Candidate Questionnaire: Catherine Steel

1.     YOUR PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE ARTS

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 Arts are a way to recover from trauma, express your inner self, and create a better world. I have personally benefited from my work on the Board of Directors with Artreach, Heals in Norwich; Laughworks, Inc. (Improv), Virtual Storytelling, and Community Theater in East Lyme. When I lost my son to a gunshot wound, I didn’t know if I would ever care about living again. It was the beauty of nature that first got me up and out the door. I walked everyday and breathed in the goodness of the air and the landscape. After a year, I began to take drawing classes. Pen/Ink was my first medium. I learned to love the details and the nuance of the object I replicated. I moved on to pastels which I still enjoy and playing the guitar. When people say, “Creativity heals, they are right.”

I have missed in person theater in auditoriums, sharing my storytelling talents with live audiences, playing my guitar in groups, and painting at the Lyme Art Association.

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 will support legislation that promotes creativity and creative outlets. Programs and services that allow for the arts to continue are of paramount importance.

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?

My mother was a speech and drama teacher who believed that arts were good for the introvert as well as the extrovert. She thought that it helped the introvert come out of his/her shell. It helped the extrovert consider the needs of others and take turns. My mother also lost her son in a tragic fire right when she was in the middle of producing a Christmas show. She was able to get back on her feet and said, “The show must go on.” I learned that art in all its forms: performative, aesthetic, commercial, industrial all have its place and should be valued. Art heals and that is why I am the President of the Board for Artreach, Inc in Norwich because it heals.

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?

My belief is that collaborative efforts could unite people of diverse ethnicities and cultures. Examples such as Faith Satterfield’s mural in New London that exemplifies a bridging of families and culture are models that should be replicated to bring people together. All ages, all colors, all beliefs etc. would benefit.

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 would support emergency funding to support the arts industry; appropriation and major monies should be made available for artists. Because of the strong return on the dollar for arts, making funding a priority is critical.

Monies could come to artists in the form of grants, donations from the private sector (big businesses).

For years, artists have struggled by bartering services as needed and have found it necessary to collaborate schools with priority urban schools with minority populations to impact social justice. Collaboration with Parks and Recreation departments, senior centers, low income housing programs also are tried and true models for artists. Artists who adapt the teaching model and break down the goals into concrete objectives can coordinate nicely to support the common core.

Unfortunately, art is often first but it should be viewed as part of the healthy holistic healing process.

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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