City plans to acquire former Malden Courthouse; Spadafora elected School Committee Vice-Chair
There is a wellspring of support and excitement around the city from residents who are anticipating the creation and arrival of a new Malden Arts & Culture Center (MACC). That was the most apparent takeaway from the results culled from a live survey of Malden citizens who are providing input on what they would like to see offered at such a community-based arts and culture center.
A presentation of a snapshot of the early results was made at the meeting of the Malden Center for Arts & Culture Steering Committee held on Wednesday night, virtually, and overseen by Senior Planner and Policy Manager Evan Spetrini of the city’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development and Ward 3 Councillor Amanda Linehan, who are co-chairs of the Steering Committee. The meeting was attended by members of the Steering Committee as well as members of the public. Other members of the Steering Committee, who were appointed by Malden Mayor Gary Christenson, are Terlonzo Amos, Naomi Brave, Jenelle DeVits, Yinh Kiefer, Bob Logan, Yu Sin Mok, Erga Pierette, Elizabeth Yvette Ramirez, Dawn Simmons, Hailey Tran and Amora Velic.
The planned Malden Arts & Culture Center would be sited at the former Malden District Courthouse, 89 Summer St., which has been closed for several years. A plan was announced by Mayor Christenson in February where the City of Malden would acquire the courthouse building and the parking lot across the street, for approximately $480,000, with the intention of transforming it.
That acquisition process, which would require state approval, is now underway.
The Steering Committee’s task it is develop a business model for the operation of the building. The model will propose a program of uses for the space based on community engagement, according to the Mayor. “This next process is going to represent the biggest challenge in making this goal a reality,” Mayor Christenson said in October. “In talking to other cities, the challenge is always in coming up with a model that is economically viable. The team will continue to work toward that goal, while we move forward on the path with the legislative process.”
On Wednesday night, a consultant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Emma Boast, presented an overview of the results of a citywide survey she and the MAPC are overseeing for the MACC Steering Committee. Boast is an Arts and Culture Planner and Public Humanities Specialist for MAPC. Boast made a slide presentation of various pie charts which she said were positive in the sense of support of the project, but described as “somewhat skewed” in the cultural makeup of the respondents, as 69% of those responding identified as English-speaking, and 15% percent as Chinese-speaking.
However, the racial identification of the respondents was fairly close to the 2020 Census results of this city, with 56% of those responding identifying as White, 19% as Asian and 12% as African American, the latter two categories almost exact percentages of Malden residents counted in the Census for those cultural categories.
Still, Boast and Spetrini explained that the survey is still “live” until January 16 and asked those MACC Steering Committee members attending Wednesday’s meeting, who represent various cultural organizations primarily based in Malden, to help “get the word out” about the survey.
Spetrini said postcards were being printed and are available this Monday, January 10. He asked if members could pick them up at City Hall and distribute them among their networks, adding that the postcards, like the survey, would be translated into a number of different languages representing Malden’s diversity.
As for potential uses and offerings for the future arts and culture center, the top two responses in the survey referred to hands-on classes and workshops in various artistic pursuits, such as pottery, crafting and digital/graphic printing as well as attending live performances.
One part of the presentation on Wednesday was a touchpoint on potential revenue sources as part of the future business model. Boast described space rental at three examples of existing arts centers, the Foundry in Cambridge, Pao Arts Center in Boston, and the Boston Center for the Arts, indicating that this may be a future path to consider in Malden.
Spetrini and Boast explained there was much work left to be done, but noted a timetable in play. “We would like to have out survey completed and the results ready to be discussed at our February meeting. We want to make one last push to get more respondents,” Spetrini said. “There was a question about potentially extending the deadline (past Jan. 16), but we do have a tight timeline.”
Ward 3’s Jennifer Spadafora named Vice-Chair of Malden School Committee
Ward 3 School Committee Member Jennifer Spadafora was announced Monday night as the new Vice-Chair of the Malden School Committee. Spadafora will replace outgoing longtime Vice-Chair Leonard Iovino, who served over 25 years on the School Committee, representing Ward 4, but did not seek reelection this past fall. School Committeewoman Spadafora was reelected to her third term on the board this past fall, running unopposed. This past term, Spadafora chaired the School Committee’s Budget Subcommittee and was also active in her advocacy for Malden Public Schools’ special education students.
She was sworn in at Monday’s 2022 Inaugural Ceremony along with her colleagues. A special School Committee meeting was held during a planned recess in the Inaugural Ceremony during which the vote was taken. A special Malden City Council meeting was being taken at the same time to choose a City Council President (see separate story). Malden City Clerk Greg Lucey announced Spadafora as the new Vice-Chair of the School Committee following the approximately one-hour long recess.
Spadafora’s term of Vice-Chair is for both years of her elected term, the 2022 and 2023 years.