Elizabeth Embry Plans to Give Artists a Voice at the State Level

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An Interview with Elizabeth Embry, Candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Maryland by Cara Ober

Candidate Elizabeth Embry brings an expansive and Baltimore-centric range of experience to Maryland’s next gubernatorial race. She is also an advocate for the arts. She was tapped as a running mate in February by Rushern Baker, the county executive of Prince George’s County since 2010 who leads current Democratic polls to challenge Governor Hogan. Embry is an experienced criminal prosecutor and a Baltimore native, a graduate of City College high school, and attended Yale for her undergraduate education.

You may remember Embry’s name from Baltimore’s last mayoral race; she finished third, a significantly better outcome than was predicted for her in the 13-candidate race, largely because of her focus on specific results: she proposed an ambitious education plan for Baltimore and she proved to be bold in taking on established politicians in the region. According to The Baltimore Sun, Embry was chief of the attorney general’s criminal division until Baker announced her as his choice in a running mate. She then resigned her job to focus full-time on the governor’s race.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Elizabeth at BmoreArt’s offices at The Motor House for a quick Q&A in advance of her Tuesday night event at Maryland Art Place where the art community is encouraged to meet, greet, and ask questions of Embry and her running mate, Rushern Baker.

Can you talk about your upbringing in Baltimore? How has your mother, a Baltimore-based artist, been influential on your values?

My mother is a sculptor who creates public art and growing up, I and my sisters were in and out of her studio as she worked. She would talk us through her design process and we watched the incredibly labor intensive work of welding and sanding and painting to produce a flawless and beautiful piece of art. She is also an advocate for art in public schools statewide which was in large part inspired by the public school education of her children in Baltimore City. The arts have always been a part of my life interwoven with civic engagement, access, equity, and education.

In your view, what are the most significant changes that our state needs? Can you talk about a few immediate problems and the strategies you want to employ?

Maryland should be a leader in education but we have slipped over the last four years from first to fifth place. Reversing that trajectory requires not just adequate funding but proven strategies that respond to the individual needs of students and their families, take advantage of the tremendous resources of this state, and prepare students for the careers of the future. As County Executive, Rushern Baker has made education a funding priority, has reversed the spiral of downward enrollment in public schools by investing in arts integration, language immersion, and pre-K. He also has incorporated school construction projects and programming with economic development, investments in health care, and transit planning to maximize the impact of every dollar spent.

The County has led the state in job creation for the last five quarters and we need leadership that will expand those opportunities across the state, with a focus on the communities that need it the most. Rushern Baker’s vision for the state will lead to growth throughout the state, including investing in public transit, ethics reform and transparency,  leveraging existing assets like our proximity to the federal government, and supporting clear career pathways in our educational and workforce development systems.

Maryland is under attack by the federal government – the chaos created in the health insurance markets, the undermining of decades of progress in environmental protection, the treatment of immigrants, a return to the failed war on drugs, and the fundamental attack on the rule of law. We need a Governor who is prepared to fight back in the courts and in the press, to partner with our Attorney General, to partner with other states, and to put in place protections here in Maryland to counteract the federal threat.

How did your upbringing in Baltimore and subsequent experience as a deputy states attorney impact your views as a political candidate? 

Growing up in Baltimore and working in the criminal justice system, I saw the stark disparities that exist not only in our city but across our state. As a prosecutor you are confronted daily with the failures of other systems – failures in education, inadequate substance abuse and mental health treatment, lack of economic opportunity – and a criminal justice system poorly equipped to deal with those failures. It is why I feel such urgency to change the way we prioritize our spending so that instead of pouring money into police overtime and prisons, we are investing money in proven strategies to make communities healthy and safe.

Growing up in Baltimore, I have seen good intentions and good ideas pursued without accountability and coordination. What Rushern Baker and I share is the ability to translate ideas and vision into outcomes.

Can you talk about the value of the arts, specifically in Baltimore? What role can artists and art instituytions play in building a equity and healing relationships? What role can they play in the economy?

The arts are part of the DNA of Baltimore. They are critical to our economy, generating millions of dollars and supporting thousands of jobs. The arts are a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization and embedded in social justice efforts. In fact, the intersection of the arts, entrepreneurship, and social justice is unique to Baltimore and a major competitive advantage. As we design strategies to grow our city, to reduce disparities, and to create jobs, the arts must be a key component.

How would your administration work with artists and the art community? Where do you see opportunities to collaborate and pool resources? This was an idea I remember you proposing at the Mayoral forum at MICA a few years ago.

We will be releasing an arts platform informed by the conversation on Tuesday that will include strategies to achieve equity and excellence in arts education in public schools, greater investment in the creative economy, elevation of the arts within state government, increased funding for arts organizations, and partnerships with local government to support the arts. Artists will have a voice within our administration.

 More info: A Conversation About the Arts in Maryland with Elizabeth Embry and Rushern Baker, Candidates for Maryland Governor and Lieutenant Governor and a Sneak Preview of​: Out of Order!!

Tuesday, April 10t​h​, 2018 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Maryland Art Place
218 West Saratoga Street Baltimore, MD 21201

Hosted by Rushern Baker IV and Mary Ann Mears

Please RSVP w/ Jibran Eubanks at 240-472-3144 or ​ Checks Payable to: Friends of Rushern Baker III

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