Thursday, June 15, 2006

TOMMY WELLS ANSWERS District of Columbia Public Officials Arts Questionnaire 2006

Public Officials Arts Questionnaire
Name: Tommy Wells, Democratic Candidate for City Council, Ward 6
Date: May 23, 2006

1. As a city council member, would you continue to provide and increase funding to the DC Arts Commission for local arts grants and arts education programs?

Arts venues and programs are essential to a livable community that affords a high quality of life. Virtually all of these assets require public funding to thrive, and I fully support increasing funding?to the best of our city?s ability?for grants to local arts and arts education. I have worked to restore the arts in our public schools, and joined Superintendent Clifford Janey in seeing that arts education is part of the new master education program.

2. Knowing that there is a major economic return on investing in the arts in DC, what plans do you have to continue revitalizing neighborhoods and commercial districts with an infusion of the arts?

I am proud that Ward 6 has such a wide variety of arts venues and resources?including the North Hall of Eastern Market, H Street Playhouse, Atlas Theater, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, Arena Stage, Folger Theater, and Shakespeare Theatre rehearsal space, as well as smaller initiatives such as Michael Berman?s arts project in local alleys. These and other arts facilities throughout the city have been catalysts for neighborhood revitalization. Through public funding and incentive programs, I will work to create opportunities for arts programs to take root in economically struggling neighborhoods, and also ensure that modernized schools include arts spaces that help them become neighborhood centers for community life.

3. What benefits do you believe the arts can bring to DC residents and neighborhoods?

The arts expand our horizons, exposing us to new ideas and cultures. Local arts events also bring us together across racial, economic, and cultural lines to celebrate our community life. Arts education and programs provide activities for the young and elderly alike. And finally, the arts generate commercial activity in their neighborhoods, attracting students and patrons who in turn shop, dine, and often reside there.

4. What is your position on the DC Office of Planning efforts to include arts and culture as a separate component of the city?s overall comprehensive plan for the future?

This elevation of arts and culture is a great victory for supporters of the arts, and an acknowledgement that our city must look beyond short-term needs to the long-term vitality of our community. Arts and culture deserve high priority not only for the amenities and enrichment they provide to our residents, but also because they strengthen our economy by making our city attractive to workers and the businesses that are competing to employ them.

5. Will you continue this policy to assist in the growth of citywide and neighborhood cultural facilities? What other specific steps would you take to continue improving cultural facilities in DC neighborhoods?

I support funding for DC?s cultural facilities to help sustain arts and arts education, especially in a time of rapidly rising property values and property taxes. In addition, our school modernization plans should include creating arts space in public school facilities. And the arts should be considered among the most valuable uses for excess public school space that is being made available through consolidation.

6. What arts and cultural activities have you personally attended, participated in, and/or supported in the last year?

One of my favorite arts organizations is the DC Youth Orchestra, which makes musical instruction available throughout the city to students who may have no other opportunity to learn about music. I serve on the orchestra?s board and attend its performances. I also had the privilege of throwing out the first pitch at a recent performance of Damn Yankees at Arena Stage. As the husband of an avid theater patron and Shakespeare Theatre usher, I see several performances at various theaters each year. I also participate in the annual fundraiser for the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop and support Arts Enables, a program for disabled artists.

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