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Jim Kenney: “Arts and Culture are a Tremendous Part of a Person’s Development.”

August 4, 2015

JimKenney02onlineIn May, former city councilman Jim Kenney won the Democratic primary to become the party’s nominee for mayor in the November general election.

In a town where registered Democratic voters outnumber registered Republicans 7-to-1, Kenney is all but guaranteed to become the next mayor of Philadelphia.

Our G.W. Miller III spoke with the candidate and former Mummer about how he’ll handle the arts and culture when he takes office.

Do music and the arts play an important role in Philadelphia?

Absolutely. From preschool to kindergarten, all the way through high school and onward, arts and culture are a tremendous part of a person’s development. It’s sad that the resources to do that in our public schools are limited. We need to try to find innovative ways of getting arts and culture back into the curriculum.

What can government do to make that happen?

Provide resources. Provide innovative ideas to bring together commercial organizations to do this kind of stuff on a non-profit basis. Work with people like the Picasso Project (a project sponsored by Public Citizens for Children + Youth that brings the arts to public schools), the Art Museum and even individual artists. Dealing with existing artists throughout the city and region who want to volunteer in our schools. We’ll try to provide some resources for them to do that. And we’ll try to get kids out of the classrooms and into music venues and art venues as much as possible. I think we should be depending upon the principals of our schools to give us some direction of what their needs are and then we’ll go out and try to find the resources – governmentally and philanthropically.

Over the past 20 years, the city has leaned upon the arts and culture for this renaissance we’ve been experiencing. Is there a way to ensure those artists can stay here or show them that they are valued?

We have to make sure we continue to improve the quality of life for everyone, including how much it costs to live here and what opportunities are available to artists. Starving artist is not necessarily a foreign term. We’ve got to figure out ways to keep them working on their craft, in their fields. I don’t have the answers to all those issues but we’re hoping the robust arts and music communities in the city can give us some direction and tell us what we can do to provide those services.

How do you do that?

Bring people together. Maintain the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy. There will be an arts and culture presence. Whether that’s in the city rep’s office or if it rests in the Office of Arts and Culture remains to be seen.

Rather than see arts communities move from neighborhood to neighborhood, is there a way to maintain those creative communities that emerge, like the Frankford Avenue corridor?

I couldn’t stand here and tell you exactly what we can do right now. But again, government shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. They should be talking to people in the industry, in the business, and learn from the folks who are doing that work.

JimKenney01OnlineHas music played an important role in your life?

Music, arts, culture and sports have always been a real uniter of people of different races and different backgrounds.

Do you play any instruments?

No. I sing a little.

What do you sing?

Whatever is in the karaoke machine, usually old stuff.

So, where Mayor Nutter shows up and sings “Rapper’s Delight,” you will sing …

You’re not going to hear me sing that. One thing I can guarantee is that you will not hear “Rapper’s Delight” from me.

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