Joe Gamin’s Responses


Joe Ganim, of Bridgeport, is a Democratic candidate for Governor.

Responses are posted below exactly as provided by the candidate to our Create the Vote 2018 Questionnaire

1. Your Personal Connection to the Arts

We’ve all had defining moments in our lives. Is there a personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity that has had an impact on your life and your view of the community? And, if so, please tell us about it.

I grew up during the 1960s and 1970s – a time of great liberation and experimentation in the arts that inspired my entire generation. I came of age during the time when rock and roll gave voice to many Americans who were fed up with the lies and division being pedaled by those in government and politics – whether that was about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement or how to wear your hair. It was a time when HAIR was bringing the Age of Aquarius to Broadway Audiences, Black was beautiful, and Jimi Hendrix re-wrote the rules of what it meant to be patriotic or what you could do with an electric guitar. My favorite band was Led Zeppelin, which breathed new life into the old blues songs of Robert Johnson and others. It was a time when young people were inspired by JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. It was a time when Aretha Franklin was redefining soul music and providing a new voice for Black women to earn true respect and Nina Simone called out the racism in Mississippi, Alabama and the Deep South. This is the bravery and creativity of all of this artistic expression and the determination of the artists to say something of social relevance completely re-shaped our culture inspired many people in my generation to push the traditional boundaries and find connections with people in common cause outside of our comfortable community cocoons. It was an integral part of my own career path taking me into public service in an urban community.

2. Arts + Economic Development

From April 1, 2018 Hartford Courant, Arts and Culture Are Key Contributors to CT’s Economy: “As an industry, arts and cultural events and productions pumped $9 billion into Connecticut’s economy in 2015, generating more money than utilities and construction, according to new figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce.” This same article noted that the arts and culture sector accounts for 3.5% of Connecticut’s total economy.

As governor, how would you recognize the importance of arts and culture in economic development and the revitalization of our cities?

Arts and culture are some of our most important assets in Connecticut. As Governor I want to help every local community have some type of featured arts venue, and stabilize funding for arts institutions and visual and performing arts. One of the challenges facing those working in arts and cultural organizations is declining state investment over time and unpredictability of that funding source every time our state budget faces a challenge. That is unacceptable if we are to think of investing in arts and culture as something that can truly grow our economy. In Bridgeport we recognized this when I was first mayor in the 1990s by clearing land to develop what is now the Webster Bank Arena – a 10,000 seat venue that hosts a significant number of concerts all year round drawing audiences from all over Connecticut and the New York City metropolitan area. This has also become a home for concerts of diverse audiences, and a place where people from many backgrounds can come together. Since its development, this arena has generated millions of tax dollars for the state of Connecticut every year and for the local community in Bridgeport, not to mention the restaurants and area hotels that benefit from the added business and remit taxes. When you look at the success of the Palace Theater restoration in Waterbury and the regional cultural attraction that has become – it gives you great hope and inspiration that this can be done in other parts of the state that have beautiful old theaters. The Warner theater in Torrington is a similar example. Just since I was elected Mayor again in Bridgeport in 2015 we have moved forward with a $400 million development project to restore two historic theaters – the Poli and the Majestic and put apartments around them building the tallest building in Bridgeport. Another major development we are moving forward with that we think will represent a powerhouse arts and cultural venue for the entire state and region is the conversion of the Harboryard minor league baseball stadium into the Harboryard amphitheater for up to 30 outdoor concerts a year produced by LiveNation. This will attract Connecticut visitors as well as those from the tri-state area and other New England States as this catches a trend in the industry matching consumer demand for smaller, boutique outdoor venues for shows that people will pay higher prices to see.

3. Arts Education + Programs for our Youth

Students with arts instruction are 3x more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, less likely to be absent, 5x more likely to graduate, and 44% less likely to use drugs.

Do you support arts education as a statewide priority? If so, how will you champion arts education for our youth?

I strongly support arts as an essential part of education of our youth. For too long, we have thought of arts and music programs as expendable luxuries that can be cut when budgets get tight. There is a direct tie that can be made between growing the arts economy and having our young people trained in arts fields and various technological fields that support the arts economy. There are millions of jobs in arts related fields all over the country. Any kid that can learn how to wire a sound system or stage lighting, do the carpentry necessary to build sets or frames for visual arts canvasses will not have trouble finding a job in Connecticut. There are also more complex welding and electrical jobs that are needed for the film industry that we can train people for right here in Connecticut. There are many other technical fields that contribute to the arts such as code writing for digital design and exhibits, audio and video production and other areas. We need to think of our schools as exporting kids with talent not only to be artists or performers themselves but as kids who can graduate with the skills necessary to get a job or an apprenticeship in fields related to the arts economy. Many affluent school districts in Connecticut have thriving arts programs. As governor I would direct targeted investment to our urban school districts to bring in more artists in residence for our many kids with ability, stabilize arts curriculum funding and direct our state departments of education and culture and tourism to being working together on a fast track internship program for high school students to get trained in professional fields related to the arts as mentioned above. There can also be a direct tie between K-12 education and our community colleges, who have made great strides training their students for fields needed by industry.

4. Arts + Attracting/Retaining Talent

People want to live in culturally vibrant cities, and the arts and cultural scene influences in which city skilled workers want to work. They want to go to festivals, attend arts events, listen to live music, eat great food and meet interesting people. It’s a main reason why, according to a study by City Observatory, the number of college educated people age 25 to 34 living within three miles of city centers is up 37 percent since 2000, even as the total population of these neighborhoods has slightly shrunk.

