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Gubernatorial arts forum includes Emerson

The majority of Massachusetts’ gubernatorial candidates pledged a renewed focus on the arts in a forum on July 15 at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester that was attended by several Emersonians.

The Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research mobilized Emerson community members to attend the event, connecting with MASSCreative to provide buses for transportation.

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At the gubernatorial candidates forum on arts July 15 are: (back row) Molly Gilbert, MA '15; staff members Carole McFall, Anna Feder, and Jae Williams '08; faculty member Spencer Kimball; (front row) Cara Lisa Berg Powers of Press Pass TV; faculty member Christina Marin; Kelly Bates of the Elma Lewis Center; faculty member Shawn Mahoney; and Suzanne Hinton of the Office of Service Learning. (Courtesy Photo)

About 500 arts leaders from across the state attended the MASSCreative-sponsored forum, which was moderated by Boston arts critic Joyce Kulhawik. The participating gubernatorial candidates were Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Treasurer Steve Grossman, Don Berwick, Evan Falchuk, Mark Fisher, and Jeff McCormick. Candidate Charlie Baker did not attend. The primary election is Tuesday, September 9.

Video of the entire forum is posted on MASSCreative’s website.

Kelly Bates, executive director of the Elma Lewis Center, called the event “a groundbreaking day.”

“Emerson College was seen as a powerful arts player in that audience and to the candidates,” she said.

Bates presented the first question from the Emerson community to the candidates, asking each one to share a personal story about how the arts touched, enriched, or transformed their lives.

“Participating in this type of forum is a great way for students to understand civic-mindedness and action,” said Suzanne Hinton, director of the Office of Service Learning and Community Action. “As thought leaders, we are not only helping to frame the issues, but also to enhance the quality of conversation around the arts.”

Other leaders asked what the candidates would do in their first 100 days as governor to support the creative community; what policies they would implement to ensure arts education in the schools; how the candidates would expand funding for the arts; and how they would encourage artists to stay and thrive in the state.

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The crowd inside the Hanover Theatre in Worcester on July 15. (Courtesy Photo)

“This was an important first step in our campaign to elevate discussion of arts and culture in the gubernatorial campaign,” said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative. “Our state is home to large-scale museums, theaters, and orchestras, as well as numerous community-based playhouses and art centers that drive our economy; enhance the academic performance of our students; and build vibrant, connected communities.”

Assistant Professor Christina Marin of the Performing Arts Department brought high school students from ¡Acción! Community Theatre (ACT), a socially engaged youth theater company affiliated with the nonprofit Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain.

“After the event, we had a great discussion,” Marin said. “Even though they’re not old enough to vote yet, [they learned] their voices matter and they can have an impact on how the gubernatorial candidates deal with numerous issues that affect our community.”

“It’s reassuring to know there are still people passionate about the arts and arts education as much as I am,” said Jae Williams ’08, a filmmaker and digital media producer for Emerson’s Office of Communications and Marketing. “I know I’m not alone in this mission to make arts in our community a top priority.”

The Elma Lewis Center is an active member of MASSCreative. Founded in 2013, the mission of the Elma Lewis Center is to inspire and sustain civic engagement at Emerson College, and uplift communities by bringing Emerson’s strengths in communication and the arts to bear in supporting social change. MASSCreative works with creative leaders and entrepreneurs, working artists, arts educators, and arts and cultural supporters to empower creative organizations and the public with powerful voices to advocate for the resources and support necessary to build vibrant and connected communities.

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