Kathy LaNatra'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?

Creative arts and culture are an important part of my life and my community. As a coastal region, our beautiful towns and landscape attract regional artists and art-viewers. Importantly, we have consistently worked to make art available to everyone and have many local organizations that help accomplish this. The Plymouth Center for the Arts serves a crucial role by providing a range of accessible programming for both children and adults. I am proud of our vibrant music scene, which includes free concerts presented by the Project Arts group on summer Wednesdays. I have been personally connected to the arts through my son Zakk, who is a musician and has played in local bands since he was young. As Vice Chair of the Kingston Board of Selectmen, I look forward to the Kingston Arts Festival, an annual celebration of our local artists and art appreciators.


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?

Among many issues, I am particularly focused on improving education, promoting our local economy, and preserving our environment. I have sent my children to public schools and understand the need for the arts at all grade levels. They play an important role in our curriculum and have a positive impact on students beyond the classroom. As a former small business owner, I understand how necessary a creative mindset is for supporting the local economy. More directly, the arts community can play a crucial role in business development—from opening art galleries to local design and advertising. Also, part of ensuring the longevity of this community and others is to make sure the district remains a beautiful place to live. I advocate for responsible management of Monponsett Pond and our natural resources as well as funding to secure our coastal infrastructure.


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?

Art can help strengthen community and give those who may feel alone a sense of belonging. There is always a way to engage with art—through classes, festivals, and concerts. Those who are suffering can also benefit from seeing similar feelings and experiences depicted by others. Art is fundamental to bringing people together and demonstrating that they are not alone. Both the state and municipalities should work hard to facilitate community events centered around the arts as these help build a stronger community, which will reduce social isolation.


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?

I believe that we must update the Foundation Budget formula. Schools are currently not receiving the funding they need, and as a result, they may have to cut back on programs like the arts in order to fund other mandates. If we get more funding and benefits for teachers, we can attract more teachers who will focus on art in their classrooms, and schools will have more resources for after school programs that focus on the arts. It is also important for our communities to be able to fund opportunities for youth to participate in things like music lessons and out-of-school visual arts programs. As a Selectman, I know how hard it is for towns to find room in the budget for programs like these, and that’s why I’ll work to increase local aid and develop our local economy to expand our tax base and bring in more revenue.


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?

Culture and the arts are so important to Massachusetts, and I am pleased that the Legislature increased the Council’s funding this year. I strongly support the Council’s mission, and I think it has a vital role to play in our communities. Specifically, I believe we should spread funding to projects throughout the state, particularly to areas in need of economic revitalization.


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?

As a member of the Jones River Village Historical Society and a former member of the Community Preservation Committee of Kingston, I strongly support funding cultural and historical sites. Economic development is a top priority of mine, so strengthening the Commonwealth and Cultural Facilities Fund is important to me. As a State Representative, I would encourage the growth of these projects, especially to communities in need


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 support projects that bring meaningful jobs, growth, and beauty to our local communities. The Massachusetts Public Art Program can definitely help us achieve these goals and encourage interest in art and culture throughout the state. By making the public aware of the connection between a vibrant art and cultural environment and economic development, we can increase support for this bill and others like it. On Beacon Hill, I will bring my experiences as an advocate for these kinds of projects with me and can speak to their importance in the lives of those in my district.


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?

From my experience as a Recreation Commissioner and in my work with the Council on Aging, I know art has a role to play in rehabilitation and recreational programs. We need new approaches to serving communities in need, and art therapy should be one of them. Combating the opioid crisis, which is a significant problem in my district and statewide, is a top priority of mine. On Beacon Hill, I will make sure that those in need of treatment will be given a wide range of options, including creative therapies, so that they can find peace, purpose, and stability in their lives.

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