ARTS & CULTURE MAYORAL CANDIDATE FORUM
NOW AVAILABLE TO WATCH ONLINE
The Forum will be available to watch on the MMTV YouTube channel.
ARTS, CULTURE, & CREATIVE ECONOMY PLATFORM
Melrose is home to hundreds of arts and cultural assets that comprise our local economy, enrich our quality of life, and contribute to our sense of place. Cultivating opportunities for these assets to thrive, access funding, secure space, and reach audiences is an ever-present challenge. It can also be challenging for residents and visitors to learn how to engage in all we have to offer. COVID-19 increased demand for safe gathering spaces. And our community is committed to diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in our arts and cultural offerings.
In March 2022, recognizing a need for a creative sector wellness check as Melrose emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of creative volunteers organized and hosted a first-of-its-kind Melrose Arts Summit* at Temple Beth Shalom. This effort propelled ongoing advocacy and efforts to lift up the entire arts and culture community and led to the official coalescence of the Melrose Creative Alliance.
The Melrose Creative Alliance is incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) under the membership umbrella of the Community Coalition of Melrose, Inc. The purpose of the Coalition is to build consensus and cooperation for improving the quality of life in the City of Melrose, MA. Participation in the Melrose Creative Alliance is free and open to all Melrose citizens.
Driven from two community held Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy Summits (March 2022 and 2023), the vision for the sector held by the Melrose Creative Alliance is: The arts in Melrose are a vehicle to create connections, raise awareness, educate and inform. Support for arts and culture is public and transparent, and includes funding and human resources. Working artists are supported with resources, a sense of community, and professional development. The definition of arts is expansive to encourage a wide array of creative participation. Melrose is colorful and music-filled, where it is easy to discover and access creative and cultural events, making it a vibrant destination for residents and surrounding communities.
THE CASE FOR SUPPORT
- Culture is a lens that helps us understand and process the world through our humanity;
- Artists and creatives are essential workers in building equitable futures;
- Addresses negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency by supporting creative industries that play a key role in our local economy;
- Making it easier for audiences to find creative offerings and support artists in Melrose adds to arts organizations’ earned revenue, creating less reliance on fundraising efforts;
- Builds strong partnerships among artists, community members, and civic organizations;
- Building capacity better positions Melrose arts groups for additional funding opportunities: Mass Development, MAPC, MA Cultural Council, Cummings Foundation, etc.;
- Establishes Melrose as the regional center of creative economic activity among neighboring communities.
PRIORITIES: Questions for Candidates
Individual candidate responses can be found by clicking through these tabs, which are placed in the order in which the candidates responded at the event.
Arts and culture contribute to economic strength within a community by becoming a destination and fostering a vibrant local identity, leading to increased spending on retail, restaurants, and other services in Melrose. Additionally, a thriving cultural scene enhances the overall quality of life, making the community more appealing to residents and businesses alike to drive sustainable economic growth.
I’m a founding member of the Melrose Creative Alliance. When our team of volunteers began working with Mayor Brodeur on the City’s application for a State-designated Cultural District, we found that Melrose easily met two of the three main application requirements. We have an abundance of arts and cultural organizations and businesses and they are primarily in a reasonably walkable area. At this same time, we also found that with this abundance of a creative economy, there had not been a single arts organization or City entity whose sole mission was the care and stewardship of our arts sector as a whole, particularly as it related to economic development for the Creative Economy, until now.
Creative Alliance volunteers hosted a first-ever Creative Arts Summit in 2022 to find out directly from the creative community what their needs were and how we might work together as a unified arts coalition. With over 90 attendees, the single biggest priority to emerge from respondents was the desire for designated arts management within City staff. The following year at the second annual Summit, 85% of the attendees underscored the need for a city employee to assist with this work and indicated they believe this should be a leadership position that this work should focus on identifying and securing resources for artists and on marketing our arts offerings outside of the zip code to attract visitors and businesses to Melrose. I applaud the amazing work of our artists and creative organizations and the vibrancy they bring to our community. They, in turn, have clearly asked for our support.
