Linda Parham's Response to Worcester Cultural Coalition's Questionnaire

Just as any other city, Worcester faces many economic and social issues. Can you provide examples as to how you would integrate the arts, culture and creative community in solving social problems? How would you use the creative community to drive economic development in the city?

  • One of the main things we need to do is invest in the talent we have here. The names on this masthead are proof positive that Worcester is a vibrant, creative, culturally diverse, thriving community 

    and that those making that happen need and deserve the support of 

    those in office. There is an excellent model in Boston that is a nonprofit, called the Future Boston Alliance that has a suite of programs that could, if brought to Worcester, help to facilitate bringing more voices from this sector into the halls of decision making. Their Assemble program is focused on bringing creative entrepreneurs, artists and other cultural forces together to talk about and share their experiences on a whole host of social and economic issues. Bringing more artists into our schools and community programs to work with youth to discuss solutions to some of our challenges will create more relevant, approachable solutions, and move us all forward. Arts and Culture are uniquely positioned to break down barriers and bring people together to facilitate creative solutions. We can also support artists using art as therapy to heal from some of the challenges in our community, especially violence. Public arts installations, or even community created art events can help people move beyond their pre-conceived notions and comfort zones and begin to roll up our sleeves and get to work building solutions. 

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

  • I believe that a diverse tax portfolio will provide needed relief to small businesses and residents while also drawing on resources from those that can afford to give more. With a more stable tax base, we’ll be able to provide more comprehensive services to our small business owners, cultural institutions and even working artists. We can look at examples of places like Philadelphia, and even Lowell, to find examples of incentives cities have been able to provide to make it more feasible for working artists to build sustainable lives living and working here. There are also opportunities for federal grants that can have a multiplier effect, so that even a one-time grant can make an investment that spurs economic growth. For example, the Participatory Budgeting Project can bring in additional revenue to be brought to the community level to engage our whole city on deciding how this additional money will be spent to make our community stronger. Projects in other cities have included school and park improvement, new programs, or even specific positions to focus on unmet city needs. 

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

  • I have always appreciated arts and culture, but it wasn’t until my daughter became a film and television major that I gained an even deeper appreciation for the arts as a method of storytelling and introducing new narratives into the world. She helped me to see a bigger world through her lens by shining a light on certain issues that society does not discuss regularly. She had directed a documentary film on the effects of black children attending all white schools. Through her creative process I saw her develop her leadership and gain confidence within herself. I am grateful that arts can provide that kind of developmental experience while also helping us to connect with our collective humanity. 

Worcester is being touted as a creative city with public art, festivals and dozens of cultural organizations. Through the WOOcard program, the Worcester Cultural Coalition is trying to brand Worcester as being creative and to leverage the strength of our members to attract more residents, college students, and visitors. How would you utilize the creative community to make Worcester a great place to live, learn, work and play?  

  • First, The Worcester Cultural Coalition has done a great deal of work branding Worcester as a creative community, and for that I am grateful. As I talk to voters, that is often brought up as an asset - from events and visits to museums, to bringing friends from out of town to StART on the Street, people seem to know Worcester is a city full of talented cultural creators. I think if we want to continue building on this, we should continue to embrace the emergence of public art and leverage the resources available to creating it to also create space for people to gather: benches, more walkable neighborhoods, incorporate art installations in transportation hubs and small green spaces for people to enjoy the growing amount of art available to see. I think the WOO card program is incredible and also underutilized. I cannot speak to specific ways to make it more widely known, because I don’t want to make assumptions about what is already being done, but I would love to sit down when I am in office and learn ways I can better leverage city partnerships to ensure more access to this wonderful program. Last, I think our creative and cultural economy is one of our largest assets as a city. And I know that in order to leverage that creative capital to truly bring in more tourism, students and new residents we need to make sure that we’re pulling our weight in providing the other needs for a vibrant engagement with our community. That means we need to make sure that people can easily access public transportation to get to these institutions. We need to make sure that they can afford memberships to our museums and to shop in our small businesses by creating and investing in good jobs and training programs. And we need to make sure that our next generation is prepared to continue building on this legacy by ensuring vibrant arts education in our public schools. 
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