Tram Nguyen'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?

When I was younger, I sang in Vietnamese bands in the Boston area. This provided a connection to my language and culture, and a way for me to pursue an interest outside of work and academics. I believe that all people have a right to participate in arts and culture, and that participating in these activities leads to healthier communities and individuals.


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 common sense gun reform, protecting women's reproductive rights, and addressing the opioid epidemic. I think that the creative community has a great role to play in showing the truth about these issues and telling the stories of people affected by them. Ensuring that students are safe in our schools and that opioid users can recover have important mental health components - and participating in the arts can help many people who struggle with various mental health challenges.


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 that by ensuring that arts and culture are funded in our schools, we can help children develop lifelong interests in these fields that can bring them together with like-minded people later in life. We should also encourage and support creative programs at the lo al level, in which all community members can participate.


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 will ensure, first and foremost, that our schools are sufficiently funded so programs like these can thrive. When school budgets are cut, art and music are the first programs to go, and many schools that have existing programs do not have enough resources to devote to them. I will advocate for enough education funding to allow schools to have strong arts programs.

I will also advocate for community art programs for young people, in places in my district like the Andover and North Andover Youth Centers. These centers provide necessary after- school and weekend activities for young people, and art and culture should be a part of that.


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 would support $17 million in funding for the Mass Cultural Council to support working artists, community-based arts programs, and cultural organization


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 would support incrementally increasing the Cultural Facilities Fund to $15 million to maintain, repair, and build cultural spaces for artists to create, rehearse, and perform.


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 vote for this legislation if proposed. I would also advocate for increased racial and ethnic participation, inclusion, and representation in arts and cultural institutions.


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 a legal aid attorney, I helped veterans, senior citizens, victims of domestic violence, and other people who had been through traumatic situations, and I believe that these individuals should have access to all the resources they need to recover. I think that we should make sure that all people can receive whatever forms of therapy and treatment work best for them, art and creative therapy included. I will advocate for these programs at the State House, just as I advocate for all kinds of mental health treatment.

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