Candidate Questionnaire: Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox

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 benefitted from the arts or creative expression in the last few months? What local arts experiences have you missed most during the shutdown?

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it has been to show us that the arts are essential to our sense of well-being and our sense of community. During the pandemic, my husband and I have benefited from online performances ranging from Yo-yo Ma to Neil Sedaka, as well as enjoying the televised WHO coronavirus benefit concert and several barbershop singing events. We miss the live programming in our local area from Trumbull High School and the Westport Country Playhouse, as well as live small group performances at local restaurants that we used to enjoy. We were also dismayed at the apparently permanent closure of Bethel Cinemas, which we deeply appreciated as our local source for independent films.

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?

First, we must support the request of Connecticut Flagship Producing Theaters for $12 million in economic redevelopment funding provided by the federal CARES act and to be distributed by the state.  Second, the state needs to approve the request for a $10 million state loan to be distributed among the six performing arts centers in the state. Third, we need to expand funding for the Connecticut Arts Council to reverse decades of cuts or flat spending on the Arts in Connecticut. Fourth, we should work to preserve the Digital Media and Motion Picture tax credit. Finally, we must lobby the Federal government to return to adequately funding the National Endowment for the Arts, rather than threatening to defund it every year. Each of these investments will pay dividends for Connecticut by generating substantial economic activity in the arts.

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?

More than two thousand years ago, the Chinese philosopher Xunzi observed that “music is a joy, an unavoidable human disposition.” The same could be said of all of the arts, which unify and inspire the public. The arts can serve a similar inspirational role in bringing people together today. Additionally, arts organizations are critical to a community’s sense of being. In Trumbull, our residents come together for plays and musicals at Trumbull High School, St. Joseph’s High School, and the Christian Heritage School; they look forward to concerts from the likes of Trumbull choirs such as Harmony on the Sound and the Coastal Chordsmen; they come together for the annual Trumbull Arts Festival, and much more. Whether these groups meet or perform virtually or in person, their survival is essential to the vital character of our community.

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?

The arts are an important catalyst for social change. The fight for integration and civil rights would not have been the same without the support of artists such as Faith Ringgold and Normal Rockwell, musicians such as Pete Seeger and Jamila Jones, stage musicals such as West Side Story, or films such as In the Heat of the Night or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. With the protests that have followed the killing of George Floyd, we have seen the arts again play an essential role, with protests often involving poetry or spoken word recitations or music. A vibrant, appropriately funded arts community can help crystallize these issues in the mind of the public.

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?

It is critical that state legislators understand that without additional emergency aid, many of the arts organizations in Connecticut that are essential to our communities will cease to exist. Orchestras and bands will fold; playhouses will go dark; opera and musical theater will not be heard. It is difficult to overstate the crisis in which these organizations find themselves. We must recover as much of that $400 million in losses as we possibly can. As a practical matter, I think we should concentrate first on advocating for a second round of CARES act funding, and fight to ensure that arts organizations are eligible for a substantial portion of that funding. In the longer term, we need to support the expansion of funding both for the National Endowment for the Arts on the federal level and for the Office of the Arts and the Arts Council on the state level.

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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