Notes From Outside the Box
November 2018    
Creative Communities Exchange
Join the CCX Dialogue

It is big placemaking news that the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) will hold the 2019 Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) in Montpelier on June 6 and 7. With local host Montpelier Alive, CCX 2019 will bring people from around New England to our capital city - a place NEFA describes as a "unique state capital where the opportunities and challenges of integrating creativity into advocacy and the daily life of a small setting are immediate and acute." The conference supports interaction among the people who shape inclusive creative communities. In that spirit, a call for workshops is open.

Ideas should be submitted by December 20. Each will undergo review by a panel of peers; 20-24 community projects will be part of the exchange. Notification is in February; instructions, a checklist, and a mentor are made available to inform preparation. With regional placemaking under way and an ever-stronger Creative Network taking shape, everyone can anticipate a strong showing.

A Convening, and Next Steps

Artists, educators, and community leaders with interest in furthering the Vermont Creative Network convened at Chandler Center for the Arts in late October. Poetry, statistics, philosophy, and consideration for the practical informed a day of inspiration and conversation.

Famed poet and Vermont Arts Council trustee Major Jackson started the day with a reading. Leonardo Vazquez - the founder and director of the National Consortium of Creative Placemaking - used his plenary speech to encourage everyone to think about leadership and changemaking. He challenged the group to consider ways to get past the "tyranny of custom."

Northeast Kingdom (NEK) creative zone agent Jody Fried, with consulting team members Melissa Levy and Michael Kane, shared initial findings from the creative economy strategic plan being developed in the NEK. Further conversation with Leo Vazquez and Barry Lampke, from the Clean Water Network, filled the afternoon, as did an in-depth discussion about the potential for and expansion of the NEK study. This statewide study is an important thrust for the Network; more news and next steps will unfold in December.

Health Care Plans for Small Business

The link between employment and access to health insurance is real. For decades, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) has explored these issues and has advocated for a universal health care system. "By reforming our health care system, Vermont could take the lead in business attraction and retention, and our communities could thrive." says Jane Campbell, executive director of VBSR. "We will continue to work to decouple health insurance from employment. However, while we do, we're happy to offer members access to these association plans."

VBSR is offering access to association health plans through a partnership with Business Resource Services (BRS). Open enrollment has begun. There are four Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont association health plans available to VBSR member businesses located in Vermont with fewer than 100 full-time employees through BRS. Learn more here .
The potential for this community space is being realized in Worcester, Mass. Photo by Aviva Luttrell.
Massachusetts Building Project Builds Community

Two women in Worcester, Mass. are making progress, making money, and making waves in their city. Three years ago, Laura Marotta and Stacy Lord undertook a massive project - turning the former Ionic Avenue Boys Club into a multi-level maker-, event, studio, and community space. They started an $8.1 million capital campaign to re-imagine the entire building, and they are most of the way to their goal.

Laura and Stacy had seen this type of project before, but not in their area. "It's sort of a contemporary approach to the idea of economic development and it might be slower than bringing in big box stores and whatever developers will bite at first, but I think long term, it supports more sustainable growth," Laura said in an article on media site MassLive . Laura and Stacy are interested in attracting and retaining new residents as well as creating opportunities for young people already in the community to participate in the arts.
They're also seeing an unexpected impact: their own fearless entrepreneurship is inspiring other women. In another article on the same site Stacy says, "It's not inherently masculine to want to be powerful and want to have your voice heard ... I don't want to see a future where you have to be like men, I think that's the wrong way to look at it." The article continues: " ... once Creative Hub is complete, Marotta and Lord said it will be home to many female tenants, from weavers and event planners to dancer instructors. They hope to create an ecosystem of positivity, encouragement and creativity within the space."
Vermont Creative Network
Vermont Arts Council

The Vermont Arts Council is funded, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which requires a 1:1 match from the Vermont State Legislature. Council grants, programs, and statewide arts promotion would not be possible without the critical funding provided by these government agencies.