Thirteen city council candidates spoke about the importance of arts and culture to Cambridge and their plans to support and meet the needs of the arts sector at a virtual forum on Tuesday evening.
The forum was hosted by Create the Vote Cambridge, a non-partisan advocacy campaign that aims to “raise awareness and support the arts, culture and creative workforce” by engaging with voters and candidates, according to the campaign website.
The arts and culture sector is a major economic driver in Cambridge. It generates nearly $ 175 million and provides more than 6,000 jobs according to a report released in 2017.
Many applicants noted that the arts sector is underfunded despite the important economic role of arts and culture in the city. They also highlighted the detrimental effect of the pandemic on artists, musicians, street performers and other members of the creative workforce.
“The arts are the key to a strong economic recovery,” said Deputy Mayor Alanna M. Mallon. “This sector was woefully underfunded before the pandemic, and we have a tremendous opportunity to reinvest in this critical sector.”
Mallon also argued that sources of investment may come from funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the city budget, and investments from the private sector and university partners.
Other candidates such as Councilor Patricia M. Nolan ’80 have also requested funding from local universities like Harvard – whose endowment recently reached $ 53.2 billion – to support the arts and culture sector in Cambridge.
“We also need to include universities,” Nolan said. “MIT and Harvard literally made billions of dollars extra on their endowment. Let us ensure that these are used by the City to further fund the arts.
Candidates like Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler and challenger Joe McGuirk have highlighted the vital link between affordable housing and the art industry in Cambridge in keeping artists in the city.
“The median cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $ 2,200 per month in Cambridge and the median purchase cost is over $ 800,000, and that has a huge impact on the artists and musicians who come across. charge out of town, ”Sobrinho-Wheeler said. . “We are also losing affordable workspaces for artists.
McGuirk had a similar feeling.
“People who improve our life by making art in the city – they should also have the opportunity to live here,” he said.
Challenger Burhan Azeem said if elected he would focus on the Central Square area as an avenue to expand Cambridge as an arts and culture hub. He added that the pandemic has caused many tenants to abandon the central plaza, leaving many vacancies that can be used for arts-related development.
“If Central Square is heading for the next hub that really changes, then we should change it in a much better way and really lives up to this designation as a cultural district,” he said.
First-time nominee Frantz Pierre discussed the importance of supporting Cambridge youth to succeed in the arts.
“I think it’s time we gave the children of Cambridge a real chance to succeed,” he said.
– Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Powley can be reached at [email protected]