- Commit to a permanent Director of Economic Recovery and Business Development
I support the addition of Director of Economic Recovery & Business Development Director Lauren Grymek to City staff, and commend her for the work she has done to integrate arts and culture into the fabric of our economic development, such as pop ups on Essex, Paper & Clay, advocating for Melrose Together’s public art on Essex Street, and much more. This is currently a federally funded position. As Mayor, I will incorporate this role as a permanent position in the City’s operating budget, and ensure that this Director has adequate access to resources from the MA Cultural Council, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Creative Collective and others to leverage additional funding for creative economic development.
- Commit to supporting a Cultural District and the Melrose Creative Alliance as its Managing Partner
I support a formal partnership with the Melrose Creative Alliance to work directly with the City of Melrose to activate, promote and steward our proposed Cultural District. They’ve done the work and proven they are a formidable partner. Together, we will work in close collaboration with our nonprofit arts and culture organizations to elevate the great work they are already doing to activate and bring vibrancy to our business districts and neighborhoods.
- Expand access to City-Owned spaces and buildings
I will expand access to City owned property, including underutilized streets and spaces, to encourage presentation of creative work and cultural gatherings that draw people together to our business districts. Additionally, DPW, Friends of the Beebe, Memorial Hall, Library, Milano Center, Parks and Recreation Departments, would work in close collaboration to open our city-owned buildings to intentional, creative uses for the community.
- Ensure dedicated grant writing support
I will ensure that our Directors of Economic Development and Office of Planning & Community Development are supported with grant writing expertise to secure creative placemaking and public art opportunities, such as public art training offered by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and I will ensure that representatives from the creative community are invited to participate in working groups and committees on planning projects such as the current Open Spaces & Recreation Planning effort.
- I will say “yes” to great ideas
Lastly, I believe all City departments have elements of creativity in their work and I believe we live in a community with great ideas and willingness to execute them. I will be the Mayor who says ‘yes’ and rolls up my sleeves to figure out how to make our creative ideas a reality. Our city should be a platform where great ideas can get the support they need to come alive.
I value the art and cultural opportunities which have been afforded to me. I am running for mayor because I want to see our next generation have these opportunities and more.
As a former student of the Melrose Public Schools, I benefited from learning creative writing, how to read music, and even play the violin (very poorly). I loved participating in Drama Club and in our high school musicals with Mr. Messina. I am grateful for the cultural opportunities I get to experience today, as an adult – the Melrose Symphony Orchestra, art shows at the Beebe, Porchfest and so much more.
Incorporating art and culture into the fabric of our city is not something I see as one person’s job alone. To truly integrate the arts and culture into our ongoing operations and service delivery, we need to work with staff at all levels to make this happen.
Leadership starts at the Mayor’s office. My vision would be to work with staff at all levels to find ways to incorporate the arts. Certainly our Office of Planning and Community Development would play a major role in this area, as would our Director of Recovery and Business Development, especially in seeking grants or applying for a cultural district designation.
As mayor, I would expect my office would be actively involved in scheduling, planning, promoting and executing our larger cultural events in the city, and supporting staff in other departments for smaller events. Many other departments support these events including DPW for setup and cleanup, our Police for safety, Fire on the ready in case of any medical emergencies, and often our Health Department to ensure food safety.
Our schools are the hub of so much of our art and cultural activity, and school staff does a wonderful job of supporting our young artists and creators. Every time I enter into our schools, I am greeted by walls of artwork. Music is incorporated into every ceremony. Creativity abounds.
Memorial Hall, the Library and the Beebe Estate all regularly host art and cultural events. Their staffs from the directors to the custodial staff and boards of trustees are all part of the human resources which make the arts accessible in our community.
We do have the ability to incorporate more art and culture into other aspects of our operations, including in some less often thought of areas. Art is not just painting or music and dance. Even landscaping and gardening can be an art. I would like to see us beautify more of our public spaces around our buildings and parking lots by adding more flowers, especially native ones, to support our pollinators and make our spaces more inviting to all. Our DPW staff maintains these areas and would assist in their development.
