Don Berwick's Response to the Create the Vote Questionnaire

Your Personal Connection

We've all had defining moments in our lives. What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity had an impact on your life and your view of the community?

I am a lifelong fan of literature, music, and theater, but perhaps my most inspiring personal connection to the arts came from my children. As students in the Newton public schools, two of my four children fully immersed themselves in the after-school theater program. Engaging with the arts was instrumental to their academic and personal development, and it began a lifelong passion for the arts that I am convinced turned them into better citizens.  Their invaluable experience was made possible by a public commitment to the arts. I am running for Governor because I believe in the principles of social justice, equality and compassion, and I am committed to providing all children, regardless of wealth or geography, the same opportunities to thrive that my children received. I will fight to ensure that exposure to the arts remains an integral part of such opportunity.  


Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Creativity and innovation are vital skills in a student’s education. While many communities provide access to quality arts education, many of our youth are still being left out of the creative community. What will you do as Governor to champion arts education for our youth both in our schools and in our communities? How will you balance the importance of arts education with the constant pull to “teach to the test”? Would you support joining ten other states in making one year of arts education in high school a requirement for admission to the state university system? Do you support adding arts into the Commonwealth’s STEM to transform it to STEAM? 

I support the need to align our school curriculum with the needs of employers, but I believe that a narrow focus on STEM is too restrictive. I favor turning “STEM” to “STEAM” because public education should equip every student with the skills to become a well-founded citizen, not just a successful employee. We also ought to recognize that the arts represent the Commonwealth’s third largest employment sector. Thriving arts communities in regions such as Berkshire County, Cape Cod and Boston, present major opportunities for growth. I am open to a variety of strategies that will place arts back at the core of our education curriculum, but I also want to make sure that we do not inadvertently harm low-income schools. Before we mandate that a year of arts education is required for admission to our state university system, we need to guarantee that every school has the resources necessary to provide such programming. This will take investment and a recommitment to equity in our education system. This may be a fight, but it is a fight I am eager to have on behalf of the progressive agenda. 

Addressing the Commonwealth’s Socioeconomic Issues

Massachusetts faces many economic and social issues – job creation, public safety, education. Can you provide examples on how you would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in solving the Commonwealth’s social and economic challenges? How would you use the creative community to drive economic development across the Commonwealth – from major metropolitan areas to the Gateway cities, rural towns, and suburbs? What are the metrics of success?

First, we ought to take steps to ensure that artists can fully participate in the economy. Among other steps, I would advocate for the fair labor, the expansion of intellectual property law, and a crackdown on age discrimination. Second, we should recommit ourselves to the power of arts programs to instill strong values. Particularly, I would support youth programs that offer a creative outlet and teach students that it is far more satisfying to create than to destroy. Such programs have been particularly effective as therapeutic tools for those who have faced traumatic experiences. Finally, we should recognize the immense potential for the arts to play a major role in urban revitalization, particularly in our Gateway cities. These once-powerful industrial cities have major components for a thriving arts scene—downtown centers, comparatively inexpensive real estate prices, and rich cultural traditions from growing immigrant populations. A thriving arts sector is an integral part of a community where people want to live, work and play. And I would advocate for this redevelopment through public support for creative “placemaking” activities such as public art installations and cultural festivals.


The Administration’s Support and Role in the Creative Community
Last year, Massachusetts invested $11.1 million in organization support for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. The current level of in the Massachusetts Cultural Council is less than 41% of what it was 25 years ago. 

  • At what level would you fund the Massachusetts Cultural Council?

I will recommit to placing support for the arts as a priority in my administration. I strongly disagree with the House’s budget proposal to slash the arts budget from $11.1 million to $5 million, and I will work to ensure that the arts are funded at a sufficient level.

  • At what level would you fund the Cultural Facility Fund which supports the maintenance, repair and rebuilding of the Commonwealth’s cultural facilities?

I favor Governor Patrick’s proposal to triple funding for $15 million per year.

  • Would you develop or dedicate a revenue stream to provide a sustainable and stable funding stream for the creative community?

I would explore a variety of creative solutions that will ensure a sustainable and stable funding stream.

  • How would you strengthen the Commonwealth’s current administrative structure to support the creative community? What parts of your administration would work closely with the MA Cultural Council?

Throughout my career, I have always worked to make large organizations function better and more efficiently. That means breaking down organizational barriers to ensure quality. In the current administrative structure, that would mean increased focus on the arts and the creative community in departments like Housing and Economic Development, and Labor and Workforce Development.

  • What are your program priorities and where will the funds be allocated?

As the most progressive candidate for Governor, my campaign is dedicated to the values of social justice, equality and compassion. I would emphasize programs designed to increase access to art and culture, especially to low-income communities.

  • How would you promote public-private partnerships to support the creative community?

Public-private partnerships have proven to be successful engines for both social and economic development. For example, the Adams Arts Program administered by the Massachusetts Cultural Council leveraged a public investment of $9.4 million into $27 million in private investment in community development.

