Candidate Karen Spiewak's Response

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?

My childhood was spent in public housing and I left school at age sixteen to help support my mother.  There was not an opportunity to experience arts or culture and, after returning to school and college in later years to complete my education, I made sure that my own children were able to participate in theatrical, musical, and other creative pursuits.  I am a patron of arts organizations in my greater community and a supporter of the local cultural council.


Arts and Culture in Your District

Art and culture plays a role in the Commonwealth from Boston and the Gateway Cities and our rural and suburban towns.  Please provide us with a story of the impact a local arts or cultural institution brings to your district.

I was fortunate to contribute to fund-raising and planning for a program that permitted two hundred fifty high school students to attend master classes with members of the Broadway cast of “Wicked”. The students studied vocal technique, ensemble performance, choreography, makeup, and special effects. Seven visiting artists provided a connection to Broadway through workshops in dance, audition techniques, scene study, and theater photography. Members of the band and chorus rehearsed with the Boston show’s musical director. The program ended with an evening concert featuring student performers and a faculty choir.  There wasn’t an empty seat in the house. 


Arts Education and Programs for our Youth

Creativity and innovation are vital skills in a student’s education. While many communities have access to quality arts education, many youth are still being left out of the creative community. How will you 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 to make 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 program to transform it to STEAM?

I believe it is important to educate the “whole child”. While it is important that children and young adults have expertise in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), if we want to help them succeed in post secondary education, as citizens of our democracy, and in their career, it is just as important that they experience the arts, humanities, and sports.  Yes, I would support legislation that would change STEM to STEAM.

While serving on the Dudley-Charlton Regional School Committee, I’m proud to say I was a staunch advocate for arts education.  Even during difficult financial times we were able to keep our programs intact because my fellow school committee members, administrators, parents, students and the business community understood that Arts Matter.  We worked together to raise awareness and to identify funding sources and not only did we maintain our programs, but we saw them flourish.  In other districts where this may not be the case, I believe it would be beneficial to provide a forum where ideas and creative models that do work could be shared.

I will continue my advocacy efforts and do my best to help ensure all students having access to the arts.  I cannot commit to making one year of arts education in high school a requirement for admission to the state university system due to my extensive knowledge of the budget process.  I would not want to burden districts with yet another unfunded mandate. 


Economic Development

Nonprofit art and cultural organizations support more than 45,000 jobs, spend $2.1 billion annually and generate another $2.5 billion of economic activity. How will the legislature foster an ecosystem which supports the creative community and industry across the Commonwealth?

In order to gain support for such an “ecosystem”, first, all legislators must be educated regarding the value, and return on the investment, of these programs.  They, in turn, can then help educate their constituents in newsletters, at public functions, etc.    


Addressing the Commonwealth’s Socioeconomic Issues

Massachusetts faces many economic and social issues, among them workforce development, public safety, and health care. Can you provide examples on how you would utilize the arts, cultural, and creative community to address the Commonwealth’s social and economic challenges?

First, I would solicit ideas from the creative community and Massachusetts Cultural Council.  Some ideas I have:  Through the Massachusetts Cultural Council, encourage public-private partnerships.  For example, I heard of a dentist who asked local school children to paint pictures on ceiling tiles (since all dental patients look up).  Our justice system might want to rethink how they ”punish” juveniles caught tagging a building.  Instead of slapping them with a fine (parents pay), put them to work and have them clean up what they did (the penalty) then require them to paint something intended for painting.  The possibilities are wide and varied, and I would be eager to explore them.


The Commonwealth’s Support and Role in the Creative Community

  • Last year, Massachusetts invested $12 million in organizational support through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for the creative community, ranking it ninth in the country. In 1988, the MCC gave out more than $27 million in grants, more than twice what we do now. At what level would you fund the MCC?

I would like to identify/develop a creative but fiscally responsible way to steadily increase funding the MCC line item.

  • For the past two years, Governor Patrick allocated $15 million in matching grants through the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund to support the maintenance, repair, and rebuilding of the Commonwealth’s cultural facilities. At what level do you suggest the Commonwealth fund this program?

I would need to research the number of existing capital projects across the state, and the estimated cost to repair, maintain, etc., before I could state an amount.  Then, a priority list and a long-term plan should be developed.  However, understanding that the need exists and the return on the investment, I certainly support funding for this program.

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

Yes, I would work with fellow legislators to identify a sustainable funding source.

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