Similarly, architecture is art. As we anticipate building and renovating four public safety buildings, I would like to see us add artistic architectural characteristics into these buildings so that they may be visually appealing for generations to come.
Arts are a key part of our community AND our local economy and that should be reflected in our human resources. We need to make the City’s Director of Economic Recovery and Business Development position, which serves as the lead liaison to arts organizations and artists, permanent by building it into the City budget. This role is currently funded through ARPA monies which expire in December 2024. In my first budget request to the City Council, I will ask for this position to be partially funded by taxpayer dollars so that we can responsibly and incrementally add the full cost to the City’s budget over two budget cycles. Additionally, arts and culture need to be integrated into every conversation, plan, and project undertaken by the City from the beginning. I look forward to providing more details on my ideas and approach during the forum.
Individual candidate responses can be found by clicking through these tabs, which are placed in the order in which the candidates responded at the event.
Offering more and enhanced cultural celebrations throughout the city would be a great way to build community and social engagement with our neighbors and attract those from other communities to come to Melrose to celebrate. For example, I think we could make our Juneteenth Celebration much more robust, possibly adding dance, art and music. We have the potential to enhance the Memorial Day Parade to incorporate much more art in floats, music and dance while also outreaching to and supporting our Veteran community.
We could also consider adding some new cultural celebrations. One to consider might be Lunar New Year. Another could be U.S. Native American Day which is celebrated on the fourth Friday of September each year, and yet another might be Hispanic Heritage month.
To ensure true inclusivity, I feel we need to expand our outreach beyond just our downtown area and into our other neighborhoods and business districts. For example, I would like to see us bring back our Four Corners Music Festival which was held originally in four different locations throughout the city. Music performances were held at different times of day in different parks throughout the city. The different genres of music offered options for all ages, and the various locations offered walkable access to those without vehicles.
We have the ability to support our diverse local artists and showcase their work in a way that is accessible to many by displaying and rotating that artwork in our public buildings.
Beyond that, one of the best ways to present new and outside creative voices to our community would be by supporting more talks and presentations at the library or the Milano Center.
First, I want to clearly acknowledge that DEAI work needs to be looked at across the city. This work has been a priority for me in my professional career and will continue to be a priority for me going forward. The Arts and Culture sector presents an exciting opportunity as a space that takes the lead on DEAI initiatives, and the City should be looking to local, grass-roots community organizations who are actively taking lead roles in the DEAI space as a road map. Their guidance, successes, and experiences can and should be a part of a larger city-wide need to reassess all of our City practices through a DEAI lens, and we need to elevate those voices that have not been at the table, including actively listening to those who have been marginalized, then taking meaningful steps to engage individuals who have long felt like they haven’t been part of the conversation. I look forward to providing more details on my ideas and approach during the forum.
People can’t engage if they’re not invited or don’t believe they belong. By fostering an environment of respect, openness, and equal opportunity, I will work to integrate diverse voices and experiences, making access and inclusivity integral to the very core of our arts and culture community.
- Broadcast widely and deeply
The Melrose Creative Alliance is working hard to bring diverse artists and organizations together and delivers information about arts and cultural activities widely across Melrose. They have already partnered with the Mayor’s office, Council on Aging, and Department of Recreation to broaden communications about arts and culture in Melrose. As Mayor I’ll use City communications platforms to aid in this work and help ensure all residents have access to information about creative offerings. But I also know that this work is more than simply sharing an invitation and/or information.
- Provide opportunities to amplify marginalized voices
The arts are one of the greatest tools we have to elevate the voices and stories of our most marginalized communities. The real work is in providing opportunities for all Melrosians, especially our marginalized community, to gather, create, and share cultural experiences. It’s about meeting people where they are, and it takes time and intention.
As Mayor, I will work with the Creative Alliance, the Racial Justice Community Coalition, Commission on Disability, a new Equity Task Force, and others to meet people where they are and learn what kinds of resources are needed to be a welcoming, thriving creative community.
