COOL Cultural Organization of Lowell

Create the Vote Lowell 2017



The Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) is an independent, non-profit chartered organization with the mission of strengthening the vitality and economic growth of arts and culture in the Lowell area. As part of that mission, we are partnering with MASS Creative in their Create The Vote initiative. Create The Vote is a nonpartisan public education campaign to raise awareness and support for arts, culture, and creative expression.

COOL created a list of 8 questions to ask the candidates running for City Council as part of Create the Vote Lowell. The questions are:

Personal Connection

1. In what personal manner are you currently supporting the creative community?  Can you list the last two cultural events you attended that were not a campaign opportunity?

2. How will you work to support and grow the creative economy in Lowell?

3. How can the city incorporate arts into the city design and planning process?

4. How can the city support more public art initiatives?    

City Investment in the Arts

5.  Do you believe the art and creative community positively impacts our local economy? How?

6.  Will you commit to increasing the investment in the arts and cultural community in Lowell by supporting motions that increase funding to that community?

Diversity & Inclusion in Arts & Culture

7.  What is your opinion about the current cultural landscape in Lowell and how can we make it more inclusive?

8. Can you provide examples of how you do and would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in ways that would support the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic diversity and youth? 


We thank those who have taken the time to respond to our questions.

Responses from: Karen Cirillo | Vesna Nuon | Sokhary Chau | Danny Rourke | Joe Boyle

Karen Cirillo

1. In what personal manner are you currently supporting the creative community?  Can you list the last two cultural events you attended that were not a campaign opportunity?

This is a great question. The personal way that I am supporting the creative community in Lowell is that I buy local. I buy all of my gifts for friends and family, and items for my own use locally to support the Lowell artisan community.

Two cultural events I have been to in Lowell recently are the Lowell Puerto Rican Festival and the Brazilian Food Festival. I had a great time eating fantastic food and listening to live music.

2. How will you work to support and grow the creative economy in Lowell?

 I will do this by looking into the new tax in which the City of Lowell has added to your costs. I would like to repeal this tax and bring more opportunities to artisans by showing them what a wonderful place Lowell is because of the support we give to our creative community.

3. How can the city incorporate arts into the city design and planning process?

 I feel the City needs to have better open communication with our arts and cultural groups. While I work a 40 hour a week job in Boston as an Assistant Project Manager for a Construction Company, I am also an artist. I have donated works of art to charity events. Two of my drawings have sold in London for charity. I know that with the input of such a diverse and vitally important group in Lowell, we as a City will be all the better for it.

4. How can the city support more public art initiatives?    

The City can support more public art initiatives by speaking with the arts community and asking how we can do this. I have and idea of a show in which we have local works of art distributed throughout our parks and have a day of people walking around Lowell to view them and possibly after the show is over, purchase them. I think this would be a wonderful day of fun for everyone involved. Let's start talking and see what ideas we can come up with. I will support this.

5.  Do you believe the art and creative community positively impacts our local economy? How?

Yes. How you do this is by showcasing your works and having people purchase them. This helps our Lowell economy thrive. I feel the creative community in Lowell is one of the largest and most important groups that helps our City to succeed.

6.  Will you commit to increasing the investment in the arts and cultural community in Lowell by supporting motions that increase funding to that community?

Yes, absolutely.

7.  What is your opinion about the current cultural landscape in Lowell and how can we make it more inclusive?

One of the reasons why I came to live in this wonderful City was because I felt Lowell was very forward thinking in our inclusion of all the diverse groups. Eight years ago I was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer and instead of going to Boston, I decided on the Lowell General Cancer Care Unit. The diversity and goodness of my team of doctors impressed me. The people of Lowell and their kindness while I was going through this impressed me. I feel the cultural communities of Lowell are doing a great job being inclusive. There are ways we can improve though, and this is by partnering with the other groups to work towards mutual goals. Another way is getting more women involved. Women make up half the population in Lowell so lets have our voices heard because we have the power to change and improve the landscape of Lowell for the better.

