Candidate Questionnaire: Brian Smith

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?

Most of my arts-related experiences in the time of COVID have been of the cancellation variety. We missed out on the Hartford Symphony’s next edition of Harry Potter Live, which we have been enjoying and we have missed the entire season at Goodspeed Musicals. I was a fine arts major In college (BFA, Acting, CCSU 1979) and worked professionally In dinner theatre and other venues when I was young, I formed and ran two nonprofit theatre companies and know well how devastating the forced shutdowns have been due to their already under-resourced budgets. My wife and I have benefited from virtual events and television, radio, and Internet based programming. We have been able to attend some outdoor, socially distanced events with live performers and recently attended an actual movie in a theatre.

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?

All this Is especially true here In Southeastern Connecticut. As I have been my whole life, I will continue to personally be a supporter of the Arts and will seek opportunities in the legislature to join with like-minded colleagues to fight for arts support wherever It can be garnered and to convince other, less vested, legislators to do the same. We need to acknowledge that galleries, museums, theatres, and other performance/art exhibition spaces, are vital generators of visitor traffic to our downtowns and bring with them support for all varieties of small, local business around them. These venues will need and deserve our efforts to bring them back up to their prior levels of activity as quickly as circumstances will allow and we should be creative in harnessing federal, state, and local resources to do so.

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?

People dealing with stress of all kinds need safe outlets to release their stress and reconnect with what is important in their lives. Art of all kinds it critical to drawing people away from their troubles into a creative realm where it is safe to experience a cathartic release. When people are engaged by the arts, they subconsciously let go of the day-to-day “baggage” they carry. This is what allows them the release they need, and it is one of the kinds of support that we all need do stay grounded. While I think, sadly, that it is one that many, if not most, people don’t even recognize they need or that that it has benefited them, I still believe it is vital that the arts are healthy and available to provide the kinds of subconscious outlets people need to stay emotionally healthy.

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 speak a universal language. When people engage with the arts of all kinds, they unknowingly subsume themselves into something greater. They “relate” to a character or a story or theme which, in the day-to-day hurly-burly of their lives, they would not normally do. This exposes them the perspectives they otherwise would not have and, over time, deepens their ability to feel empathy for others, especially those not “like” themselves. As our arts programs evolve with the times, Increasingly, the views and experiences they expose us to opens our minds. This can’t do anything but help!

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?

Yes. I have been and am a full supporter of programs at both the state and federal level, to help artists and arts organizations get by in the time of COVID. I believe the HEROS Act passed by the federal House of Representatives In May should be passed by the Senate at a fully funded state and that dollars should be allocated to the arts and artists on a scale similar to what was done during the Great Depression with the WPA. To the extent possible, and only time will tell us what that will be, the state should build out a similar, complementary program to further enhance such a program within the state.

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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