Some of our arts organizations, such as Follow Your Art Community Studios, and the Opening Doors Project, are already doing this hard work and doing it well.
I loved the collaboration that arose when local artist Steve Aldeus was inspired to paint a series of portraits informed by local historian Jim Bennett’s instagram stories of black figures in Melrose history.
Melrose Together, an all volunteer group (initially the Melrose Helps initiative) that I founded during the pandemic to connect Melrosians with needs to Melrosians who could help them. We were similarly inspired by Jim’s work and engaged him on a demonstration project: “Celestial: Art on Essex.” This project gives voice to the story of Charlie Sing’s Chinese Laundry, the first minority owned brick-and-mortar business in Melrose. Temporarily housed in windows of local businesses on Essex, the project is supported by the Melrose Cultural Council and the Messina Fund for the Arts and is intended to eventually be installed in the windows of the now vacant original site as well as along the constructions scaffolding when the building goes under construction to mitigate the impact to our downtown. We not only employed local Chinese American artist Bo Tsang DiMatteo, but also brought in advisors from the Chinese Culture Connection in Malden as well as Chinese Arts Administrator Ziyuan Yang to inform the work.
This project demonstrates that we can honor history and progress through public art, that we can build bridges between our developer community and historical organizations, addresses findings in City’s DEI audit regarding Melrose AAPI population, addresses multiple community survey demands for more public art, enlivens and draws attention to our downtown businesses, mitigates impact to our downtown during construction, employs local artists, engages multiple community partners, elevates marginalized voices of Melrose diverse history, and celebrates the contributions of immigrants to our community and economy. For more on this project, visit MelroseTogether.com/art-on-essex
- Support local artists and bring new artists to Melrose
Supporting our local artists and bringing new and diverse ideas to Melrose is not an either/or scenario. We can support our local artists and cultural organizations by encouraging and supporting collaborations that invite diverse perspectives and talent into Melrose for the benefit of all residents. An example is Melrose Porchfest that brings in artists from all over the region and is one of the most celebrated, successful, and community building events of the year.
I would eliminate any residency requirements from calls for projects and public art and instead prioritize and support projects that foster collaborations between our local arts organizations and diverse artists from beyond Melrose.
When the Office of Planning and Community Development launched its Public Art & Wayfinding Initiative, arts administrator Lenore Gauthier Smith was able to realize her long time vision of having a mural at Melrose High School. Lenore worked hard to secure enough additional funding to be able to hire artist Silvia López Chavez for the mural, and partnered with MHS to enable our high school art students to have the experience of collaborating with the artist on the final images for the work. Later, Follow Your Art Community Studios brought their young students to view the work, do an activity inspired by the work, and learn about public art. This one mural by a renowned artist with work on the Boston Esplanade, Kendall Square, Prudential Center, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Northeastern University, MBTA Ruggles Station, the Boston Children’s Museum, Central Square, Revere Beach, and Boston Common literally puts Melrose on the map with regard to public art.
Individual candidate responses can be found by clicking through these tabs, which are placed in the order in which the candidates responded at the event.
Again, arts and culture need to be a part of every conversation from the beginning. We know that so many of our arts organizations are operating on shoestring budgets and/or volunteer labor, and support from government is often tied to budget timelines that don’t maximize resources. I believe that for relatively short money, we can do inspiring and creative things, including incorporating funding for public art into larger project budgets. There are ways when we plan intentionally and strategically within our current funding mechanisms to have significant impact without significant additional costs. This is about leveraging relationships across the spectrum of stakeholders and gaining buy in from them to think expansively about how we sustainably supports the arts for all. I look forward to providing more details on my ideas and approach during the forum.
Free from highways and large development, we are lucky to live in Melrose, the “hidden gem” as it is often called. Melrose falls outside of Greater Boston, of Essex County, of Merrimack Valley, and is at the outer edge of our own Middlesex County. The Barr Foundation is one of the largest funders of arts and culture in Massachusetts. They provide meaningful funding and resources to five of the seven counties in Massachusetts, but Middlesex is one of the two unfunded counties.
