Michael Mullen'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?

My family is fortunate to live in a town that puts a high value on the arts.  Shortly before we moved to town in 2002, Maynard leased the former Fowler middle school to Artspace Maynard. Now the building hosts artist studios, the ACME theater, and helps drive a thriving art community in town.  The most recent manifestation of this is the "Maynard as a Canvas" Mural project, where artists have created murals on a number of the buildings downtown.


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?

The opioid crisis is one of my top priorities due to the devastating impact it has on this country and our district in particular. I believe that arts can play an important role in both the prevention and recovery aspect of this epidemic. An organization called the Drug Story Theater servers both a therapeutic and education role. Those performing are able to derive benefit from their roles in these productions while also educating their peers on the dangers and results of going down a path of substance use. The Opioid Project use art to create awareness of the issue as well as helping remove stigma associated with substance use.


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?

I think art is a natural fit in this area as it is all about connections. This connection makes us realize we are not alone as well as provides opportunities to connect with others to discuss the similarities and differences of our interpretations.


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?

In my campaign I have been working to highlight the economic benefits of programs that are often characterized as drains on the budget. Arts add over $700B or 4.2% of our GDP annually. I use this information to help drive implementation of these programs. Maynard High school in my town has recently been certified to offer a vocational certificate in communications that demonstrates the economic benefit of what is partially an arts-based education.


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?

As the economy continues to grow I would advocate to continue to increase arts funding.


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?

I would not make any changes to funding levels at this time.


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 would work with state lawmakers as a liaison with NEA to gain funding for this initiative.  In addition I would work to publicize and champion efforts like ArtUPLowell where an ecosystem is created that provides economic support for artists and community organizations while integrating art into the business and organizations of the community.


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?

As mentioned above in relation to Drug Story Theater and The Opioid project I believe art can play a powerful role in this area. As we work to develop a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic I believe we should consider and fund, where appropriate, these types of programs both from an educational and therapeutic perspective.

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