Creative Economy

2015 Creative Economy Award recipient the Square One Initiative of Providence, RI | Photo: Michael Moore

The creative economy is a powerful engine of growth and community vitality. Together, artists, cultural nonprofits, and creative businesses produce and distribute cultural goods and services that generate jobs, revenue, and quality of life. A thriving cultural sector leads to thriving communities.

NEFA’s creative economy work supports the creative sector and creative placemaking work by highlighting the rich cultural activity of New England, quantifying its impact, connecting its leaders, and providing opportunities for anyone across the U.S. to apply research frameworks or New England model projects locally. These are accomplished through:

Research & Data  |  Meetings & Events  |  CreativeGround  |  Community Initiatives

NEFA's Creative Economy Milestones

NEFA has a history of providing arts organizations with data-driven research to be used for advocacy to their local governments and has become the foundation for local and statewide efforts to build New England’s creative economy.

1978 NEFA starts its economic impact studies of New England's nonprofit cultural sector.
Mid-1990s NEFA's studies include data from the Internal Revenue Service, revealing that the nonprofit cultural community in New England is a more significant economic force than anyone had yet imagined. Leaders in the region's business, government, cultural, and educational sectors take notice.
1998 The Creative Economy Initiative is formed, bringing together the commercial and nonprofit components of New England's cultural sector.
2000 NEFA partners with the New England Council to define the creative economy and analyze its collective economic impact in The Creative Economy Initiative: The Role of the Arts and Culture in New England's Economic Competitiveness.
2005 NEFA refines long-standing methodology for examining the nonprofit component of the creative economy with New England's Creative Economy: The State of the Public Cultural Sector.
2006 The economic Impact Calculator is added to CultureCount as a pilot project. Users can learn about the input-output economic models that assess economic impact and estimate the economic impact of a single or group of arts/culture nonprofits in Massachusetts.
2007 NEFA updates its 2000 report to offer a reliable, public definition of the occupations and industries of the creative economy in The Creative Economy: A New Definition.
2008 NEFA re-launches the New England Cultural Database (NECD) as CultureCount, the only online comprehensive and consistent data collection resource for New England's creative economy, collected over NEFA's 30-year research history.
2009 Selections of new data are released in New England’s Creative Economy: The Nonprofit Sector, which demonstrates the size and financial statistics of New England's arts and culture nonprofits.
2010 NEFA co-hosts Connecting Creative Communities with the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, a summit where leaders from New England gathered to share strategies for engaging the creative sector and to begin to develop a network of creative communities.
May 2011 NEFA co-hosts the Creative Communities Exchange with Berkshire Creative and establishes Creative Economy awards of $3,500 each to recognize two exemplary creative economy projects in New England.
Sept. 2011 NEFA releases New England's Creative Economy: Nonprofit Sector Impact, the next installment of the report series focusing on economic impact of New England's arts and cultural nonprofits, including organizational examples from each state.
June 2013 NEFA creates the creative economy community initiatives section on their website, which contains exemplary creative placemaking intiatives posted by organizations that leverage local creative assets and cross-sector partnerships for community revitalization and growth.
NEFA co-hosts the Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) with Creative Portland and awards two Creative Economy awards to recognize two exemplary creative economy projects in New England.
January 2014 NEFA launches CreativeGround, merging former directories and CultureCount into an enhanced, comprehensive directory of New England’s creative enterprises and artists.
June 2015 NEFA hosts the fourth Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) with the help of local host, Arts Alive!, in Keene, NH.

Creative Economy Awards

At the Creative Communities Exchange,  NEFA's two Creative Economy awards - one to an organization and another for a specific project - are presented in recognition of successful strategies, scope of impact on the creative economy, and possibility for replication in other communities. 

2015 award recipients: 

  • Creative Portland of Portland, ME, to recognize the exceptional leadership and work of the organization on behalf of Portland's – and Maine’s – creative economy.
  • The Square One Initiative is an effort to comprehensively revitalize the commercial corridor of Olneyville, a low-income neighborhood on the west side of Providence, Rhode Island.

2013 award recipients:

  • Community Supported Art (CSArt) is a collaboration among multiple partners in Cambridge and Somerville, MA. CSArt uses the model of community- supported agriculture to link producers--artists who develop a limited edition of an original work of art--with consumers who want to “buy local.”  
  • Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (CMNH) had been searching for a decade for a larger space when the City of Dover invited the Children’s Museum to renovate and move into a historic armory right in the middle of town. 

2011 award recipients:


Dee Schneidman | Research Manager | 617.951.0010 x530