Candidate Questionnaire: Michele Zommer

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?

During the 2020 quarantine, I have missed author and artist talks in our state’s galleries, bookstores and museums. Running as a candidate for the state legislature leaves little time for creative pursuit. I found some time for both exercise and creative experience outdoors in garden construction. After the 2018 tornado took down a dozen trees in my yard, it became a sun-filled space perfect for growing.

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 quarantine we all headed to the internet to try to re-establish our connections and productivity. The arts landed there too, and writers, photographers, galleries, museums, and other creatives began to interact with the rest of us in new ways. Survival inspired these virtual arts events, but we should seek to understand and quantify the benefits and the scope of this surging innovation – and what new doors it has opened.

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?

An inspiring colleague recently noted that practicing art enables us to be critics without the confrontation. I’d like to see more intentionality among Connecticut’s municipalities to cultivate and promote arts activities to bring citizens together. Our communities canceled public events en masse, but recently I’ve seen several Parks and Recreation activities supporting children, such as a sidewalk chalk event and an outdoor mural project on the exterior of an elementary school.  To augment closed senior centers, leaders distributed craft kits and puzzles for take-out at drive-through events and promoted virtual arts events on zoom. Creativity nurtures and balances people and we need it during this time of epic disruption more than ever. While the pandemic persists, and possibly worsens, local leaders would be wise to form alliances with artists in their communities to inject creative opportunity into the spaces where social activity used to exist.

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?

Creativity touches us and reaches places that no other activity can. It recognizes no cultural or racial boundaries. In this way it’s an equalizer. Studies have shown that people who can “play” together tend to work together more productively. The distances between our small towns and cities are small yet few opportunities exist for the citizens in these separate places to cross paths creatively. Let’s begin, today.

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 a freshman legislator, I don’t yet have the experience to identify emergency funding sources. I believe artists are essential, and their survival is fundamental to our social and cultural fabric and the wellbeing of our communities.

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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