Barbara L'Italien'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’ve represented vibrant immigrant communities as a state legislator. In these communities, the arts contribute to cultural awareness and are vital in bringing people together. The city of Lawrence in my senate district has prioritized promoting a “culture of health” and received the Culture of Health Prize in 2017. Culture and creativity have the potential to change the lives of people in a community and lead to a better quality of life. As a legislator, I have hosted artists and exhibits from my constituents at the State House, which have always been received well.

On a more personal note, I’ve always loved music. I led my the choir at my Catholic church for many years until being pushed out of the church for my support for marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. I’ve passed along that love to my kids, two of whom did show choir in high school. All of this has reinforced my determination to protects arts education in our schools.


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 priorities as a legislator have been getting everyone the health care they need and the great public school education they deserve, both of which are very much intertwined with the arts.

Art education programs are essential in providing a quality education to students that make them culturally aware. They have been proven to strengthen students’ ability to think critically and develop empathy. Art education can help foster close and connected communities among diverse populations. That’s why I have fought against a one size fits all education policy and am a strong believer in providing more funding for arts education programs. I’ve consistently fought the dark-money charter school lobby, including helping lead the successful campaign against expanding school privatization at the ballot box in 2016, in part because when public school funds are siphoned away to charters, arts education is endangered.

The creative community can also help address the issue of healthcare by providing solutions that contribute to the health and sustainability of a community. Access to the arts is a great way to combat health crises such as substance abuse, mental illness, and more before they occur. In providing better access to the arts, we can provide more healthcare options for people in our communities. These are the sorts of options we will be better be able to pursue under a single-payer health care system that puts patients ahead of profits. I’ve been co-sponsoring single-payer health care in the state legislature for more than a decade, long before anyone thought it was politically smart.


What do you think the creative community can do to address social isolation?

To address social isolation, the creative community can utilize the arts to bring people together in an open and welcoming environment. By accessing these types of spaces, people are less prone to social isolation and in turn will be less likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse.

Being part of the creative community is also just a great way to make friends. I made some of my closest friends through my time in music, and my kids did, too. Community cafes like El Taller in Lawrence have created a climate of refuge for isolated folks for several years now.


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.

In accordance with the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is currently redesigning school and district report cards.  These reports cards will 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’ve always been a fierce advocate for public schools and have fought against charter schools as a school committee member and a state legislator - including my role successfully defeating expanding charter schools on Question 2. I will fight for more funding for public schools that could be used to expand access to arts education. Arts education is critical in receiving a complete and quality education and I want to ensure that everyone has access to it.


4. Public Access to the Arts and Humanities

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) are the nation’s vehicle for supporting the creative sector and providing public access to diverse opportunities for participation in the Arts and Humanities. The Trump Administration’s FY18 and FY19 budgets recommended eliminating both the NEA and NEH. However Congress, in a bipartisan show of support, rejected the Administration’s proposal and instead authorized a $2 million increase to both agencies.

How will you protect national funding for the arts and humanities and work to increase opportunities for everyone in your district to access art, culture, and creativity?

I would reject proposals like the Trump Administration’s FY18 and FY19 budgets that threaten opportunities and access to art, culture, and creativity. I would work to increase public education funding that could be used to strengthen our arts education programs and increase opportunities from everyone in the district to access art, culture, and creativity.

I am the best prepared candidate in my race to do this valuable work. As an experienced legislator, I’ve helped craft budgets, and I know how to make the process work.


5. 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’m a strong advocate for a single payer healthcare system that would help ensure that everyone has access to the health services they need, including creative therapies. I also know that addiction is a lifelong illness that requires comprehensive solutions that will disrupt the cycle. That’s why I want to dedicate more federal funding towards research and treatment programs for the opioid crisis. The entirety of my bold plan to tackle to opioid crisis can be found at

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