Stephen Kulik 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?

Music has been important to me from an early age, and although I am not a musician, I am an avid listener of live and recorded music of all kinds.  There is almost always music playing in my home, and my children grew up hearing a wide variety of it and learning about everything from the blues to classical.  This helped to inspire my son to study music at a conservatory and become a professional musician, playing, composing, and creating for a living in New York City.  I attend live music performances as often as I can, as it enriches me and the community that I live in.


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 am privileged to represent the First Franklin District, comprised of 19 small and rural communities in western Massachusetts which are rich in arts and cultural offerings.  I represent one MCC designated Cultural District in Shelburne Falls, and I strongly supported its successful application.  The designation helps to spotlight the wide variety of cultural and arts activities by artists and institutions of all kinds.  The designation draws visitors to the region, where the combination of the arts and the natural beauty of the area combine to spur significant economic activity and jobs in the arts.  Although it is not (yet) designated as a Cultural District, similar great things are happening in the Town of Montague where Turners Falls River Culture is supported with funding from MCC’s Adams Grant program.  This is a wise investment of state funds, which leverages significant local matches and generates economic and creative activity which would not happen without this support.  I have also met a number of artists in various disciplines who have received MCC Artists Fellowships to enhance their work and the public appreciation of it.


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?

Earlier, I mentioned my son the musician.  He began his artistic path in life in the 4th grade public school instrumental music program.  So, I know first hand how exposure to the arts in school can influence a student’s life in a positive way.  Although she did not follow music as a career, my daughter also learned and played music in a strong instrumental program in our public school district.  I strongly support the effort to transform STEM to STEAM, as many studies show the strong supportive connection between learning both the arts and the sciences.  I believe it would be worthwhile for Massachusetts to study the experience of the states which require one year of arts education to enter public higher education.  I am open to supporting that idea, but we should recognize that doing so will likely require additional state funding for local school districts to support increased arts education opportunities.  I don’t believe it should be mandated by the state unless the funding resources are provided.


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?

We are doing a pretty good job with this, although increased investment in the state budget and capital bond legislation for the arts and culture is a worthy goal.  There is now widespread recognition that the arts, culture, and tourism are significant contributors to the state’s economy.  And, the state’s different regions that focus on the arts and culture see money coming in from visitors which stays in that region and circulates in ways that benefit other local businesses.  In addition to direct budget appropriations for the arts, we should always look at other tools like tax incentives (like the film industry tax credit) as methods for stimulating additional jobs in the arts and creative economy.


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?

The creative arts do connect broadly with many other segments of our economy, and the varied social challenges that we face as a society.  Our workforce development training should be applicable to artists and provide education in business, marketing, and other skills that help artists manage their careers and earn a good living.  Our health care system does now provide insurance coverage to almost 98% of our citizens, including countless artists who previously could not afford health insurance coverage.  And, as we think about ways to make safe and affordable housing available to people, we should place a special focus on opportunities for artists.  There are many abandoned or underutilized former mill buildings in small towns in western Massachusetts which could provide both housing and studio space for a wide variety of people working in our creative economy.


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

I have always supported the highest possible levels of funding in state budgets for investment in the creative economy.  As we know, this has varied in recent years, like most of the state budget, with the condition of the economy and the health of state revenues.  As Vice Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I have a seat on the budget conference committee, and have worked to support arts funding as much as possible within the constraints of a balanced and demanding overall budget.  I will continue to do so, and work closely with our Legislative Cultural Caucus; the MCC leadership, and the Committee on Arts, Culture and Tourism.  I see the benefits of a strong and vibrant arts economy in the communities that I represent, and I want to see that grow and spread to other areas of the Commonwealth as well.  I am open to considering ideas for a dedicated revenue stream for the arts.

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