Candidates for Governor Take a Stance on the Arts

Ahead of MASSCreative's campaign to promote the importance of artistic endeavors statewide, the gubernatorial candidates weighed in on the issue.

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker wasn’t a gifted artist. His rival, Democratic nominee Martha Coakley, used to have a bit of flair when it came to being creative on the dance floor, but she later gave it up. Although neither of them pick up a paintbrush, or sit down to stroke piano keys, both stressed this week that keeping the arts in the spotlight in Massachusetts is an important part of their political campaigns.

On Friday, MASSCreative, a non-profit organization, kicked off “Arts Matter” day, where they encouraged creative thinkers all across the state to Tweet about why art is the keystone of the Commonwealth’s economy, and needs to be nourished by a plan of action implemented by the next governor, whomever it may be. Along with the social media blitz, MASSCreative officials rounded up a series of video testimonials from prominent names in the arts and culture industry, and worked with other organizations to have them insert brief explanations about where the candidates stand on the issue prior to hosting events, like concerts.

Not long before the campaign got underway Friday morning—it was trending on Twitter shortly after, under the hashtag #ArtsMatter—Coakley, Baker, and candidates for governor Evan Falchuck and Jeff McCormick, both running as independents, filled out sheets for MASSCreative outlining their personal opinions on the subject. Coakley, going a step further to stress her point, even unveiled a preliminary platform on the arts—a list of campaign promises she hopes to fulfill if elected.

“One of the goals of the campaign is to encourage the candidates to make statements and take positions on arts and culture, so it’s great that they did today. It provides educational information for voters to look at and consider before election day. One thing we really want is for voters to think about arts and culture and to realize the importance it plays across Massachusetts,” said Wilson. “This is a great first step to get our leaders to talk about how necessary the arts are to both economic development and education policy, and building a vibrant community. We are thrilled they are making statements on this.”

Below, we broke down how three candidates responded to MASSCreative’s call for answers, and how they view artistic culture here in the Bay State:

Martha Coakley

Her background with the arts:  “I took tap, ballet, and piano lessons for much of my childhood. These experiences imbued me with an appreciation for the arts early on. When I got to college, my two roommates both played classical instruments. Although I had realized by that point that my own talents did not lie in the performing arts, I was blown away by their passion, creativity, and by how much of an impact the arts had on their lives. That experience helped me to fully understand how empowering the arts can be to young people.”

She wants more of it in schools: “I have proposed instituting expanded learning time in Massachusetts’ schools precisely because it provides the flexibility to offer students a more diverse education, including art and music instruction, which will help ensure that the Commonwealth nurtures creativity and innovation across all age groups…One potential way to bring more arts education to students in school, while also supporting working artists, is to establish artist-in-residence programs at public schools. With at least partial state funding, working artists can commit to spending a period of several months or a year working with students, while also continuing to work as an artist.”

She wants to get more eyes on art outside of the city to drive economic development: “One area where the state can play a role is in promoting travel and tourism in Massachusetts. While the arts community in Boston is well established and benefits from a steady stream of domestic and international visitors, artistic establishments in other parts of the state do not currently benefit from this influx of visitors. By promoting the creative economy in different parts of the state, from the north shore to the Pioneer Valley, we can drive tourists to artistic communities across Massachusetts and help support local businesses.”

Charlie Baker

He has no artistic talent, but he goes to punk shows: “I have unfortunately not been gifted with any artistic talent of my own, but literature and music have always been a big part of my life. I majored in English in college and am grateful for the deep love of reading that my parents and teachers instilled in me. I’m also a huge music fan. I have been to hundreds of concerts, mostly Springsteen and Dropkick Murphys shows. Arts, culture and creativity bring great joy and color to our lives and communities.”

He thinks schools need creative options: “I believe that the arts are an important aspect of a complete and well-rounded education and [I] would work to ensure wide access to the arts in public schools.”

He’s vague on how he’d make the state a world-class destination for the arts: “Massachusetts has been a center of arts and culture since before the founding of the United States. I would investigate ways to better market our state’s art and cultural treasures to the world.”

Evan Falchuk

Arts are important, but his brother stole most of the creative thunder: “I grew up surrounded by a family that was imbued with this kind of spirit [for the arts]. Storytelling as a way of not just recounting life experiences but as a way to find meaning in them was—and is—a central part of my family life. This spirit has always been a core element of my personality and soul…My brother, as the co-creator of Glee and American Horror Story, has poured his creative spirit into the creation of stories that speak to deep—and for some, uncomfortable—truths.”

Arts education makes kids gritty—and he wants more gritty kids: “The greatest set of tools we can give students are the skills of critical thinking, independence, resilience and “grit”—the belief that you can overcome any obstacle you face. The creative arts are one of the most powerful ways to teach students these skills…I will champion making the creative arts an integral part of the high school curriculum.”

More arts = thriving communities: “I believe that artisans of all kinds drive economic growth by making our communities into something more than just places with a predictable collection of shops and restaurants.  By bringing their individuality and creativity, they transform communities into places where something is “going on,” where interesting, unpredictable and unexpected things are created and happen.”