Martha Coakley'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?

When I was growing up, I was fortunate to have parents who valued the arts. My siblings and I were all exposed to the arts, including music and dance, from an early age; I took tap, ballet, and piano lessons for much of my childhood. These experiences imbued me with an appreciation for the arts early on.

When I got to college, my two roommates both played classical instruments. Although I had realized by that point that my own talents did not lie in the performing arts, I was blown away by their passion, creativity, and by how much of an impact the arts had on their lives. That experience helped me to fully understand how empowering the arts can be to young people, not only to pursue as a career, but in terms of developing critical thinking skills and a passion for trying new endeavors.

Ever since having those experiences, I have seen the arts not as a luxury, but as a necessity, especially for young people; in addition to creating the artists of tomorrow, whether they are painters or graphic designers, sculptors or architects, promoting the arts among young people will also create the patrons of the arts, who will continue to support the creative economy in Massachusetts for years to come.


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 believe strongly that arts education is a critical component of ensuring that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. I have proposed instituting expanded learning time in Massachusetts’ schools precisely because it provides the flexibility to offer students a more diverse education, including art and music instruction, which will help ensure that the Commonwealth nurtures creativity and innovation across all age groups.

I have also spoken about reducing the importance of “teaching to the test.” Our current reliance on standardized testing to gauge student success and teacher performance disincentives teachers from incorporating creativity into their prescribed curriculum. While I believe that standardized testing can be used as one barometer for academic achievement, we need to work with teachers and administrators to develop a system of multiple measures that reduces the emphasis on test results, and will allow teachers to be creative and, in turn, inspire creativity within their students. We know that every student learns in a different way, and finding ways to incorporate creative thinking into traditional subjects like math and science can benefit the whole classroom.

I support the call to establish a commission that will review the possibility of formally incorporating the arts into Massachusetts’ STEM programs (to make them STEAM), and I think there are additional steps we can take, in the short-­‐term, to encourage more arts instruction in schools. As I mentioned above, freeing teachers to incorporate more creative learning into “traditional” subjects like math and science, but also building partnerships between schools, non-­‐profits, and working artists, to help formulate curricula and increase cultural awareness among young people. The MCC’s Big Yellow School Bus program provides grants for transportation related to educational, arts-­‐based field trips; we need to increase funding for the MCC so that it can expand programs like this, but also work with the artistic community to bring more hands-­‐on experiences to students in schools.

One potential way to bring more arts education to students in school, while also supporting working artists, is to establish artist-­‐in-­‐residence programs at public schools. With at least partial state funding, working artists can commit to spending a period of several months or a year working with students, while also continuing to work as an artist. A program like this will accomplish two important goals – building artistic skill and appreciation among young people and supporting working artists.

I have talked throughout my campaign about the importance of creating strong linkages between education, workforce development programs and economic development, in order to support the development of strong regional economies. The creative economy has the potential to be an essential economic driver in different parts of the state; we already see the impact it has had in my hometown of North Adams. Incorporating creative education in schools will create the foundation for a strong creative workforce that will drive economic development across the state.


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?

In Massachusetts, we have the opportunity to turn the economy around for everyone, not just those at the top, and to make our Commonwealth both prosperous and fair. Research has shown that exposure to the arts can foster a strong sense of civic engagement and increase opportunities for employment among young people; with this in mind, the state has an enormous stake in stimulating creative projects and ensuring access to the arts for all of its citizens.

Beyond improving opportunity for individuals, the creative economy can be a powerful economic driver. As I mentioned above, my hometown of North Adams fell on hard times after the closure of Sprague Electric. In recent years, it has undergone a renaissance thanks to the growth of the creative economy, including MassMOCA and a vibrant community of practicing artists.

By expanding, and retaining, our creative talent base, and building on examples like North Adams, we can help build our economy and expand opportunity for everyone in Massachusetts. The creative economy in Massachusetts already has a number of competitive advantages, including the ability to provide personalized, unique goods and services, from fine art to architecture, and a dedicated customer base established over many years. The challenge now is to grow that customer base and enable small companies to reach broader markets while retaining the uniqueness that makes them successful.