  • Which states provide programs – regarding policy, or public-private investment, or other elements of an active arts and culture agenda – that might serve as models for your administration?

While it isn’t a state, the District of Columbia has traditional prioritized investment in the arts. Even during tough budgetary times, the state of Minnesota has prioritized the arts, ensuring that the Minnesota State Arts Board has the resources it needs to nurture a thriving arts community. I have said throughout this campaign that Massachusetts should be an example – a beacon – for the rest of the country. This includes nurturing a robust and thriving arts community. As Governor, that will be a priority.


The Creative Economy
Innovation is one of the major drivers of Massachusetts’ economy. As Governor, how would you work with creative entrepreneurs and broaden your administration's commitment to the creative economy as part of an economic development strategy? How will you foster an ecosystem which is reflective of the up and coming independent creative community across the Commonwealth?

The creative economy accounts for 27,000 jobs and generates $1.2 billion of direct investment into the Commonwealth every year. Continuing to develop this sector will require investment and leadership to make Massachusetts the best possible place to join, thrive, and grow in the arts economy. Some strategies include:

  • Education. Strong and supported education that expose students to art and nurture their creative potential provides young people will the inspiration and foundational skills necessary to enter the arts economy. I will advocate for an expansion of public internships programs that allow older students to gain hands-on experience working in the field.
  • Making Massachusetts a great place to be an artist. To incentivize young talented artists to start careers in Massachusetts, we should make that the Commonwealth is the best possible place to start and succeed in a career in the arts. This means guaranteeing access to quality, affordable healthcare, regardless of employment status; it means fighting for fair labor practices for artists to ensure that intellectual property is respected and that student artists are not exploited to undercut the labor market; and it means investing and expanding affordable housing and artist co-ops to provide artists safe, affordable and collaborative places to live.
  • Making Massachusetts a great place to be a creative business. In addition to lowering healthcare costs and eliminating the unnecessary regulation that burdens all businesses, I will work with industry groups such as the Massachusetts Production Coalition, digital game developers and others to better understand the unique challenges creative businesses face and work to improve the climate.
  • Innovation. I will make sure that state government does its part to support the arts by fighting to find stable and adequate funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Cultural Facility Fund and others that invest in the promotion of the arts. I have been amazed at the wide-ranging benefits to the community generated in communities like North Adams. And I will explore models for entrepreneurs in other sectors such as the MassChallenge Program and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to see if best practices can be brought into the arts sector.

A World Class Arts Destination

While Massachusetts is known for its hospitals, professional sports, and universities, the Commonwealth has yet to fully leverage the strength of our arts, culture, and creative community as a means for tourism and branding. How would you utilize your administration to market the Commonwealth as a world-class cultural destination?

Across the state, from Tanglewood and MassMoca in the Berkshires, to the ART in Cambridge  (one of my personal favorites) to Fleet Moves on Cape Cod, Massachusetts enjoys vibrant art, music, literature and theater scenes that are integral parts of our regional economies and communities. But despite these rich resources, Massachusetts lacks the reputation as cultural center enjoyed by some other states. A conscious decision by leadership—both public and private—to establish the Commonwealth as a destination for the arts presents an enormous opportunity to build on existing strengths to spur economic development and make our communities even more attractive and enjoyable places to live. During his mayoral campaign, Marty Walsh stressed the role of art in making Boston a more attractive and vibrant city, particularly for young people. I agree, and think that this approach should be extended throughout Commonwealth. I would work closely with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Office of Travel and Tourism and the Creative Economy Council, and partners in the private sector to fully harness the creative talents of our marketing sector to “brand” Massachusetts as a premiere cultural destination. I would also support public art installations across the Commonwealth.


Your Priorities

The start of a Governor’s tenure often sets the Administration’s tone and priorities. Which actions do you see as the most critical to initiate in the area of arts and culture within the first 100 days of your administration?

I do not view the arts simply as a byproduct of a strong community, privileges that we can enjoy once we’ve accomplished all the other basic tasks of government. Rather, I see a strong, diverse and supported arts sector as a critical ingredient for community development. And I believe that artists should be respected accordingly.

My priorities begin with ensuring that artists have voice and representation within my administration. Massachusetts is lucky to have a strong group of passionate advocates for art and artists that can bring a wealth of knowledge to the table and will make sure that the needs and interests of artists are considered in all decisions. I would welcome their expertise, not just on issues related to arts and tourism, but on matters of economic development, public safety, housing and more.

I will also immediately set to work on making art more accessible to communities of all income levels. This would begin with renewed commitment to public art and to arts education in public schools. As a pediatrician and a father, I have seen firsthand the power of art on the development of a child, and I will fight to expand programs that nurture creative spirit, create well-rounded citizens and open up more economic opportunities in our arts economy. 

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Showing 2 reactions

commented 2014-07-15 18:23:46 -0400 · Flag
Wow. Berwick really seems to get it about how important the arts are if we’re to be a great state for people.
commented 2014-07-15 18:23:42 -0400 · Flag
Wow! Don Berwick really understands how important the arts are, if we’re to be a great state for our people.

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