8. Can you provide examples of how you do and would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in ways that would support the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic diversity and youth?

I would say first, everything starts with education. I am a supporter of arts and creativity in our schools. I want to have our teachers focus less on rigidity, and more on their individual teaching styles to show by example. Let's talk to our students and have a day of art throughout our schools. Art in the park (sculptures, to jewelry, and clothing) with all the different artisans from different cultures in the different parks around Lowell. How wonderful it would be to have local artists having a showing in North Common Park, while having others in Kerouac Park, etc. Let's get the lines of communication open and start talking and brainstorming to make your suggestions possible. 


Vesna Nuon

1. In what personal manner are you currently supporting the creative community? Can you list the last two cultural events you attended that were not a campaign opportunity?

I have served on the board of the Angkor Dance Troupe (and continue to attend the group’s performances) been advisor to the Clemente Park Committee (hosting annual Cambodian New Year Celebration), and others Cambodian/Hispanic/Burmese/African cultural events throughout the City of Lowell.

2. How will you work to support and grow the creative economy in Lowell?

Lowell has many assets in the world of art and culture. I would advocate improving access to one of those, Western Art Studios, by striving to find a way to link it to the Downtown.

3. How can the city incorporate arts into the city design and planning process?


If we are true to our Complete Streets promise, incorporating the work of local artists into our landscape will make walking a more frequent and enriching experience.

4. How can the city support more public art initiatives?

Because of the huge fiscal responsibilities facing the city right now I cannot promise more municipal funding in the near future. However, I would work to find state funding and foster partnerships between our arts and business communities.

5. Do you believe the art and creative community positively impacts our local economy? How?


The arts and creative community is growing in Lowell, and the stronger these communities are the more other artists and visitors will be drawn to the City. More people in the city equals more people shopping, dining, and otherwise spending money in the city.

6. Will you commit to increasing the investment in the arts and cultural community in Lowell by supporting motions that increase funding to that community?

As I stated above, the City is facing fiscal challenges in the near future because of the new high school and other infrastructure improvements that must be made. But I would support finding other funding and fostering partnerships with the local business community.

7. What is your opinion about the current cultural landscape in Lowell and how can we make it more inclusive?

The recent increase in cultural and artistic activities in the City puts us on the path to becoming a destination city. One of the best things to happen in Lowell recently is the founding of Lowell Makes, a unique collaboration between artists, engineers, and thinkers. And when the members also volunteer to teach classes to other members of the community, it is a double win for the City and its residents. I would encourage more of these types of activities to keep us relevant year-round, not just during Folk Festival and other annual events.

8. Can you provide examples of how you do and would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in ways that would support the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic diversity and youth?

One of the main reasons I am running for City Council is my belief that our government, our boards, our neighborhood groups, and the employees of our local businesses should reflect the diverse population of Lowell. By bringing together the many perspectives that make this city such a unique and remarkable place we can reach our highest potential. This also applies to the artistic and cultural communities. As a councilor I will work to create and strengthen diversity in every aspect of our city.


Sokhary Chau

1. In what personal manner are you currently supporting the creative community?  Can you list the last two cultural events you attended that were not a campaign opportunity?

My wife and I support the tradition of preserving the dance and music of the Khmer Community.  I have engaged the Angkor Dance Troupe members in several community events, especially with Virginia Prak, one of their lead dancers.  We recently attended their annual fundraising performance.

We also are encouraging young artists and are hoping for more street and public art both downtown and in the neighborhoods.  I will work for more public opportunities for local residents to display their art in the City.  We also routinely attend the Western Avenue Artist Studios Saturday events.  I also recently attended a classic “old 45’s” music event at UnchARTed.

