Candidate Questionnaire: Judd Melón

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 believe that the arts are inextricably linked to our humanity. Artistic expression can buoy our spirits when challenges threaten to submerge them. Since COVID began, I have appreciated how creators of art have adapted their crafts and have provided patrons with new opportunities. My spouse and I recently virtually attended a magic show on Zoom with friends from NYC that we cannot visit in person. During the performance, we were able to experience a bit of wonder and closeness that is difficult to sustain in this pandemic. That said, nothing replaces the in-person experience of performances. We look forward to a post-pandemic world in which we can attend local art events in-person at local places like Goodspeed Musicals.  

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?

I appreciate the framing of your question. It is important to remind people that the arts, in addition to building community and being an emotional resource, financially sustain thousands of CT residents while providing tax revenue to the state. If every $1 of state investment returns $7 in revenue, then we need to continue to find funding for the arts. As a representative, I would seek the insight of experts about how we can effectively support the arts in a way that benefits all residents. The arts are not an abstraction, they bring real value to our state.

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?

The arts can provoke reflection on overlooked topics and pull communities together. They can foster empathy and contribute to historical memory. The arts often reflect marginalized voices and speak to our conscience. They can express trauma and assert identity. The arts will (and must) continue to do all those things and more. 

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 can draw your attention and provide you with uncomfortable truths. They can develop your empathy and knowledge. Some people who would be unwilling to engage a topic or acknowledge the veracity of some facts are sometimes disarmed by art and may have their conscience penetrated in transformative ways. For example, if you have even a modicum of humanity and have visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., you are shaken to your core. The experience that it provokes in those that have personally experienced racial hate first-hand is certainly different than the experience of those who have not, but it is powerful in either case. I think that public spaces should display much more art that evokes topics related to economic and racial justice while at the same time informing about those issues. I also think that public art should promote inclusivity and honor the contributions of our diverse population (in every regard: as it relates to race, gender, physical ability, orientation, etc).

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 think that the arts in CT should receive federal and state funding. My hope is that we soon will have a new administration at the federal level that will offer much more support to states like ours. I do not have a particular number in mind regarding arts funding. If I take office several months from now, the amount of funding will depend upon the state of our economy and of the arts industry at that time.

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.

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