Candidate Questionnaire: Matthew Dyer

1. YOUR PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE ARTS

The pandemic has been challenging for so many in CT and in so many ways.How have you personally benefited from the arts or creative expression in the last few months? What local arts experiences have you missed most during the shutdown?

Arts and entertainment are integral to who I am. During quarantine I have re-connected to music, both instrumental and vocal. I have most missed being able to get together with like-minded artists, including my son, and “jam” with free flow creation. Social distancing and gathering limitations substantially limit the ability to create with others. I also had multiple events planned including concert tickets for the Wailin’ Jennys in Rhode island as well as Hamilton tickets on Broadway that were, of course, canceled and, although they gave refunds, those experiences are irreplaceable for my 18 year old son eager to gain entry into the arts world.

2. ARTS + ECONOMIC RECOVERY

CT can’t recover without the arts. Arts and culture are key for CT’s economic recovery. Creative industries pump $9 billion into the state and account for 3.5% of CT’s total economy. Our non-profit arts organizations support 23,000 jobs, generate $800 million annually, and return $7 back in tax revenue for every $1 invested by the state.
How will you help harness the power of the arts for CT’s economic recovery?

Connecticut is uniquely positioned geographically as, essentially, a very large suburb of New York City, one of the largest arts hubs in the world. Given its geographic proximity to that arts hub, and the social distancing requirements of the pandemic, Connecticut occupies a vital position in terms of “working from home” for digital arts, including film editing and post-production. Given the diversity of Connecticut towns and cities, Connecticut, especially in the northwest, provides a variety of location to shoot for film as well. Thus, capturing these industries requires a combination of incentives tied to job and wage growth, as well as targeted marketing of Connecticut’s value to these particular industries. Moreover, Connecticut has a significant base of talent and energy focused on the arts. So another piece of the puzzle would be to streamline training programs and tie them into economic arts activity through tax or other incentives. Finally, these incentives should be based on long-term commitment to Connecticut rather than individual projects or piecemeal usage of Connecticut’s workers and finances.



3. ARTS HEAL + REBUILD

Creativity helps us process loss, fight loneliness, and create vibrant, resilient communities that attract and retain residents, businesses, and visitors.
What do you think is an important role for arts and culture to play in healing and rebuilding the social fabric of our cities and towns?

Arts provide an outlet for the exploration of the imagination and we seriously need imagination currently. We need to re-imagine society from the ground up and then work towards that imagination. That’s been the way of human advancement for thousands of years and will continue to be the way forward as we confront significant existential issues such as climate change and the rise of authoritarianism. Second, arts provide the basis of human social, emotional, and intellectual connection—something we sorely need as the pandemic continues to isolate us. Arts remind us of our shared humanity and provide us with communion and connection in an atomized world. Perhaps that reminder will lead us to reconnect in real and fundamental ways.



4. ARTS SUPPORT RACIAL & SOCIAL JUSTICE

The pandemic has deepened existing divides in Connecticut, particularly along the lines of race and class. The arts create shared experiences that can unite people and bridge divides to acknowledge the strength in our differences.
Do you believe the arts can help build racial and social justice in Connecticut? If so, how?

Yes. The arts provide a mechanism for marginalized or silenced voices to be heard. Racial voices, class voices, gendered voices, all are now finding their way into the mainstream and into mainstream thinking. These voices are extending general concepts such as “justice”, “equality”, and “fairness” beyond the narrow boundaries that tradition has used to deprive those voices of access to those concepts. In other words, these new voices, coming from extended artistic meditations like films and novels and musicals and sculpture and dance, are expanding our notions of humanity and our shared experience to combat dehumanizing deprivations of justice, fairness, equity and opportunity. Moreover, as the question itself hints, the arts remind us that difference is a strength, not a weakness, and that uniqueness and unity both have vitality to human experience and growth. Activity can never be productive without awareness and the arts provide the means for both awareness and activism.



5. CT NEEDS HELP FROM THE ARTS

With 62% of artists unemployed and most arts organizations unable to reopen, the industry needs emergency support to recover and thrive. CT’s arts and culture sector has suffered an estimated $400 million in economic losses.
Will you support emergency funding to support the arts industry in Connecticut? If so, from what source and at what level?

I would support this, although it should also be in conjunction with rent/mortgage relief. Bankers and financiers have benefitted wildly and disgustingly during one of the most significant human pandemics in history. 200,000 Americans are dead, and banks and institutional investors are making billions of dollars. Struggling artists would gain enormous benefit from rent/mortgage moratoriums and the only ones who would “suffer” would be those who already have enormous sums of money. From there, rather than using tax dollars to support bankers, any emergency tax relief would be better spent on food and other necessities for artists unable to work due to the social distancing cancellations. These dollars should come from the federal level primarily due to the fact that the federal government is monetarily sovereign and the state is not. Since the federal government can simply create more money (as they did this pandemic and then gave it to bankers and financial investors to prop up the stock market), they should create a flow of money for artists to live.

Create the Vote CT is a nonpartisan public education campaign to raise awareness and support for the arts among voters and candidates running for public office. CT Arts Alliance launched the first Create the Vote CT during the gubernatorial election in 2018 and inspired focus on the arts during Governor Lamont’s transition and helped stabilize statewide public funding for the first time since the Great Recession. The initiative was originally conceived and developed at MASSCreative, a state arts advocacy organization in Massachusetts.

Regional Partners

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