2.  How will you work to support and grow the creative economy in Lowell? 

As a Councilor, I will work to have the City Manager work with the City Departments to bring these aspects to support the creative economy into the planning process for City projects.  Whether small artist collectives or support for scaling light manufacturing or creative concepts, I will support City funding in this area. We also need to support creative areas or zones, and financially support businesses that allow our artists to show their works and to grow their recognition.

Growing the creative economy in Lowell is good for all our citizens and our tax base.  
 
3. How can the city incorporate arts into the city design and planning process?  

Just as we have incorporated concepts like Complete Streets into the process, we can also incorporate standards and requirements that create an environment that support the creative economy and the arts.  New developments and projects should be also reviewed by organizations such as COOL and others who can offer suggestions to the Planning Board and developers as they process their project.  The City needs to incentivize developers to consider and include the arts with the architects and design teams.  Also, we can see if any other communities, like Somerville, have policies or ordinances that support this.

4. How can the city support more public art initiatives?

In addition to the Mass Arts Council, the City should be making a financial commitment to developing the arts.  This can be supplementing the State money or leading the way to involve the private sector to support the arts.  We need to look at other cities to see what public art initiatives were successful and incorporate some of their successes into Lowell.  Lowell is ready for the next step….and a bigger step forward for public art!

5. Do you believe the art and creative community positively impacts our local economy? How?

Definitely.  Not only is it good for new creative activities, but it is also creating a vibe and culture that is attractive to new residents and visitors.  It helps define us to improve the quality of life and therefore help keep our property values and new enterprises successful.
 
6. Will you commit to increasing the investment in the arts and cultural community in Lowell by supporting motions that increase funding to that community?

Definitely, Yes. I will be a lead Councilor for this effort.
 
7. What is your opinion about the current cultural landscape in Lowell and how can we make it more inclusive? 

I believe you can make it more inclusive through improving the City’s processes for outreach.  The City also has to also be “creative” to make sure we are reaching out to new residents of different cultures and ages.  We need to include all segments of the City into the appreciation for the arts.  We can’t keep reaching out the same way and expect to be successful.

8. Can you provide examples of how you do and would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in ways that would support the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic diversity and youth? 

I would propose to organize a community meeting among those already involved in this effort.  I would request the City and Councilors to attend and listen to the suggestions of the present status of evolving art, cultural preservation, and creative ways to improve our appreciation of these issues.  Again, the process has to be different in that serious thought and action has to go into how you do good outreach and bring our residents into the topic.
Then, I would propose we agree on an action plan and collectively work together to be successful.  This would be best done in cooperation with the Lowell Schools, especially the High School.  We should also involve the many agencies serving our community to use their network of communication and trust to reach out to those who do not usually get asked to participate.


Danny Rourke

1. In what personal manner are you currently supporting the creative community?  Can you list the last two cultural events you attended that were not a campaign opportunity?

I try to attend events that are held in the city and promote and share through social media such as the Kinetic Sculpture Race just last month and obviously the Lowell Folk Festival this past summer. 

2. How will you work to support and grow the creative economy in Lowell? 

I will continue to support the various events held throughout the year. I will support investments in city marketing of events through our cultural affairs office. I will support efforts to continue to attract artists to live and work in the city. 

3. How can the city incorporate arts into the city design and planning process? 

One of our biggest assets in the city is our cultural and arts community and ensuring that they remain part of our city fabric should be part of the planning process. I feel that it is critical to include representatives from the cultural community as we hold discussions around things such as master plan etc. 

4. How can the city support more public art initiatives? 

Simple answer is marketing and partnerships. The Council has filed and supported multiple motions concerning cultural events over the past four years. 

5. Do you believe the art and creative community positively impacts our local economy? How?

Yes, the art and creative community attract many visitors to our city each year. A visitor may come for a particular show or installation or event but they are then usually eating at a restaurant or exploring other parts of the community. Many times these visitors will make return trips. 

6. Will you commit to increasing the investment in the arts and cultural community in Lowell by supporting motions that increase funding to that community? 

