Steven Ultrino 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?

As an avid theater goer I have always been impressed and amazed at how the arts can inspire people.  The arts enable people to express their ideas and emotions in so many different ways. As a former classroom teacher, I have grown to appreciate the arts even more as I have seen my former students go on to do what they love.

After teaching High School, I went on a cruise and attended a performance onboard. After a few moments I thought I recognized one of the performers; he turned out to be a former student of mine! Throughout High School he had always mentioned that he wanted to perform and go to college to study the arts and drama. It only took him 1 year after college to get a job in the field and he could not be happier.  He told me the arts allowed him to be himself and express his passion about something more than a 9-5 job. I have always been happy to see former students do well, but especially when they can do work about which they are passionate. 


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.           

Malden is lucky to have a very diverse population and is the second most diverse community in the state. This cultural diversity is expressed in a number of different cultural festivals throughout the year that enrich the lives of all residents and increase our mutual understanding. From my time as the President of the Saint Rocco Fraternal Society of Malden, which hosts an annual festival, I have witnessed how such cultural events bring people together and strengthen our community. In this past week alone I have attended a Latino festival at City Hall as well as a Dragon Boat Regatta put on by Malden’s Asian community. I am proud that my City holds such diverse events that both educate us and strengthen community bonds.

Nearly ten years ago, two artists who had recently moved to Malden obtained a grant from the Malden Cultural Council (our local Cultural Council allocating Massachusetts Cultural Council funds) for Window Arts Malden, a program through which participating local businesses displayed the juried work of local artists for three weeks in the fall. This popular program received Cultural Council funding for three years, but has been supported by local donations since that time. Now in its ninth year, the program involves new artists and businesses each year, including artists from diverse ethnic backgrounds, recent immigrants, and local students. The volunteers who have led this effort are creating a nonprofit organization that has built a community around the arts and has engaged in other projects such as working with the City Council to facilitate local artists painting city-owned electrical switchboxes. That initial Massachusetts Cultural Council grant started the ball rolling. It is a great example of how MCC grants can work in combination with the passion and hard work of local volunteers to create opportunities in communities across the Commonwealth. 


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?  

An arts education is an essential part of a top-quality education. If we want to provide the best possible education for our young people, we must include the arts at all levels. The creative approaches students experience with the arts will not only expose them to the world of arts, but they will also help students to engage more effectively with all their other subjects. As a former classroom teacher, I will always push for changes that provide the best education for all of our students in the Commonwealth, and I will always question course designs that put too much emphasis on testing.

While I support making a year of arts education a requirement for high school, we need to make sure that creating such a requirement for acceptance to our state university doesn’t unfairly disadvantage any student who lacks access to the arts in his or her school.

I support making the arts an essential subject for the state’s students.  But in focusing on STEM or STEAM, we must make sure we do not leave out other critical elements of our students’ education—the study of history, for example, which provides essential concepts, knowledge, and perspectives for understanding our world and is also a critical part of a balanced liberal arts education. 


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? 

I advocate changes that will provide better access to high-quality education at all levels, reduce student loan burdens, foster a range of housing options, provide quality affordable transportation, ensure a living wage and earned sick time, reduce the cost of healthcare, make it easier to start and run small businesses (whether nonprofit or for-profit), and generally provide the supports that all our working families need. All of these will especially benefit the creative economy, which is made up of many sole practitioners and small businesses.

Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations add both to the quality of life of our citizens and to a region’s economic success. As a new State Representative I would be open to ideas for incentives that our government could put in place that would encourage the expansion of arts and cultural organizations across the Commonwealth—not only in major cities like Boston, but also in suburban and rural areas—in order to help parts of Massachusetts that are economically disadvantaged. 


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?

All the resources at our disposal need to be brought to bear to solve these problems.  The arts can play many different roles because they have the capacity to unleash individuals’ creative capacity, spark new ways of thinking, inspire us to action, and bring people together.  To take just one example, a variety of programs exist across our Commonwealth that use the arts to give marginalized groups of people a voice, helping them to express their concerns and tell their stories—the incarcerated, at-risk youth, people living with domestic violence, and English language learners, to name only a few. Giving these individuals a voice not only aids their mental health and personal development, but it also enables them to contribute their ideas to help others.

The arts also bring particular disciplines to bear on long-term structural challenges. One important way arts impact us on a daily basis is through architecture and design of our urban spaces, housing, and transportation infrastructure. We need powerfully creative solutions in our cities as we work to reduce reliance on automobiles, create livable and affordable homes, and create maximally beneficial and effective public spaces.

I would be happy to hear ideas for how we as legislators can encourage and foster these connections for the benefit of the Commonwealth’s residents. 


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? 

Massachusetts Cultural Council grants are an important way Massachusetts encourages arts and cultural activities in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. As a new State Representative who has seen first-hand the benefits of these grants in my community, I would fight to maintain and increase MCC funding, though I cannot name a specific figure at this time.  


  • 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?

These matching grants have been a valuable resource for preserving and expanding the Commonwealth’s cultural facilities. I would advocate continuing 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?

To this point and to the other parts of this question: revenue is needed to fund a wide range of essential programs and services for our Commonwealth including our arts and culture appropriations. I advocate reform of the tax code to ensure that our revenue is sufficient for the Commonwealth’s needs, that burdens do not fall unnecessarily on working families and on cities and towns, and that the wealthier households and organizations in our Commonwealth are asked to pay their fair share. Funding our schools, public safety, and other basic services will benefit the creative community directly and indirectly, which will in turn benefit our economy and well being. A dedicated revenue stream is often suggested when advocates for specific programs are concerned about sustainability of their funding. I will work with fellow legislators to assess and develop our revenue streams to meet the Commonwealth’s needs. Today I feel it would be premature to advocate dedicating a revenue stream to funding arts and cultural activities, but I would be happy to discuss the reasoning behind such a proposal and to find the means of ensuring sustainable funding for these activities.  

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