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The arts are an invaluable part of who we are as a state and as a society. The arts are critical in supporting the high quality of life that we are so rightly proud of as a state. The arts serve as an important tool for economic development. And access to the arts – particularly in our schools – is critical for our children’s educational progress. As governor I will protect the current level of state funding to the arts, and I will fight to return funding levels to their pre-recession levels. Further, I will champion the arts throughout my time in office and will work closely with major donors and foundations to increase charitable support for the arts and encourage private sector partnerships.

I was horrified when Donald Trump proposed to cut all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities last year. Unlike the President, I have a profound respect for the foundational role of the arts in our state’s civil society. I will work closely with our state’s Congressional representation to block any further Republican attempts to defund the arts, and I will categorically prevent defunding here at the state level. Further, I will work closely with local and legislative leaders to protect and grow dedicated funding streams for arts and culture.

Investing in our Children

When I was in 9th grade I was the keyboardist (read: rock & roll pianist) for a band called Flower Pot (my mom’s idea). Though my band didn’t shoot me off to a lifetime of rock & roll stardom, it did give me the confidence that I needed at that age, and a chance to express myself. I still love music and will play the piano when I have the opportunity.

I believe that all children in the state should have the opportunities to explore the arts – just as I did. I support integrating arts education at all levels of our K-12 educational system. I also strongly support nonprofits like Music Haven and the New London Youth Talent Show that empower youth through the arts and reduce the opportunity gap in urban areas.

Diversity and Inclusion

I am so proud that Connecticut has pioneered initiatives to make arts and culture more accessible to disadvantaged communities and communities of color. When assessing grantmaking, the state now requests that projects be READI – that is, relevant, equitable, accessible, diverse and inclusive. This policy has led to marked improvements in engagements with the arts in our state, and I would like to make sure that Connecticut remains at the vanguard of the READI movement.

Did you know that Connecticut has a state troubadour? (Yes, really!) Because of READI, our state was able to reach and attract non-traditional artists, and for the first time awarded the “troubadourship” to a soul singer. I can’t wait to invite Nekita Waller to perform at my inauguration.

I also strongly support efforts to reduce or eliminate entrance fees for low-income families at our state’s cultural institutions. For example, many states and communities including Massachusetts, Colorado, and Philadelphia provide free or discounted entry for SNAP recipients and their families to address income inequality and increase access to the arts. Similarly, I support programs like Blue Star Museums that increase access to the arts for our military families. However, because these free and discounted access programs are costly to our cultural institutions, I will work closely with them to make these programs more financially sustainable.

Revitalizing Cities and Towns

The arts are an important part of what makes our cities and towns such vibrant places to live. For example, new arts institutions have improved the vitality of Torrington’s downtown. And a recent survey of Electric Boat employees, including newly-hired employees, found that access to and opportunities for arts and cultural activities affects their decision to stay or leave. Investing in the arts, then, is critical to revitalize our cities and towns and attract new families to our state.

For instance, I would study the impact of UNLOAD, a nonprofit which linked a gun buyback program in Hartford with artists to get guns off the streets, or ConnCAT in New Haven, which trains and educates youth and adults with afterschool arts programming and job training programming.

I am heartened by the following example, which took place in a small town in Minnesota, after the state made a commitment to dedicate and sustain funding for the arts:

"When [Mayor] Gossman took office in 2008 “everything was going down the toilet,” he said. The recession had weakened a local economy in flux with the consolidation of family farms. The grocery store had closed, and the hardware store was about to. For-sale signs hung in Main Street windows."

"Today, not a single empty storefront remains. Galleries and gift stores line the compact downtown. On a recent Sunday, a sign outside Goat Ridge Brewing Co. advertised brews and “pickin.’” Inside, a handful of musicians sitting in a circle played a Tom Petty tune on banjo and guitar."

“There’s a rising awareness of the benefits of investing in the arts and culture, even in the smallest towns,” said Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. “People want … amenities to draw young people, especially in places where they’re losing people to the big cities."

“Having a vibrant arts and culture community contributes to the life of a town.”

Support Economic Development and Tourism

The arts are an important tool in my approach to bring sustained economic growth back to Connecticut. The arts attract tourism dollars, support thousands of jobs and account for 3.5 percent of the state’s GDP. In spite of our success, I believe that our state can do more. For example, I am keenly interested in emulating Massachusetts’ Cultural Facilities Fund. The CFF supports construction projects at cultural facilities and is highly effective at leveraging private dollars. The CFF’s impact has been impressive over the last 10 years:

  • CFF projects have hired 25,513 architects, designers, engineers and construction workers
     
  • 101 million tourists have visited these organizations since 2007
     
  • 2,168 new full-time permanent jobs have been created as a result of the new construction or renovation of these facilities
     
  • $91 million has been raised privately to directly match CFF grants

Connecticut Values

Ned is running for Governor because we need to change Connecticut’s direction before we fall too far behind. 

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