Here in Melrose, dedicated arts and culture funding comes primarily from the Melrose Cultural Council ($18K in 2022) and the Melrose Messina Fund for the Arts ($10K in 2022), with some additional support from Melrose Rotary Club, Melrose Cooperative Bank Foundation, Eastern Bank, and the Foundation Trust. I am grateful to all of these organizations for making arts and culture a priority in Melrose.
- Continue Growth of Messina Fund
The Messina Fund has been level-funded for over ten years, despite increases in costs to produce creative work. Mayor Paul Brodeur committed to doubling this fund in 2023, and Director of Economic Recovery & Business Development Lauren Grymek, Messina Fund Chair Maggie Moore Abdow, and the Creative Alliance team advocated for this increase for our Melrose artists and cultural organizations. We need to ensure that this funding continues to be included as a permanent item in the City’s budget.
2 Ensure Grant Writing Support
As Mayor, I will ensure that our City staff includes grant writing expertise to ensure we are not leaving funding on the table for opportunities that support the capacity building of our local arts and culture sector.
- Secure Cultural District Designation
I will ensure that we secure a Cultural District designation that makes Melrose eligible for upwards of $15,000 in additional funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. I will continue to support and partner with the Creative Alliance, who last year raised an additional $9,000 from outside sources without tapping into scarce local arts funding. I will apply for and commit Melrose staff to be included in the 2024 cohort of MAPC public art training, which comes with upwards of $15,000 in funding for temporary art projects. And I will work with our Chamber of Commerce and new partners like the Creative Collaborative to create marketing and promotional pieces and secure Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism funding aimed at promoting Melrose as a designation.
We have to leverage the resources we have, while also actively looking for funding opportunities which will support arts in our community. For example, we can work with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) which recently held a webinar on Arts & Culture Federal Funding Opportunities which I attended. Several grant programs including Grants for Arts Projects ($10K – $100K), Challenge America ($10K), Our Town ($25K – $150K) were discussed. While these deadlines have passed. We may be able to take advantage of these if they open another round of funding or for similar grants in the future.
We may have a better chance at qualifying for funding if we work in collaboration with some of our existing art groups, perhaps the Melrose Creative Alliance, the Melrose Cultural Council, the Messina Fund, Follow Your Art, MMTV or some other local non-profits. Some grants not only prefer but require a city to jointly apply with such a group. We may even be able to partner with other private companies or public institutions. We should recognize Melrose Wakefield Hospital’s great work of showcasing and rotating art. This is an example of a very public space. The artwork not only beautifies the space, but also has mental health benefits, helping to put visitors at easy in a place that often brings a lot of stress.
Additionally, the Massachusetts Cultural Council regularly posts grant opportunities and resources for organizations. Many of these may be suitable for projects in our community. Part of ensuring funding is ensuring that user fees go back to the programs for which they were intended. This includes student activity fees, program ticket sales etc. These proceeds should be used to support the program which generated them. If elected mayor, I would implement a thorough review of all fees, and insist on regular oversight of their use. The arts benefit everyone. We would be remiss if we did not ask the community for donations to support arts in our community. In particular, to support access so we can have arts for all, especially those least able to afford them.
Receiving a Cultural District designation would help us attract more tourists, attention and support for our arts community in Melrose. It may also provide us access to more grant funding to expand future art and cultural programming in Melrose.
Something we could do to support the arts and culture in our community might be to work with local businesses, artists and other institutions to designate one night a month that is otherwise a slow night, as Arts Night in Melrose. We could have local businesses participate in showcasing artwork or hosting musicians, comedians, or poets. The City could do the same. In good weather, outdoors, we could make better use of Mary Foley Park or possibly even Mary Livermore Park, both which are close to downtown and could be used for smaller performances without closing Main St.
