have seen the gridlock. I know many of the challenges that come with working with both the House and Senate, which is why, from day one, I will go to Beacon Hill ready and willing to collaborate with my colleagues of all political perspectives to bring critical legislation like this to fruition.


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?

Our healthcare system is woefully inadequate, particularly for populations struggling with addiction and living with disabilities and mental health disorders. That is why, as State Representative, I will fight for a single-payer healthcare system because I believe that everyone deserves access to safe and affordable healthcare. Single-payer will allow us to circumvent the arbitrary barriers and premiums individuals face when trying to receive various forms of treatment, including access and creative therapies. Additionally, in the short-term, I will work to ensure our funding mechanisms do not hinder access to art-based and creative therapies in community centers that seek to promote mental health and wellness. This includes schools, community centers, health centers, detention centers, and senior centers.

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