Bopha Malone'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?

Arts, culture, and creativity play a significant role in my life, my family, and my community. Growing up, I was raised in a traditional culture where I was taught that as a girl my role was to be at home and to do as I was told. I lacked self-confidence, often felt depressed, and even contemplated suicide at times. Fortunately, I discovered the arts when I joined Girls Inc. in high school. There I became involved in a teen program called the Friendly Persuaders. We used art and creativity especially acting and theatre work, to express ourselves and educate our peers about issues such as dating violence, racism, the dangers of cigarette smoking, and our rights. Through this program, I became more engaged and gained self-confidence. Through the work that we put on, we made a difference in our friends’ lives by sharing information to help them make healthy and smart decisions for themselves. Instead of suicidal thoughts, I became a happier and engaged person with a purpose. I became more appreciative of the arts and, over time, of my own Cambodian culture.

Up until 9 years old, my childhood didn’t include any arts or creativity. It was about running from gunfire, avoiding bombings, and hiding from patrolling soldiers. My two children were born in the U.S. and have been exposed to art, culture, and creativity since infancy. I can see the enormous difference between myself and them when I was their age. They are far more advanced in their cognitive and academic abilities. Also, because we have the privilege to enjoy the arts as a family, it keeps us grounded and connected to one another.

When a community invests in the arts, it benefits socially, economically, and politically. In any type of art, it creates trust and understanding. When families, friends, and neighbors trust each other, the community prospers on many levels. In my work at Enterprise Bank and as a community activism in Lowell, I see the positive impact art has on people and the community every day. Enterprise Bank values art and makes it a priority, which helps the members of the workforce to be more creative in the way they think and serve people. In Lowell, there are so many artists that have transformed public eyesores into beautiful places that makes people happy and that give character to neighborhoods.


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 education, health care, and immigration. The creative community has a crucial role in helping to address these issues.

We absolutely must invest more in arts education. The more that students are exposed, the better they can solve problems and think creatively and critically. Students learn in different ways. The arts can be used to educate students in ways that are fun and more interactive for them.

Art is an important form of therapy in health care. By being socially engaged, a person’s mental health is improved, which helps improve their overall health.

As for immigration, art can be used to educate and bring different people together. By allowing a diverse group to collaborate, it builds camaraderie and tolerance. Art is an effective medium for telling the stories of immigrants in ways that create empathy and understanding for different cultures and backgrounds.


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

The creative community should create or support projects and programs that involve people from marginalized communities and the broader community at large. When there are programs available, people of various backgrounds will become involved and work together to improve the community. When they become involved, not only do they connect with each other, but they learn new things about each other, create tolerance, celebrate diversity, and create lasting accomplishments for the community. This gives all participants pride, encourages them to do more, and improves their health along with health of the community.


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?

Typically, when budget cuts are made in schools, arts education is first on the chopping block, even though it has such a critical purpose. I will stand up to any attempt at cutting or eliminating arts programs. I will advocate for all students, but especially those with disabilities or who come from low-income families, to receive equal access to high quality art education projects and programs. Last, I will always fight to preserve and expand funding for art-based educational programs, curriculum that incorporates art, and social programs that involve the art community.


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?

First, I’m happy that Congress not only saw the value of these two agencies and agreed to increase funding, so they could reach more people. First, I would continue with the best parts of these programs and look for new funding to provide more. I’ve spent the last 10 years as a community banker and activist. Over that time, I’ve seen firsthand the impact when some communities get more opportunities than others, especially communities of immigrants and low-income families. I will fight to ensure that minority and marginalized communities not only have equal access but that programs targeting these communities receive additional funding, so there is equal opportunity across the board.


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?

The first step is to provide adequate funding for programs that treat these populations. The next step is to specifically allocate more funding for art therapies, with the goal of ensuring these programs are not only available in these facilities but are a key component of rehabilitation and treatment. I will also advocate for creative ways to provide these services, including public-private partnerships where organizations and businesses are incentivized to collaborate with treatment facilities and share access to existing art programs.


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