One area where the state can play a role is in promoting travel and tourism in Massachusetts. While the arts community in Boston is well established and benefits from a steady stream of domestic and international visitors, artistic establishments in other parts of the state do not currently benefit from this influx of visitors. By promoting the creative economy in different parts of the state, from the north shore to the Pioneer Valley, we can drive tourists to artistic communities across Massachusetts and help support local businesses.

In addition to building our economy, the arts can address a number of social challenges we face in Massachusetts, particularly for disadvantaged populations. Local community centers like the Bird Street Community Center in Dorchester provides workforce development, leadership training, and arts education for at-­‐risk youth while serving as a cultural hub for young people in the area. As governor, I will explore opportunities for where strong community hubs are needed and work to provide access to these centers for young people across the state.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s YouthReach program does an amazing job of empowering young people by encouraging them to express themselves through theater, fine arts, and music, and, as Governor, I will ensure that the state government continues to support YouthReach and similar endeavors.

Investing in the arts now will pay long-­‐term dividends in terms of the opportunities afforded to people in Massachusetts and the health of our state’s economy.


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?

My immediate goal is to get funding for the Council back to $10 million, in order to ensure that the state continues to support creative industries and the next generation of arts leaders in the Commonwealth. I believe the budget is a reflection of our priorities and, when I come in as Governor, I will look for any opportunity to fund the priorities we share with regard to the creative economy, whether that is through more direct funding for the MCC, or other investments.

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

I understand the importance of the CFF and I support Governor Patrick’s call for increasing funding to $15 million. Communities cannot fully embrace creative projects and the tourism they generate without adequate facilities, and the CFF has helped many towns and cities to preserve their cultural facilities and foster creativity in their communities.

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

Our first priority needs to be growing our economy and identifying areas where strategic investment can support the priorities we share. I am committed to reviewing our budget to assess whether we are adequately funding the arts, and then working with the creative community to develop strategies to provide more resources if necessary.

• 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?

I will explore creating a new position, Undersecretary of Arts & Culture, under the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. This official’s role will be to conduct outreach to creative professionals across a range of industries and to develop an agenda that will effectively develop and maintain creative economies in Massachusetts. He or she would work with the Massachusetts Creative Economy Council, as well as officials from Labor & Workforce Development, Housing & Economic Development, and Education, to incorporate various viewpoints and experiences when making strategic decisions at the state level and to address the needs of the creative industries in Massachusetts.

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

I believe that our greatest opportunities for supporting the creative economy are expanding arts education and supporting small business development. By instilling an appreciation for creativity in the classroom and providing opportunities and resources for entrepreneurs, we can ensure that creativity will continue to have an important place in the Massachusetts economy.

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

I have talked throughout my campaign about the importance of engaging the Business community in Massachusetts more fully to help us reach our shared goals. I think one example of this kind of partnership, as it relates to the creative community, was the CreativeNEXT listening tour, which brought together industry leaders to advise state policy makers about the needs of the creative economy and how the state can help. As Governor, I would be committed to continuing this open dialogue. I also believe that, as we continue to see the importance of technology in the creative community increase, from game design to architecture, the business community has an enormous role to play in helping students acquire the technical skills that will allow them to succeed in these jobs. Working closely with teachers, business leaders can help craft curricula that will not only expand opportunity for students, but will also allow the creative economy to continue to grow and adapt.

• 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?

The three areas where we can learn from other states the most are business education for artists, grants that focus on creative problem solving, and ensuring access to the arts for the disabled and elderly communities. Vermont holds workshops that provide valuable information on how to start a creative business and how to market it successfully. As Governor, I would look into developing similar events for our artists, who could benefit from one-­‐stop access to such guidance as they seek to enter or grow in the business world.

Rhode Island offers the Design Innovation Grant, an award for designers who can develop a product or service that benefits society in some way; I think we should expand similar programs that promote innovation here in Massachusetts.

