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?
I am a reader, and my principle outlet and release from the relentless pace of responding to the pandemic has been a return to fiction and poetry, which invites you to enter a different world than your own, while providing insights that are powerfully resonant in our current situation. I miss live theater, and visiting arts institutions that bring in children’s voices in particular.
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?
In the short and medium term, we have to make sure we don’t lose arts institutions that cannot open until there’s a vaccine. Many of them are anchors for cultural and economic life of our towns, and their loss would be immeasurable. While we in CT scramble to assess what kind of resources we will have, we need to press the case that our state, and every other, will need federal help. One piece of federal legislation I have advocated for is the Save our Stages Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide loans or grants to performance spaces to keep them alive until they can reopen.
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?
I love an idea that Rufus de Rham, the Executive Director of the Warner Theater, brought to my attention, which is apparently getting traction in Europe, where doctors or other medial professional proscribe a trip to theater, for example, as a remedy for social isolation, anxiety, or other behavioral health challenges. One thing that the pandemic made clear is our connection to one another, and creativity is a path to that connection. This is a win-win – it’s healing, it brings us together, and it supports the economic life of our towns and cultural institutions.
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, certainly. One of my favorite local projects is the American Mural Project, a massively ambitious mural in Winsted that highlights the dignity and power of work of all kinds. To see school children come in and be awed by the massive scope of this work, then find themselves and their parents up there as powerful and impressive parts of our social fabric, then get to be part of its creation, is really moving.
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?
As mentioned above, CT and every other state will be scrambling for resources as we recover from the pandemic and the hit to the economy. We need federal assistance to rebuild our economy and provide resources to people and institutions in need: as of today, we have no direct assistance from the federal government. I am certainly advocating for federal programs that would go directly to support arts institutions, such as the Save Our Stages Act discussed above.
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.