On funding, it is vital that we get a better hold of our city finances, especially on the school side. Our current budget is betting on using at least $2.7 million of free cash just to balance out this year’s school budget. If we consume all of our free cash on operating expenses, not only is it not sustainable and a dangerous practice to bet that free cash will be there and available, it also takes away our ability to use free cash for other worthwhile city purposes. For example we could use potentially use free cash to assist in obtaining a cultural district designation.
Although I can see the potential benefits of obtaining a cultural district designation, I feel strongly that we should incorporate more programming and attention throughout our city, not just downtown. We should include the smaller business districts in our economic development plans.
I want to acknowledge and appreciate the work that has been done over the past two years to bring us closer toward a designation. This has been a huge amount of uncompensated labor for the greater good of our community. A cultural district designation should be a priority for Melrose, and the next phase of planning for that needs to involve all of our arts organizations and creative businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, City staff, the City Council, the Melrose Public Schools, and residents to advance an application. We also need to think beyond specific geographic boundaries within the City when we work to support our arts and culture economy – we have pockets of creativity in all corners of this city, and we want to ensure that there is equal access to resources and all feel included. I look forward to providing more details on my ideas and approach during the forum.
Arts and culture are vital to the economic development of any thriving and vibrant community. We have to activate our available spaces and offer people experiences that inspire them to come into our business districts and stay longer.
- Secure Cultural District Designation
A Cultural District designation is one of the best tools we have in front of us right now, and benefits Melrose in a number of ways. First, a designation makes Melrose eligible for additional State arts funding of upward of $15,000. We would also become part of a cohort of 55 Cultural Districts across the Commonwealth who are provided professional development, networking, and other collaborative opportunities for the benefit of our creative and cultural workers. A Cultural District also comes with branded signage that can be incorporated into the City’s existing plans for Wayfinding to show that visitors have arrived at a creative and culturally welcoming destination.
- Strengthen the partnership and collaboration with the Melrose Creative Alliance
Over the last two years, the Melrose Creative Alliance formed specifically to meet the managing partnership requirement set by the Massachusetts Cultural Council for a State designated Cultural District in Melrose and has already done much of the legwork to get us over the finish line.
The Creative Alliance team of volunteers has taken inventory and mapped over 180 arts and cultural organizations, places, and pieces, 125 practicing artists, and 100 arts supporting organizations and volunteers in Melrose.
They formally organized last year as a nonprofit in order to raise an additional $9,000 in funding to promote Melrose arts and culture through our artist directory and events calendar, organize professional development and networking events for artists, and produce two Arts Summits with over 85 attendees each to help inform the priorities of our arts and cultural sector in Melrose.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is eager to designate additional districts and representatives from the State have been impressed with our thorough, thoughtful and engaging work.
The Creative Alliance team are all professionals in their fields, meet the State requirements, and have proven to be a formidable and committed partner to the City.
It is time that the Mayor’s Office and the City of Melrose formalize this partnership in order to complete the application to earn a Melrose Cultural District designation efficiently and expediently.
- Expand Revenue Opportunities for City-Owned Buildings
As part of my revenue generating plan for Melrose, I will work with any City Directors, Boards and Commissions who are charged with the stewardship of our City-owned cultural buildings, especially the MVMMS Performing Arts Center, Memorial Hall, and The Beebe Estate, to create sound business plans to ensure these important assets are well-leveraged to attract artists, performances and offerings that will draw people and business to Melrose.
- Collaborate to support other organizations
I will work with diverse groups of partners to imagine and submit proposals for MA Cultural Council festivals grants, using a participatory model like the MLK Month of Service that allows multiple arts and cultural organizations to share in the funding and offer programming that supports their own mission.
For the sake of the vibrancy, economic development and connectivity of our community, it’s critical that we support access to affordable space for our creative and cultural groups, including and especially those not formally incorporated and with limited funding and all volunteer resources.
- Incorporate Arts and Culture into our work at City Hall
I support the Creative Alliance’s calls to the Office of Planning and Community Development to include and prioritize arts and cultural activities as a key element of the current Parks and Open Spaces Plan. During the pandemic, having dedicated outdoor space to gather safely for arts and cultural engagement was critical for organizations to persevere and for cities and towns to continue to thrive as people turned to arts and culture for solace and a sense of community.
