Sarah Hewins' 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?

Both my parents (and both my husband’s parents) were artists. I grew up involved with painting, wrote and taught poetry, and sang opera in high school and college. I have wonderful memories of being allowed to use my mother’s oil paints—even as a child—and of being so proud that she trusted me with them. My mother also made sure she, my brother, and I were all at home together on Saturday afternoons, when I was a child and a teenager, so we could all listen to “Texaco Presents” Saturday afternoon at the Metropolitan Opera House on our local PBS radio station. I began writing poetry when I was fourteen—after having read “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman, the first long poem I ever read—and have continued to write all my life. Painting, music, and poetry have made my life richer, provided strength when I needed strength, and provided perspective when I needed perspective.

I grew up poor, had to move more than 30 times, and was sometimes homeless. Music, painting, and poetry provided stability in what was a very unstable situation.

We raised our son to appreciate music and literature, and they are an important part of his life, too. He became a talented musician and initially applied to college for music performance and composition.


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 are dealing with the opioid epidemic, establishing equity in the Chapter 70 education funding formula, and dealing with transportation and infrastructure problems. I am also focused on issues of environmental and aquifer protection, helping our family farms, preserving our rural character, and supporting our local economy.

Clearly, my first two priority issues are intimately associated with the arts. Children and young adults who engage in the arts—theatre, music, painting—are less likely to engage in risky behavior that could lead to addiction. Equitable Chapter 70 aid would help to ensure that these essential parts of education are not sacrificed due to budget constraints.


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?

In a very real sense, art is a cooperative venture between artist and observer/participant. One of my earlier poems contains the lines, “This is a story that I will create./This is a myth that we both will make.” And then, in another poem, “These are not images. I want you/ to be terrified by emotion:/changing color by the hour/....” Any artistic interaction will tend to lessen feelings of isolation as observer/reader and artist collaborate to create a reality.

In a more concrete way, providing a diverse set of publicly-accessible opportunities to gather with others to paint, read, knit, quilt, and so on will allow isolated individuals to develop new relationships.


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?

As a legislator, I will work to ensure appropriate funding for the arts in our schools. As a parent, I’ve seen how important music was to our son. Our small business does what it can to contribute to the music program in our public schools, but dedicated public funding is necessary for all the arts in education.

On a personal level, I have served as the volunteer reader for our library’s toddler story hour for the past 22 years. In addition to introducing the children to reading, the library, the natural world, and other cultures, I have a “craft project” for the children to make that is always related to the stories we just read. These projects introduce children to colors, forms, textures, etc. and help them to see their world through an artist’s eyes. I have seen how proud and happy the children are of their creative achievements when they complete a project.

I also was a co-founder and volunteer Executive Director of the Young People’s Alliance of Carver (YPAC), Inc., a non-profit after-school program for middle-school-aged students. The primary goal of YPAC is to give young people what they need to avoid falling prey to drug and alcohol addiction. Part of that is to teach them life skills that they are often missing: how to cook, use hand tools, exercise, study, and...knit, paint, sing, and put on theatrical performances.


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. With the passage of its FY2019 budget, the Legislature approved a $16 million state investment in the Mass Cultural Council. This is the Legislature’s first increase to state arts investment after three years of level funding the Mass Cultural Council at $14 million. 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?

Of course, I would like to see Council funded at its 1988 level.


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. In a 2017 Mass Cultural Council survey, 169 organizations reported $114 million in essential capital projects through 2019. The Legislature recently reauthorized the Cultural Facilities Fund at $50 million for another five years, yet there’s interest ‘s to increase the Fund to $75 million, 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 was instrumental in passing the Community Preservation Act in our town, and our town has used CPA funds for historic preservation. Once passed, CPA has proved to be a popular program and has stable, on-going support from property tax surcharge revenues and reasonably stable support from state matching funds. It also has the advantage of being a legal earmark for tax revenues.

While I would support increases to the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, further strengthening a popular, stable program like CPA should also be considered.


5. 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 support legislation for such a program. Further, there is no real reason not to also apply such a program to large, private construction projects as well. As a 10-year veteran of our Planning Board, I know that planning and zoning are two of the most powerful tools at our disposal to shape our communities, and I’ve been able to use those tools to implement conservation subdivision and affordable housing rules at no cost to the taxpayer and to the benefit of builders and homeowners/residents. I’m sure we could craft a win-win-win solution for public art as well.


6. 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?

These are established therapies, supported by relevant medical and social work professional associations. It should be a doable legislative task that I would be happy to undertake.

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