Thanks to the passion, dedication and hard work of many people in the public, non-profit, and private sectors, the arts are an important part of Newton life. As Mayor, I will work with those passionate, dedicated, hardworking people to expand the arts and culture even more fully into the fabric of our community. Let’s start with three steps:
- Develop a Comprehensive Cultural Plan and get it implemented.
- Transform the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs into a Department of Cultural Development to take effect July 1, 2018.
- Work together to use the arts and culture to build bridges to all segments of Newton’s community.
As Mayor, I envision a Newton which supports all forms of cultural expression and artistic endeavors; a Newton where organizations engaged in the arts are empowered to nurture creativity; a Newton where artists creating the art are encouraged to express that creativity, and a Newton where people working, living and learning here have their lives enriched by experiencing that creativity.
Cultural Development and Comprehensive Cultural Plan
To accomplish this, the status of culture and the arts must be elevated in Newton’s city government. As Mayor, I will propose transforming the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs into a new Department of Cultural Development, housed at City Hall, headed by a Director, with a mission to develop and implement a Comprehensive Cultural Plan, preserving and building on the important work that has already gone on, taking the long-term view for the arts in Newton, and examining the possibility of having an appropriate location in Newton certified as a Cultural District. The Director will also have the role of working with the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, the Library, Senior Services, Newton Community Education, Planning and others to help support their cultural programs and enhance a vibrant arts and cultural community here in Newton.
The Comprehensive Cultural Plan will be a blueprint to incorporate art into the everyday lives of Newton residents, visitors and workers, and a Plan that seeks to empower every artist and artistic group to realize their full creative potential. It will be a plan that also deals with the nitty-gritty of artistic creation, such as getting the artists to their art and their art to the public.
The Comprehensive Cultural Plan, like all good plans, must be created by the arts and cultural community within Newton with staffing and help from City Hall. This should not be a plan created by outside consultants or staff at 1000 Commonwealth Avenue but rather one developed with the artists, the arts organizations and the art and cultural “consumers.”
It’s hard for artists to create in Newton if they can’t afford to live in Newton. So the Comprehensive Cultural Plan must examine how we fashion affordable housing proposals that are responsive to the needs of artists. The artist housing at the old Claflin school provides one role model. The plan must examine all possibilities.
Also, it’s hard for artists to create in Newton if they don’t have worker space in Newton. So the Comprehensive Cultural Plan must address that as well.
We must also promote walkability so that our vital village centers can become hubs for the arts, and I hope that at least one will have their sidewalks become an avenue for the arts. The Washington Street corridor, in particular, holds promise. I will work with all municipal departments and concerned community groups in an effort to earn an appropriate Newton location with the designation as a Massachusetts Cultural District. Let’s proactively plan and attract people to Newton with the arts.
The Comprehensive Cultural Plan must also recognize that the built environment is an untapped resource just waiting to be a canvass. Our many parks and fields can become sculpture parks and warm-weather stages for the performing arts, theatres for movies, and dancehalls for the swingers, bobbysoxers, and rockers. We’ve done great things at the Hyde Park, Pellegrini Park and the Newton Center Green. I envision a plan that will stimulate local activists and artists to do even more. Integrating art into our public spaces and berms, our sidewalks, our curbs, our benches, our signage and our bike racks will be an exciting step forward. Even the walls of City Hall can become a more dynamic space for artistic expression.
The most inspiring art in the world will inspire no one, if no one experiences it. Transportation and parking must be an integral part of the Comprehensive Cultural Plan, as well.
We also have the ability to make the arts a much more integral part of everyday life if only we plan for it. The Washington Square development includes space for the New Arts Center, because we planned ahead for it. As Mayor, I will work to see that other proposed developments (e.g., Riverside, Northland) plan for art and artists also. Integrating art into everyday life also means continuing to encourage a wide range of activities from porch-fests (one is planned for Auburndale this spring!) and festivals, to concerts and temporary public art, street performers and music at our farmers markets.
Perhaps more than anything else, Newton performing arts needs a home; a place where artistic groups can work, teach, plan and perform; a place where the public can partake of artistic displays and performances; and a place where today’s youth can learn and grow into tomorrow’s artists. I will work with members of the performing arts community to see if there is some way to provide this space. The city has already lost too many of its performing arts groups for want of an appropriate performance facility. There may be opportunities when we are renovating schools or permitting major developments to include a performing arts space.