Maine has two programs that I would like to implement in Massachusetts. The first focuses on arts accessibility, particularly for the disabled community, and works to ensure that everyone can enjoy arts venues. In addition, Maine’s “Creative Aging” program promotes creative immersion for senior citizens and offers educational workshops for artists interested in working with older adults. This program focuses on the importance of community, intergenerational exchange, and the positive effects that the arts have on mental and physical health. 


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'ʹs 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?

As Governor, I will work hard to ensure that creative small businesses have the resources needed to thrive in their respective industries. By bringing down the high cost of health care and decreasing regulatory complexity, we can help small businesses stay afloat. I also understand that creative businesses need ready access to capital, and I believe that community banks are uniquely attuned to the needs of small, local businesses. As Governor, I will promote community banks and expand the number of them in the state, to generate more capital for small businesses.

Creative businesses also often have trouble finding and retaining talent. In addition to doing more to incorporate arts education in our public school system, and in order to generate attachment to these industries among young people and build our creative workforce, we also need to increase affordable access to affordable living spaces and live/work spaces for young artists and others, which will help us keep this up-­‐and-­‐coming workforce in Massachusetts.

Another critical element, especially for new creative businesses, is access to the network of existing creative businesses and the institutional knowledge of more established businesses. According to a report produced after the CreativeNEXT listening tour throughout Massachusetts, many business leaders in the creative community expressed the feeling that the creative communities in Massachusetts were often separated, either by geography or by industry. Just as we need to break down silos throughout state government, we need to break down barriers within the creative community so that new businesses can learn from the successful business models that already exist and we can grow the creative economy in Massachusetts.

Finally, we need to work with businesses in the creative community to ensure that they have access to the knowledge and physical infrastructure that will allow them to expand the market for their businesses. For companies in Western Massachusetts, this means expanding affordable broadband access so that they are able to sell their products online. For companies on the South Shore, it means improving transportation options to and from Boston, so that they are able to move their products and bring more customers. For businesses in Boston it means making the city more walkable and expanding public transportation, in order to improve access to creative districts.

Taken together, these strategies will allow us to grow and expand the creative economy in Massachusetts, by supporting the entrepreneurs and young workers who will drive that expansion.


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?

The next governor needs to advocate for Massachusetts’ creative community on a number of fronts. First of all, the governor needs to use the power of the bully pulpit to shine a spotlight on the tremendous cultural resources in Massachusetts; this means being a vocal promoter of the arts in Massachusetts, not only to people across the country and around the world, but also to people in Massachusetts who may not know about or have access to our cultural resources. It also means being visible at different events and locations in the artistic community across the state, such as MALC’s annual Artists Under the Dome Event at the state house.

Access is critically important to promoting our cultural resources, both for people in Massachusetts and around the world. For people within Massachusetts, I believe we need to increase state support for programs that offer free or discounted admission to cultural landmarks, and improve public transportation to make it easier for people to get to and from cultural destinations around the state. The governor also has an important role to play in national and international trade and tourism; when interacting with other states or countries, I will emphasize Massachusetts’ cultural destinations as a major reason to visit our state, and I will work with MassPort and other authorities to make it easier for out-­‐of-­‐state visitors to get into and around Massachusetts. As we bring more direct flights from around the world into Logan and cruise ships into Boston Harbor, we need to make our state more welcoming and ensure that visitors are aware of the cultural destinations, not only in Boston, but around the state.

Finally, I believe we need to explore innovative ways to build awareness of the arts in Massachusetts. I will work collaboratively with the arts community to develop and implement a statewide cultural festival, day of free admission, or similar idea that will bring the arts community together and be a powerful advertisement for the strength and breadth of the cultural resources available in Massachusetts.


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?

My first priority would be exploring the appointment of the Undersecretary of Arts & Culture, and tasking this individual with developing an agenda for promoting creative industry and the arts in Massachusetts. This official will collaborate with relevant offices and leaders in various industries to form a well-­‐informed, multifaceted plan that identifies opportunities and provides concrete recommendations.

Education also provides us with a strong opportunity to ensure that creativity and innovation thrive in the Commonwealth. As such, I would bring together a team of leaders in government, education, and the creative community to identify opportunities for better incorporating the arts into the school day. 

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