Know Your Ballot: Baton Rouge Mayoral Candidates on Arts and Culture


Know Your Ballot: Baton Rouge Mayoral Candidates on Arts and Culture

December 8, 2016

Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge proposed the following questionnaire about arts, culture, and the creative economy to both candidates in the runoff election for East Baton Rouge Mayor-President. Their responses are included below.


Sharon W. Broome

1. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2013, arts and cultural businesses were a $704.2 billion part of the American economy, and produced a $24.1 billion trade surplus.  Baton Rouge has been listed as number 2 of the 15 U.S. Metro Areas with Fastest Growing Creative Sectors, (Source EMSI Q2 2016 Dataset).  In what ways does your platform include the creative economy, and specifically, what role will the arts play in your plan for the capital region’s growth during your term as mayor/metro council member? 

 The creative economy has been essential to our growth as a city and region. As Mayor-President, I would like the opportunity to draw on this vibrant sector of our economy and to expand its role in our visioning for the future.  This includes a couple different specific areas for expanded collaboration and a deeper reliance on the creative community.


For one, I would like to draw on the creative community as an essential partner as we move forward with place-based investments.  For example, the Shaw Center and surrounding galleries play an essential role in the downtown development district.  My platform includes investment and place-based development in expanded areas,  including the waterfront and North Baton Rouge.  I would like to work with the Arts Council to ensure that the creative community plays a role in re-envisioning those spaces, from works of public art to overarching questions of arts access and design.


Second, I would like to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the arts community, in order to demystify museums, galleries, and performance spaces and to expand programs that engage children early and often.  


Third, as Mayor-President, one of my primary goals and a pillar of my platform is to utilize our best local talent across all sectors, including the arts.  I would like City-Parish government to enter into partnership with the arts departments at LSU, Southern and BRCC to tap our most talented faculty and students, who can be essential resources to our larger community.


2. Discussions on education policy for East Baton Rouge have often focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, as a set of core competencies, though in recent years, advocates, including the U.S. Congressional STEAM caucus, have argued that the arts should be added to this list.  What is your position on arts education and do you have a plan in place, should you agree to add arts, to allocate any funding to arts education?

 I firmly believe that our children deserve every chance to be the very best that they can be.  As Mayor-President, I would be happy to work with the School Board to discuss adding arts education as one of our core competencies.


3. In your opinion, does the City-Parish government have a role to play in funding the creation and performance of art, or in making art accessible to all the citizens of this region and to providing grant funding to arts organizations in the region?  Past Mayors/Metro-Council members have provided some funding for the arts in its support of some arts initiatives and through re-granting programs – do you think the funding level of past administrations is appropriate?  What would you request in your first budget as Mayor/a member of the Metro-Council?

As mentioned above, I believe that we have an essential opportunity to expand collaboration between City/Parish government and the creative community. In these tight economic times, when entire neighborhoods remain devastated from the Great Flood and tax revenue is expected to dip, we are required to spend smarter.  While I would closely examine the opportunity to maintain level funding for the arts, I will also go one step further and commit to being an active and willing partner in seeking local and national philanthropic investments in order to leverage our local assets and expand the pool of funds available.  If the creative community is to be the full partner that is envisioned here, it will need the resources to turn vision into reality.  That may require the help and support of partners outside our region.


4. We have many museums and arts venues in the Capital Region, some of which need repair and refurbishment.  In addition, our local Cultural Districts are limited and disconnected.  Do you have a plan for expanding the Cultural Districts, for funding the improvement of existing creative venues, and in a related question, do you have a plan for implementing incentives to property owners to allow for creative placemaking so that the City-Parish can retain talent and recruit talent in the arts and entertainment industry?  What will your priorities be for supporting these museums and cultivating affordable creative spaces in the City-Parish Region?

I am a strong believer in the principles of Smart Growth, which requires that all partners come to the table as we reimagine neighborhoods and public spaces. As Mayor-President, I would like the opportunity to partner with the creative community to craft and implement a vision for our city and parish that incorporates the arts.  For example, I would like to explore ways that we can leverage existing assets such as publicly held vacant or adjudicated land for creative placemaking.  I would like to learn more about how expanded Cultural Districts can anchor or be incorporated into other place-based development initiatives, so that we are creating thriving economic centers that are walkable, accessible via bike or transit, and where arts and culture are fully integrated from the design phase forward- where that is by inclusion of public works of art, new or existing venues, or other ways that the creative community can contribute its talent and expertise to neighborhood design.


5. Prior to your candidacy, did you play an active role in the arts and cultural community of the City-Parish by serving on arts or cultural organization boards, by volunteering in this sector, being a season ticket holder or donor, or in any other related capacity?  If so, please explain.

 Most recently I have been a supporter of New Venture Theatre.  In addition, I'm a frequent patron of the River City Jazz Masters Series.  I look forward to hearing one of my favorite artists, Dianne Reeves at her upcoming performance with the Baton Rouge Symphony.  Lastly, years ago before my journey in politics, I served as the Development Director for the Arts Council.  I also worked part time as an administrative assistant for the Baton Rouge Opera.


I also served on the Board of the Louisiana Housing Alliance (LHA), which I believe is related to the work of the Arts Council because our creative community would not be possible without the musicians, artists and culture bearers who call Baton Rouge home. Yet, housing access often remains a special challenge for people in the cultural economy.  During my time on the Board of the Housing Alliance, we had worked with the state to develop a loan product for workers in the cultural economy that may rely on cash income, which typically cannot be used to qualify for a home loan.  Unfortunately, the financial backing for that product was “swept” back into the general fund by the Jindal Administration.  But that work opened my eyes to the special housing and other needs of some of even our most talented artists and musicians.


6. Are there any particular artists that you would draw attention to as Mayor?  Who would you ask to sing the National Anthem at your inauguration?  Who would you choose to give a reading?

There are so many gifted and talented artists in our community that I need to give some additional thought to my selection.  I will certainly like to include the arts community as I work through these choices.



Bodi White

No response to date.