- Maximize Revenue in City-Owned Spaces to Keep Costs Low for Melrose Cultural Organizations
Our City owned cultural buildings and spaces are a key part of my Five-Part Budget Stabilization Plan (visit samformelrose.com/budget). We have beautiful city-owned buildings in Melrose. In order to keep rental costs low for Melrose residents and organizations, maximizing revenue from outside events will be instrumental. As Mayor, I want to work with DPW, building staff, Trustees, and Friends organizations to build a profitable business plan that serves all of our city-owned buildings to the levels they need for maintenance and improvements, while pushing costs lower for our own community organizations to benefit from our spaces, both indoor and outdoor.
- Partner with Building Owners to integrate art
I want to work with developers or building owners to allow for creative, beautiful installations in vacant storefronts in the heart of our downtown. The Melrose Together “Celestial: Art on Essex” project was produced and funded entirely by local arts community volunteers in order to help mitigate construction impact on our downtown.
- Support Arts and Cultural Organizations in Fulfilling their Missions
We have a lot of available, interesting, and under-utilized space in Melrose. I will be the Mayor who says “Yes” to your creative ideas and do everything I can to remove barriers and provide what resources we have at our disposal to encourage activate our public spaces in ways that elevate your missions, bring our community together, encourage dialog and awareness around our most pressing issues, elevate marginalized voices and stories, and enliven our business districts and neighborhoods.
One thing is certain, space is at a premium in Melrose. This includes space for art and culture as well.
In thinking about this and the other questions, I asked myself, “What is art?” My answer was, “painting, drawing, sculpting, crafting, sewing, technical graphic arts, music – symphony, harmonica, drum core, bag pipes, writing, whistling, instruments, electronic mixing, singing, dancing, comedy, video, photography, jewelry and furniture making, even cooking and baking, landscape architecture, masonry & stone work, carpentry, woodworking, whittling, carving, mosaics & more.”
With this definition, I would venture to say that we have thousands of artists in Melrose. I then asked, “What do they all have in common?” My answer: “They are all different and have different needs.”
This is another example of how we need to think creatively to leverage the space that we have to find accessible settings in Melrose. A benefit we do have is many small parks and green spaces throughout our city. We can use these to showcase completed artwork, for public performances or to host creative or participatory sessions such as “Painting in the Park” or “Thai Chi in the Park.”
As mentioned earlier, we can use our city buildings to rotate art displays in public and accessible settings. Many of our local groups struggle to find meeting space. Groups like quilters and our Melrose Arts and Crafts group will be able to benefit from the new and increased public meeting spaces which will be in the library after renovation. New public meeting space is also part of the plan for the new police station.
As Mayor, I would explore the idea of offering some community education programs, possibly through the recreation department. These community education programs could include art, woodworking or even creative writing and could be accessible for all ages. We could consider opening up one of the school buildings for classroom rental to other artist groups on the same night or nights of community education classes at a reduced rental rate so that the custodial and operational costs could be split among many groups instead of just one.
I want to acknowledge that this is an important issue for small, grassroots, volunteer arts organizations in Melrose, and I look forward as Mayor to learning more from our artists and arts organizations about their needs and working in partnership to find solutions. Based on my insight into current City projects and finances, I believe there are longer-term opportunities to collectively plan for and more immediate options that can balance affordability for our arts and culture community with our need to work within the confines of the City’s finances. I look forward to providing more details on my ideas and approach during the forum.
The Melrose Creative Alliance will host a non-partisan Forum that is strictly neutral and reflects only the priorities communicated from the community during the 2022 and 2023 Arts & Culture Economy Summits. Melrose Creative Alliance Board Members directly involved in Candidate campaigns recused themselves from any Arts & Culture Economy Forum planning and facilitation. Sam Hammar, MCA Board Member, recused herself from all MCA meetings and programmatic and advocacy activities as of April 8, 2023, well in advance of confirming and announcing her Candidacy.