1. YOUR PERSONAL CONNECTION
What personal experience with arts, culture, or creativity has had an impact on your life and your view of New Haven?
I know how important and powerful music and the arts can be. Both my parents were singers, and music has been at the center of my life–whether it was making songs with my four track growing up, to acapella in college, or the guitar and banjo now. The arts can and should be a powerful force in New Haven to bridge divides, connect people, and make a community that is better for everyone. My personal experience performing and appreciating music is that our ability and willingness to connect with other people, smile, laugh or show some emotion is much easier when done through the arts.
2. SOCIAL JUSTICE + THE ARTS
New Haven was recently celebrated as the most demographically similar to the United States overall, yet longstanding racial and economic divides limit opportunities for affordable housing, high-quality education, and reliable employment. How will you utilize artists and creative organizations to help create change for these and other social justice issues?
New Haven is in many ways a tale of two cities. There is the New Haven we see downtown: bustling with investment and new buildings. Meanwhile many neighborhoods are struggling. One of City Hall’s most important roles should be to undo some of the historical structures of inequity that make it more difficult for New Haven residents to access the resources that exist in the arts.
When I was Executive Director of the New Haven Land Trust, our team brought performing arts initiatives to locations in neighborhoods throughout the City with the intention of activating our community gardens as community hubs and promoting and supporting artists active in New Haven. The City should work to foster these kinds of outreach programs to every New Haven neighborhood, and New Haveners of all backgrounds as well.
Even more importantly, many local arts organizations are highlighting social and economic inequities that exist in our society and City. We should support more of the work done through small, local grassroots organizations such as Collective Consciousness Theatre, Bregamos Community Theater, and The State House that are vocally committed to access, equity, and representation. City Hall has the ability to reach thousands of residents through its communications channels – email, social media, press conferences, etc. – to promote programs from local artists. City Hall should constantly be working to advocate for and elevate the importance of local arts, particularly for communities of color and other marginalized populations who have historically not had as much access to the financial and political resources.
3. CREATIVITY + YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
Art instruction increases achievement across all academic disciples and develops the whole child. How will you champion arts education with our youth during and after school?
My four-year-old daughter is about to enter a public school kindergarten in Fair Haven. Given that art and music had such a prominent place in my own development, I understand first-hand how important it is to incorporate the arts into our young people’s curriculum. Art and music can dramatically improve the lives of New Haven students, whether through improving test scores among children or fostering a modern creative workforce. In order for the Arts to have the greatest impact possible in New Haven, we must make sure every New Haven resident can participate in the joys and benefits of the arts. This all starts in our school system, in which we must expand access to the arts.
We have been overly focused on testing and not as focused on teaching to the whole child. While we face a financial crisis within the school system, when making budget cuts we should not always look to teaching positions to balance the budget. My education plan calls for these changes in our education system. Additionally, there are many non-profits offering arts programming for New Haven kids. Our public school system should proactively collaborate with regional non-profits and open up our schools for our after school programming and summer programming in the arts.
4. ECONOMIC GROWTH + THE CREATIVE SECTOR
The New Haven region’s non-profit arts and cultural organizations boasts 5,700 full-time jobs and produces $135 million in direct economic activity annually. How will you capitalize on the strength of the creative sector in your economic development planning?
As a former executive director of a non-profit I understand just how important the work of non-profits are to the vitality of the City. I also understand how much work non-profits take to run. The City should be supporting and capitalizing on the creative sector. Many people are moving back to cities because of the lifestyle cities offer - access to arts, culture, restaurants, walkable communities, diverse neighborhoods. In fact, one of the primary assets that New Haven has to offer is a vibrant arts community. People crave the kind of arts that New Haven has to offer. City Hall can help promote more access to the arts by using its own financial resources when appropriate to hire local artists for performances and events, making City spaces - both outdoor and indoor - available to local artists for performances and visual displays, and encouraging City partners to do the same.
5. FUNDING THE ARTS
The City recently allocated $100,000 to arts projects through the Mayor's Neighborhood Cultural Vitality Grant Program. Will you continue to fund this and other initiatives of the Arts, Culture, and Tourism Division?
Investing in the arts is an important way to ensure dynamic neighborhoods and support local artists. When I ran the New Haven Land Trust, we became one of the recipients of this funding stream. I think the City should always be looking for ways to fund the arts. Funding Arts initiatives in the City not only creates more jobs locally, but also makes New Haven a more attractive destination for tourism and further development.
While the $100,000 investment is important, I believe there are more meaningful financial investments the City can make in the arts. City Hall can use its resources to buy local. For example, recently, the City awarded a mural com mission at the Obama Magnet University School in New Haven to a New York artist, when a New Haven resident, Noé Jimenez, was also a finalist. With so much phenomenal talent in New Haven, when we can, we should invest in our local residents.
6. PROMOTING CT’s CREATIVE CAPITAL
While New Haven is undoubtedly the creative capital of Connecticut, the City itself has yet to fully leverage the strength of our creative community as a means for branding and marketing. How would you utilize the arts to promote our City as a destination to live, work, play, and visit?
New Haven must play to its strengths in order to attract new residents, retain our young people, and make the City better for everyone. The arts represent one of New Haven’s greatest assets. From world class museums to local grassroots organizations, we have so much potential for people to tap into. As a City, we must facilitate short-term and long-term involvement in the arts and make resources available to everyone. This means we foster and develop artistic young talent in schools, provide pathways to arts funding for residents, and help businesses and attractions thrive for visitors. Additionally, the mayor of the City needs to constantly be a champion of the arts by being a participant and outspoken supporter.
The arts can promote deep and real conversations about issues we are struggling with as a society today around racism, economic and social inequity, political divisiveness–to name a few. We struggle to understand these issues as a country and of course in New Haven as well. There are some artistic groups in New Haven that are on the leading edge of this discussion. New Haven’s reputation as an arts hub where space is given for residents and visitors to explore these issues and further their own understanding and share their own experiences should be an important component of the branding of our City.
7. YOUR CREATIVE PRIORITIES
The start of a mayor’s tenure will set your administration’s tone and priorities. When elected, what actions will you take in your first 100 days to support the creative community?
I believe getting the right team in place in the first 100 days will be the most important goal to achieve. The right team must possesses the skills and experience needed to improve our City and reflect the diversity of our City. New Haven, more than almost any City its size, boasts an impressive display of artistic creativity and economic opportunity. By recruiting New Haven artists into my administration, including the director of cultural affairs, we can tap into our own local pool of talent, while having true New Haven voices guide City policy.