Monica Medeiros' Response to the Candidate Questionnaire


The Role of Arts, Culture, and Creativity in Melrose

(1) What role do the arts, culture, and creativity play in your life? 

Arts, culture and creativity have been part of my life as long as I can remember and remain so today. Elementary school through high school I took dancing lessons and looked forward to my recital each year. Through junior high and high school I was part of the Drama Club and was part of the musical in high school. My participation in the arts now is much less structured. I find music and dance to be a great stress reliever. When I can, I enjoy seeing live music and theatre. I am a subscriber to the Melrose Symphony Orchestra, and was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Young Professionals Group for a few years. My job as a Melrose City Councilor requires attendance at many evening meetings and community events. Sometimes this means I am unable to enjoy the arts to my fullest desire. Instead, I choose to find ways these two interests intersect. I regularly attend performances of the MHS Band and Orchestra, as well as Melrose Drama, and a few local dance recitals. This year included something new for us locally – Melrose Comedy Night. MHS Grad Kevin Quigley organized two nights of comedy featuring local talent, some from right her in Melrose. I have been enjoying the Melrose Music Festival each year since its inception as the Four Corners Music Festival. Although I attend the high school art show, the Melrose Arts Festival and art shows at the Beebe Estate, my interest is admittedly stronger in the performing arts rather than fine arts. I enjoy experiencing our many cultures at our International Community Potluck dinners and Community Iftars. Creativity follows in everything I do and is part of my approach to my campaign and to governing. We are challenged constantly to do more with less. Accomplishing this, requires creative thinking to find solutions and ways to repurpose items or reorganize departments to accomplish tasks more efficiently.

A Vibrant Healthy Economy

Arts and culture are an important piece of a vibrant, healthy economy. Events and cultural attractions bring residents downtown and support the local economy.

(2) How will you include the arts in your economic development plan?

Melrose is teeming with artists. Our challenge is to find a way to showcase them.  Artists often face limited financial resources. As a city, we could act as an intermediary with our commercial property owners to help artists showcase their work. For example, we could encourage property owners with vacant space to offer a real estate open house that doubles as an art show, poetry reading, or small music venue. Bringing people into a vacant space in a vibrant, and active atmosphere may spark more interest in potential renters and help them envision the possibilities of the space. I would also like to have Melrose host smaller live music events at some of our parks around town. We could even have an artist chalk or paint the road or sidewalk to bring attention to the event or to the area. With each of these events, attendees would be exposed to the vacant commercial space or the park as well as to surrounding restaurants, shops and neighborhoods. For that reason, I feel it is important to hold these events, not only in our downtown but almost more importantly in our smaller business districts which are often outshined by our downtown. For true economic development, I believe the Mayor’s office should outreach into the business community to solicit voluntary participation, not to punish property owners who choose not to participate.

A Cultural Destination

Melrose hosts hundreds of performances and events each year, attracting audiences from Melrose and beyond city limits. Many of these events take place in municipal buildings including Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Beebe Estate, and MVMS Auditorium .

(3) What initiatives will you take to ensure these public spaces are a priority for public investment without placing undue financial burden on organizations that use these spaces for public presentation?

Too many of our public buildings seem to be lacking proper long term maintenance. I believe that is because we do not have a proper plan in place to accomplish this. I am committed to beginning right away as Mayor to build a five year strategic financial plan for the city, part of this will include a plan for capital, and capital maintenance. In general I believe we could do a much better job recruiting the assistance of volunteers to help in a number of ways, some of this may be in the trades. For larger projects, we may be able to have work completed through the prison work release program or by reaching out to vocational school. If it becomes necessary to raise fees for use of these buildings, that process should be discussed in an open setting, approved by the City Council and the regular renters provided sufficient notice before the changes are implemented. 

(4) What is your vision for Melrose as an arts and cultural destination? Would you pursue a cultural district designation, build opportunities for public art, enact policies to grow and strengthen the cultural community?  

As discussed in Question 2, having more community events focused on the arts will expose more people to the surrounding restaurants, shops and neighborhood. I do not think this should be confined to one neighborhood or district. Another possible community cultural event is one suggested to me by a Melrose Highlands business owner. She suggests having a community block party in the highlands, with one very long shared dinner table to reflect that we are one community. I thought this was a great idea, and one that could be replicated in other districts as well. We are also blessed to have Follow Your Art Community Studios beginning to blossom in our downtown district. I expect this addition will bring many more artists and aficionados to Melrose. From a city perspective, adding more art into our civic events be it through shared art projects or by adding more artistic performances will help signal that we are a community that appreciates the arts.

Arts Education and Youth Programs

Research shows that arts education increases achievement across all academic disciplines, enhances student engagement, and fosters the development of critical thinking and learning skills.

(5) What will you do to increase access and participation in arts education for youth both in school and out of school?

Arts are an important part of a well-rounded education and should be included in our curriculum. As we are deciding what should become of the Beebe school, I would like us to explore the option to make this an opt-in by lottery STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) innovation school. Art and music can be used like learning a new language, to help build new pathways in a young brain. This could be something that could not only open the doors for a lifetime love of art, but also set kids up for academic and financial success in the future. We may also wish to look to support more creative vocational options at the middle and high school level. Outside of the regular school day, we should make sure we are including arts options in our after school and Recreational Department programming. On the civic level, we should be sure to invite the participation and performance of our youth. We can include the Orchestra, Band, Chorus or even dance performances. We could also take this opportunity to showcase the artwork of our students at these public events, and invite the MHS TV studio to be involved.

Municipal Support of the Creative Community

Public investment in the arts strengthens the economy, attracts new investments, and ensures resources serve the public interest.

(6) What revenue sources will you create or use to increase the city’s financial investment in the creative community?

I believe this is a bit premature to answer. My first order of business will be to begin creating a five-year strategic financial plan for Melrose to ensure we are on sound financial footing. This will give us a better financial picture of where we are today, and what our future may look like five years from now. I do believe we as a city could do a much better job outreaching to our business community both here in Melrose and beyond in the greater Boston area to help identify potential donors to the arts in our schools and in our community as a whole. This is an avenue, I would like to pursue further as Mayor.

(7) How will you modify or expand the city’s current administrative structure to support the creative community?

Efforts to support the creative community should come first from the Mayor’s office, and secondarily from Planning with strong communication between the two. To be as responsive as the community (and I) expects, may require additional staff time. We will have a better idea of what may be required as we work through transition and fully assess all staffing levels. I would seek to designate a “Cultural Liaison” to communicate regularly in a two-way manner with the Mayor’s Office and the Creative Community.

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