Patricia Jehlen'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 enjoy live theater and all the many opportunities to enjoy art in our communities. I love folk music, and occasionally play violin and guitar. I’m thrilled that my husband is learning to play the piano and our granddaughters play viola and cello: a quartet may be in the future. The impact is general happiness and satisfaction.

I volunteer with the OPENAIR Circus, which I helped found over 30 years ago, which teaches children and teens circus arts skills. Our son, who started at age 5, is the chair. The circus develops community, and helps young people develop leadership and performance skills as well as getting exercise and self-confidence.

Our daughter is a professional dancer/choreographer who travels to Africa, South America, Asia and other places to teach and develop her international dance company. She and I believe that the arts can build relationships and understanding between people who don’t otherwise have a lot in common.

Our communities are so full of art! The arts councils support all kinds of art that is diverse and accessible, from festivals to open studios to porch fests to programs for children and seniors. There’s a lot of music in local venues and bars. I am especially excited about the music program in Somerville Public Schools: half the students are involved in the instrumental programs, many of whom receive free instruments.


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 top priority for my adult life is education: current issues are adequate and equitable funding, and reducing the role of standardized testing. Certainly students have less opportunity to explore and develop mastery of the arts in the age of MCAS. I hope the creative community will step up even more to advocate for education of the whole child.

I am very concerned about older adults, and the supports we will all need as we age. These are increasingly underfunded, and the workforce is so underpaid that there is high turnover and therefore lack of skill. Programs like Adult Day Health and Rest Homes are closing. In several areas, nonprofit, quality programs close or are sold to for-profit companies that don’t provide quality care. I’m not sure of the role of the creative community here. I’d like to hear your ideas.

Environmental issues are increasingly important to all of us. I’d like to see more music included in rallies, etc. Performances and installations can draw people to–for example–the Mystic River.

I have been chair of the Marijuana Reform Committee; I do not have particular ideas about the creative community’s role in ensuring a good result of adult use marijuana.


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?

Too many performances, activities, and exhibitions seem targeted for younger people. Many older people enjoy and benefit from participating in and watching/listening to the arts. Often these opportunities are unaffordable. Reaching out to those who are less mobile, offering free/reduced tickets and transportation could help.


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?

Reducing test pressure will free up time. Students want to participate, but are constrained by their schedules, which have less opportunity for the arts. Developing “measures” of art achievement or exposure would relieve some people’s fear that the arts are not rigorous, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a great direction. Still, posting information about access to and participation in the arts will encourage advocacy for improvement.

The Mass. Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment is developing measures of student performance and school quality that don’t rely entirely on standardized tests in two subjects. If this is successful it could reduce the test pressure and allow broader curriculum and more creativity.


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?

This is a hard and specific question, as is the next. I have always made the Cultural Council a budget priority. We need more revenue to fund programs that are crucial, including (for example) the MCC, the CFF – and early education, K-12 education, higher education, transportation, human services...


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 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?

See above.


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 believe this issue is best addressed through local zoning.


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

I would be interested in your ideas.


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 am willing to cosponsor this; not sure what else.


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?

This is not something I have a lot of experience with, though I have attended a Shakespeare program in DOC as well as dance performances by the Elders Ensemble of Prometheus Dance. I’d like to encourage all of these, and would add opportunities for people with disabilities.

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...