The are and cultural community are part the fabric of our city and an important asset. Therefore, I feel that it is important for the city to approach investments in that area as we approach investments in all areas of our community. It is important that we make investments in a meaningful way and that we provide adequate support to departments such as the cultural affairs office so that we can have the most impact. 

7. What is your opinion about the current cultural landscape in Lowell and how can we make it more inclusive? 

I feel that for the most part there are arts and cultural opportunities for everyone in the city. As always though, there is room to grow and be better. I feel that finding ways to help people know that there are arts and cultural opportunities for everyone in city regardless backgrounds. I think some people feel that you have to have a certain income level or educational background to participate, however we know that isn't the case, in particular in a city such as Lowell that has such a variety of cultural events and programs. I think we should explore ways to dispel that notion. 

8. Can you provide examples of how you do and would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in ways that would support the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic diversity and youth? 

One of the things this city excels at is our ability to develop partnerships between city agencies, the school department, the arts community and community organizations. Bringing various partners to the table to work on programming opportunities is critical in integrating the arts and cultural community. Recognizing events and organizations at city council meetings to provide exposure is important.


Joe Boyle

1. In what personal manner are you currently supporting the creative community? Can you list the last two cultural events you attended that were not a campaign opportunity?

I wish to make no representations of being a significant patron or supporter of the arts. Most, but not all, of my support for the creative community consists of my daughter’s dance lessons. The last two cultural events I attended were seeing Royale for my birthday at the MRT, and volunteering behind the scenes at the Kinetic Sculpture Race. I worked hard that day, and felt good about it.

2. How will you work to support and grow the creative economy in Lowell?

I will seek to incorporate arts funding into city functions in a collaborative and supportive manner. This principle expresses itself in a number of policy areas discussed in my answers to questions below. In particular, I am interested in pursuing grant funding to hire local artists to go into the public schools and team-teach units alongside Lowell Public Schools arts teachers in that artist’s medium or style.

3. How can the city incorporate arts into the city design and planning process?

City design planners should work with local artists and neighborhood agents to develop their capacity to promote effective public participation in the planning process. Creative depiction of concepts is a powerful tool for public engagement.

4. How can the city support more public art initiatives?

I will seek to incorporate art line items as appropriate in city building, roadway, and park projects, and encourage UMass to look to Lowell artists.

5. Do you believe the art and creative community positively impacts our local economy? How?

I understand the connection between arts and Lowell’s urban revitalization. My old boss Colin McNiece created the original arts overlay district in Lowell’s zoning ordinance, and created the artist live-work space as a land use. I understand how the creative economy works in two major ways for Lowell. First, it is a real economic sector, generating sales, jobs, and taxes. This is a growing sector of the local economy, and the City has made the right choice in treating it as a serious economic development priority. Support for COOL is treated as a smart investment in growing local business.

Second, the presence of the creative economy has always been crucial to the success of the downtown residential sector, which provides demand for downtown commercial space. Living in DTL is fun and cool, and the arts and performance sectors drive that. By utilizing downtown commercial and institutional space for economically productive uses, and by driving the surge in residential units that support downtown businesses, the creative economy is particularly crucial for the success of Lowell’s downtown.

6. Will you commit to increasing the investment in the arts and cultural community in Lowell by supporting motions that increase funding to that community?

Yes. I hope to be making such motions. My priority will be to incorporate arts line items into city projects.

7. What is your opinion about the current cultural landscape in Lowell and how can we make it more inclusive?

I wish to increase the scale of interaction between the downtown arts community and the city’s diverse populations, and applaud the initiatives that do exist to build that bridge.

8. Can you provide examples of how you do and would integrate the arts, culture, and creative community in ways that would support the racial, ethnic, socioeconomic diversity and youth?

I feel that my proposal to bring local artists into schools could be a tool to awaken local students’ interest in the arts, and bring them into the local arts community.

I hope that these answers give you some insight into my approach to the arts and cultural economy.

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