We must also remember that the non-profit organizations that do so much to support the arts are also small businesses. The permitting process has to be made more user-friendly to them. As Mayor, even before the development of the Plan, I will ensure that City officials use their expertise to help these groups overcome bureaucratic obstacles, rather than to place those obstacles in their way.
The Comprehensive Cultural Plan must also address the amount of additional public investment needed for our arts and cultural activities. It’s clear that funding for cultural affairs leads directly to economic activity. As Mayor, I am committed to finding that additional funding. Let’s start with the city matching the grant from the Mass Cultural Council.
I also intend to use this plan and this new department to further unlock the potential which the arts have to draw us closer together as a community.
By displaying the diversity of cultural traditions and artistic expressions which are part of the fabric of the Newton community, we say “welcome” to all our different heritages and we broaden the perspective of all Newtonians who experience those displays. We cross boundaries of age and neighborhood. And we build community.
I must emphasize the important role that working together with other people plays in strengthening the bonds of community. When we think of all the forces in modern life that tend to isolate us – many of us don’t have to leave our homes to go to work anymore, or interact with other people to shop or be entertained – the direct human contact which goes into supporting the arts, organizing artistic events and enjoying them is the stuff that builds community. To be a truly all age friendly city, one that is enjoyable for people of all ages from toddler to senior, the arts are essential.
Reaching our full potential in support of the arts, by building on what’s been done before, will ensure that Newton will never be a city of strangers but always a community of friends.
My Personal Connection
Growing up in Detroit, arts were central to our family life. Motown was in its heyday and was the soundtrack of my childhood. In addition, my parents were on the Boards of Directors of both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Institute of Art. They surrounded me and my brothers with music and art from the masters. My husband, Joe, and I and our three sons derive enormous pleasure from beautiful symphonic performances, country music and especially works of visual art. We’ve enjoyed collecting prints as a family.
But it was only after the seminal event of my life — the Detroit riots of 1967 — that I learned the much deeper role art plays in a society.
I was ten at the time. In their aftermath, amidst the finger-pointing and the bitter divisions, my father acted, not to deepen the wounds but to heal them. As a member of the Orchestra and Institute Boards, he reached out with many others through the arts to bridge the enormous chasms which separated the many Detroit communities.
To this day, when the Mayor of Detroit gives out the annual Detroit Community Service award, it is the Alan E. Schwartz Award, in honor of my father. I thank my father for teaching me that art is more than something to be enjoyed. It is something to bring people together.
It is a lesson I’ve kept with me all my life. It is a lesson that I promise I will put to good use as Mayor. I hope my father would be proud.
Arts Education and Programs for our Youth
My experience in early childhood instilled in me a passion for the arts which has lasted a lifetime. As Mayor, I will use that passion to build bridges with art.
As Mayor, I will make sure the city is financially sustainable so we can provide the funding which the Newton Public Schools need and which our children deserve. I want to make sure that budget pressures do not lead to further cuts in chorus and the arts; rather, let’s restore and expand them. Dance, drama, music, the visual arts and media promote creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, skills, and persistence. Let’s work with the Department of Education to insure their new arts education curriculum is one that will enable the arts to flourish in the schools. In short, let’s insure that Newton’s will always be a “STEAM”-POWERED curriculum. As Mayor, I will also work to include our arts and cultural organizations as well as other fine institutions who serve children in part with arts programs (e.g., the Suzuki School of Newton, the New Art Center, the Boston Ballet School, the All Newton Music School, the West Suburban YMCA and the John M. Barry Boys and Girls Club) in after school opportunities for our students. Let’s work together to see if we can find solutions to the transportation and funding issues so all our children have access to quality after school programs.
Let’s partner across the generations and between schools and the rest of Newton with the arts. For example, the Williams School’s students build bridges to our senior community by performing for the residents of Lasell Village and our students celebrate their diverse heritages at our cultural festivals.
As Mayor, I will work with the School Committee to build more of those bridges and support arts in our schools so that we may extend those bridges to the entire community and instill in our youth a passion for the arts that will be with them for a lifetime.