How do you see the role of arts and culture in Connecticut’s effort to attract and retain a talented workforce?

Absolutely. When you look at the future of our state – it depends on thriving cities attracting young people who want the convenience of an urban lifestyle without needing to be burdened by driving a car everywhere.  You need your cities to be cultural centers where young people can have a good time and be inspired.  We are really starting to build that in Bridgeport.  We helped open an artist’s supply store in downtown Bridgeport in 2016 that is thriving and serving the young artist population in our city. We have also sponsored for three years in a row a hip-hop festival focused on our youth that we have pegged to the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend as a means of inspiring our young people in Bridgeport and beyond to put their energy and thoughts into rhymes that can become anthems and transform an entire generation – focused on social consciousness and the positive changes in the community they would like to see and become.  This festival has attracted some of the great hip-hop pioneers and we have engaged with thousands of young people to stand together in unison and peace to fight for their community.

We also need to make our urban areas fun, popping cultural hubs, with a variety of offerings including live music, visual arts openings, theater, and comedy that speaks to and welcomes all of our diverse audiences.  Having strong arts and cultural institutions and venues is central to the economic success of our cities.  I have invested significantly in creating robust arts and culture venues as Mayor of Bridgeport and reviving long dormant theaters that will be the venues of the future and attract new residents and visitors to our city.  As governor, I would do everything possible to strengthen the arts economy that we have and find new ways to open that up.  All of our cities – from Torrington to New Britain, New London, Waterbury, Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford and many others – have some major cultural attractions and the state needs to do a better job directing investment to those places as hubs.  Better coordination is needed between the departments of Economic Development, Arts Culture and Tourism, Education and even transportation so we can think of a vision for our cities as thriving cultural centers where young people will be attracted to live without the need of cars, so we will need reliable public transportation to get residents and visitors from one city to the other to participate in a flourishing arts and culture economy. This is essential to my vision of cities being the engines that drive a new Connecticut economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.

Lastly, I would like to see a comprehensive arts beautification program for Connecticut’s cities that can be funded by matching contributions from the state and federal governments plus various arts foundations whereby we fund the beautification of our cities by the painting of murals, the building of sculptures and the visual enhancements to the architecture of our buildings and bridges through lighting displays to give residents, visitors and potential investors a real sense of pride and cultural identity when they come to our cities.  It will make them want to invest more and it should put a lot of young Connecticut artists to work.  Providence, RI has been very successful incorporating arts into city design and beautification and I would like to learn best practices from communities that have done so successfully.

5. Arts + Return on Investment

The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $80 million in revenue to local and state government. Yet the state recently allocated only $4.2 million for arts and culture in next year’s budget, which represents a 60% decrease since 2009.

Will you support increased state arts funding building on this return on investment? If so, at what level and from what funding source?

In Bridgeport we know very well the struggle of local strong and historic arts and cultural organizations who are seeing dwindling state investment in their annually appropriated state budget line items, to a point now where the funding for all arts and cultural institutions is thrown into a pot of money that these institutions have to compete with each other in order to be funded.  It is unfortunately emblematic of a lack of vision at the state level by the current administration and leaders in the general assembly for how strong, sustained, thriving arts and cultural institutions and attractions can really help drive our Connecticut economy into the future. As stated in earlier answers, we need not only more dedicated state revenue for the arts, but we need to leverage those dollars with foundational and corporate support for the arts as well as federal money tied into economic development and even educational opportunities.  As governor I would start a new initiative to coordinate strategy among the various state departments and agencies integrating arts and cultural planning into the core of our educational and economic planning.  We should also consider a set-aside for arts and cultural institution at the state level that cannot be raided by the general assembly just to plug a budget deficit.  This dedicated stream of funding would be similar to the concept of the ‘lock box’ discussed for transportation funding.  And there could be certain set-aside in revenue streams such as the sales tax, lottery proceeds, the estate tax, highway tolls or other sources to establish stable, dedicated sources of state funding for the arts.

6. Arts + Tourism

Each year arts and cultural events attract 10 million attendees with 15% coming from outside the state and 59% of those tourists coming specifically for arts and culture.

Beyond featuring arts and culture in marketing efforts, how would you further capitalize on the arts as a cornerstone to CT’s vital tourism industry?

Marketing is a key component of attracting more arts tourists and visitors to our state but it is just one piece. Also, you can’t market what you don’t have. Meaning, people will come to see powerful exhibits and shows, visual and performing arts, music and dance festivals, comedians, plays, poetry slams and many other events as they already do. But the arts institutions putting forth the effort to produce all of these amazing events need steady funding sources to bring in the best offerings, and we need to build infrastructure to support our artistic and cultural centers. By strengthening the infrastructure around arts and culture and stabilizing the revenue going to these institutions, we will be able to collaborate with different communities in Connecticut to maximize the tourist dollars statewide by consistently bringing in the best performances, festivals and exhibitions. With the best content and our cities working to support these institutions, we could combine efforts to make sure transportation and economic efforts are aligned if needed for coordination of major events. Coordination of efforts taking into account tourist and travel trends of the region at different times of year would allow us as a whole to work with local communities and venues to emphasize different events during different times of year where we could target audiences that are coming to or moving through Connecticut. I would apply this same standard to smaller events where a niche market of people might be attracted to come from different regions such as the summer Cape Verdean cultural festival in Bridgeport or the Baby Grand Jazz series at the Hartford Public Library during the winter, for example.

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