Chelsea Kline's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

Chelsea Kline met with the Create the Vote Coalition in August to discuss arts, culture, and creativity. Read about the meeting here.


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?

Art has always played a big role in my life, both personally and professionally. My whole family is composed of artists. Both my parents were sculptors, and my parents started their own graphic design business. My brother is a musician and composer. My step-father is a published author, and my husband is a sculptor in metals and wood and a senior lecturer at Hampshire College, where for 19 years he has taught and mentored young artists. My daughter is an incredible photographer and film maker, and my younger children are showing their love of art through music, play, and creativity.

Professionally, I oversee the Arts and Humanities offerings at Bay Path University, among other academic programs. I see how exposure to an arts education brings joy, perspective, and energy into learning environments.

The arts play an incredible role in Western Massachusetts’ cultural identity, but it’s getting harder and harder to be an artist here. I hear it from my friends, see this from my students, and know that my husband’s students face the same daunting odds and financial risks. We can do more to promote the arts, help artists (and everyone) have stable and secure housing, and bring our community together.

2. Addressing District-wide Issues

What are your priority issues? What role can the creative community play in addressing these challenges?

My primary focus is addressing the vast levels of inequality in our society. If elected, I will champion legislation for single-payer healthcare, fully-funded public schools, 100% renewable energy, and repairing our fraying social safety net.

Since the beginning of democracy, the creative community has been at the forefront of pushing social change. Through art, music, dance and other creative expression, artists have drawn attention to the problems in our society and underscored the urgency needed to address them. The priorities I list above are not just policy areas that would benefit from artistic attention – though they would and do. These policies impact artists in particular because many struggle with healthcare access and affordability; many learn to love art through public school programs that have since evaporated; many find inspiration in the world around us that is rapidly changing due to man-made pollution; and far too many know what it’s like to be food insecure, housing insecure, or otherwise vulnerable.

My leadership style is about bringing in people who are vulnerable, people who are negatively affected by proposed policies, and people whose voices are rarely heard into the discussion. The creative community can help in so many ways: by highlighting the challenges we face, by sharing personal stories of how these challenges limit the health and success of the creative community, and by inspiring people who are disengaged in the political process to join us in demanding change.

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?

Social isolation is a serious threat to public health, especially in many of the rural communities in our district. Additionally, seniors experience social isolation at increased rates. I believe that a rich, welcoming, and diverse arts community in every town will help bring people closer together, engage everyone in our communities, and prevent social isolation while increasing neighborly relationships and cultural connection.

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?

­­­­If elected, I will engage with DESE frequently on issues of holistic education and student learning, and I’m cautiously optimistic that their arts education measures will be a step in the right direction. I support a focus on project-based learning as an alternative to standardized assessment.

There is so much more we can be doing in public education to support the arts and well-rounded learning. Two primary reasons that arts education has diminished over the last 20 years in Massachusetts are a school funding formula that doesn’t accurately reflect the cost of an education, leading to cuts, and high-stakes standardized testing that pushes schools to prioritize tested subjects like English, math, and science over a broader curriculum, including the arts. I am a proud supporter of investing more money in our public schools by updating our Chapter 70 formula and increasing revenue, and I am the only candidate with a plan to end high-stakes standardized testing and redirect funding toward Whole Child Learning grants for local schools. I believe that this combination would drastically help schools reinvest in the arts. I also believe that designing an accountability/ assessment system with student learning at the center will help schools realize that their students need to be well-rounded, and need exposure to the arts, to succeed in a variety of environments.

I also support funding for out-of-school programs, after-school programs, and other initiatives that help students – especially low-income students – access arts education. I will support these issues in the budget if elected.

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 support fully funding the Mass Cultural Council, including $17M in the FY2019 budget. Over a period of two to three years, I would like to see Mass Cultural Council funding restored to its highwater mark of $23 million (adjusted for inflation) in FY2002. I will sponsor or co-sponsor budget amendments to this effect in the budget process. The Mass Cultural Council is deeply important to my district and to Western Massachusetts’ regional economy.

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 support increasing the Fund to $75 million. Capital projects are especially challenging in districts like mine with smaller communities with many historical landmarks that need to be preserved, but less wealth to achieve those goals.

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?

In Western Massachusetts, we know that artists and the creative economy are an essential part of our regional success. When communities develop their town or city master plans, they should address the needs of all residents, including the need for artist spaces. One of the architectural gems of the Pioneer Valley is its industrial spaces, which are beautiful, spacious facilities that artists can use alongside business and even residencies. We must also incorporate public and private blank spaces such as buildings, sidewalks, parks, etc. into the medium for our local artists. We have the resources in our communities, and we must tap into them.

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

Like I noted above, this must be a collaborative process. We need to connect artists with businesses and demonstrate how showing local artists’ work for sale in their space empowers the local economy. We need to connect with artists to see what mediums and spaces they see as areas for growth and work to revive or grow them. Mixed usage spaces promotes affordability and access, which is a crucial part of sustaining long-term engagement.

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?

Not only will I co-sponsor this legislation, I would sponsor or co-sponsor a budget amendment that would create a Massachusetts Public Art Program. I will help lift up the artists of my district, showcase their work in the State House, and engage a network of creative professionals from my district. I will encourage artists to join me in the State House in testifying in support of these programs, and would consider organizing a lobby day for arts programs if there is not one already.

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?

I support increasing access to a broad range of behavioral health services, including art therapy. I would support legislation directing private insurers to include art therapy as a proven treatment to certain diagnoses, and to require that art therapy be a part of the state’s minimum coverage requirements that all private insurers marketing in Massachusetts must meet. In the long term, I hope we can achieve single-payer healthcare, and I would push for coverage in that system as well.

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