Meetings & Events

2013 Creative Communities Exchange | Photo: Arthur Fink

NEFA gathers creative community catalysts to share resources, ideas, practical information, and actionable tools that can be executed in their own communities.

Creative Communities Exchange

This fast-paced biennial event gathers New England leaders engaged in arts-based community development and creative placemaking for networking and peer learning. CCX rotates to different New England communities and highlights a wide range of successful initiatives from around the region that leverage the local creative sector for revitalization and growth of the broader community. An extension of NEFA’s longstanding research on the creative economy, the CCX helps build a bridge between the creative sector and community development by providing a peer-to-peer forum to explore the abundant creative assets of New England and share how—through collaboration, ingenuity, vision, leadership, and patience—the creative sector continues to breathe life and opportunity into the region.


  • Content that is practical, replicable in New England communities, and focused on community development via the creative sector.
  • Participatory workshops that deeply engage the expertise in the room—workshop leaders merely start the conversation.
  • Diversity of participation and content (e.g. by geography and community point of view).
  • A host location that engages the creative sector in community planning, revitalization, and growth (a.k.a. creative placemaking).
  • Review of project submissions by a panel of experts from around the region, including representation from each State Arts Agency.


Participants are diverse community leaders who spearhead creative economy projects on the local level in various sectors and types of organizations: cultural nonprofits, creative businesses, economic development, city planning, philanthropy, research, government, and more. They share successes, challenges, and lessons learned to gain actionable tools they can use to strengthen their own communities


The content of the CCX is shaped by the participants’ own experiences. Several months before the event, prospective workshop leaders submit profiles of their creative economy projects through NEFA's Community Initiatives form. Finalists are selected by a regional committee, and the workshop leaders work with mentors to hone their presentation. Similar to a TED talk or Pecha Kucha presentation, CCX workshops focus on a single creative placemaking initiative, are strictly timed and include a how-to demonstration, Q&A time to discuss the strategies and outcomes undertaken, and networking time. Workshop leaders provide participants with an instructional handout outlining their how to’s. CCX workshop projects range from downtown revitalization, artists and civic engagement, data collection, planning, zoning, space development, and marketing, falling generally within these four themes:

  1. INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT: Initiatives that make creative use of facilities, land, or systems for long term improvement of community identity and resources.
  2. HEADING DOWNTOWN: Innovative events and projects that catalyze the creative community and draw visitors and life to the economic centers.
  3. POLICY & PLANNING: Programs that use information and cultural plans to implement policy and zoning decisions that affect all citizens of their local community.
  4. SECTOR CONNECTOR: Model projects that use technology, networking, and training to enhance the capacity of the creative sector’s connections to other sectors.


Two creative economy initiatives are recognized at each CCX with NEFA's creative economy award.

Past Exchanges

  • June 8-9, 2017: Creative Communities Exchange (CCX)
    with local host Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition (New London, CT)
    View event photos.
  • June 2-3, 2015: Creative Communities Exchange
    with local host Arts Alive (Keene, NH). Learn more.
  • June 6-7, 2013: Creative Communities Exchange
    Co-hosted by Creative Portland at the Maine College of Art (Portland, ME)
    Over 240 leaders from New England and beyond discussed strategies to leverage the creative sector for community revitalization and growth.
    Event details
    Presenters & session descriptions
    Event summary (NEFA blog post by Dee Schneidman)
    Photos from the event
  • May 18-19, 2011: Creative Communities Exchange
    Co-hosted by Berkshire Creative
    This event gathered 250 creative and cultural community leaders at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, for networking and practical creative economy workshops. Developed jointly by NEFA, Berkshire Creative, and a steering committee from arts organizations across the region, the Exchange highlighted projects focusing on various elements of the creative economy.
    Presenters & session descriptions
    Photos from the event
  • March 9-11, 2010: Connecting Creative Communities
    Co-hosted by City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism
    This event gathered 170 of New England’s community leaders from nonprofit, government, consulting, creative business, artistic, and education fields at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence, RI, to discuss tools for creative community building: policy, research, programming, and resource development.
    Session descriptions

Creative Economy Network

NEFA periodically convenes an informal network of creative community leaders to discuss New England creative economy priorities and strategies.

What is the New England Creative Economy Network (NECEN)?
An organic framework that connects creative community leaders from around the region to discuss New England creative economy models, priorities, and strategies. The goals of the network are to:

  • Formalize and increase connections among practitioners
  • Spotlight creative economy projects
  • Share resources across communities
  • Brainstorm on New England priorities and strategies

Who should attend NECEN meetings?
Leaders from multiple sectors (arts, urban planning, local government, philanthropy, business development, education, media, tourism) who are invested in the creative sector's relationship with/impact on community development and vitality.

Read the blog post about NEFA's last Creative Economy Network meeting from February 2016, and contact NEFA if you would like to participate in upcoming meetings.



To stay informed and participate, join the New England Creative Economy Network group on LinkedIn.