Meetings & Events

Workshop from CCX 2019, Montpelier, VT. Photo: Cat Cutillo.

NEFA connects constituents who care about building creative communities - to each other and to ideas, practical information, and tools used in New England neighborhoods.

Creative Communities Exchange

The Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) gathers people from across New England who connect creative work to community goals.  An energizing networking event, participants come to share and to learn from each other, and return home with new relationships, new ideas, and tried and true strategies. CCX welcomes participants to a different New England community every other year, and event workshops highlight a wide range of  community initiatives  from around the region that celebrate a culture of creative connection. CCX brings to life ideas grounded in NEFA’s longtime research on the creative economy and reinforces that the region’s varied and vibrant creative people and places are uniquely able to address social, economic, and cultural issues of our communities through collaboration, ingenuity, vision, and leadership.

What You Will Find at a CCX

  • Content: ideas that are practical; how-to’s you can use from around New England.
  • Community: People hungry to learn, engaged in community, and ready to solve problems in their community through creativity.
  • Participatory workshops: No sitting back in your seat.  Workshops invite people in the room to share their wisdom and their questions. Workshop leaders share their strategies to start conversations that could continue for hours or months.
  • Diversity:  CCX embraces the wide variety of activity and types of communities across New England. Your experience of rural, urban, tribal, murals, festivals, cultural heritage, arts centers, architecture, transportation, planning, entrepreneurship, business districts, community gardens, libraries, starts ups, writing, community organizing, and everything in between – is all valuable.  
  • Location:  CCX hosts offer a learning laboratory, so you can head out the door and see how a place works to define itself as creative, using that to energize and build economic opportunities.  


Participants are diverse community advocates who make creative communities happen. They connect arts, culture, or creativity to the social and economic needs of their communities and come from various sectors and perspectives: artist, entrepreneur, cultural nonprofit, creative business, economic development, planning, philanthropy, research, government, cultural heritage and preservation, main streets, and more. They share successes, challenges, and lessons learned to gain tools they can use to strengthen their own communities.

What You'll Learn

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. CCX workshops have a special format: timed show and tell of a specific case or example of the community’s work; equal time to discuss the challenges and successes, and networking time. Workshop leaders provide participants with an instructional handout outlining their top tips and strategies, which might range from bringing pop up galleries into empty storefronts, reclaiming space for a park or a festival that highlights local food, artists engaging people around tough problems or to celebrate diverse identities, transforming old mills into artist studios or housing, integrating cultural planning into town plans, creating a public art policy for a town, and many more examples from past CCX you can find here: Directory of Community Initiatives. This type of community work generally falls within these four themes: 

  1. INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT: Creative use of facilities, land, or systems to build community identity and resources.
  2. HEADING DOWNTOWN: Innovative events and projects that energize various creative communities and draw visitors and visibility to the economic centers.
  3. POLICY & PLANNING: The use of information and community planning to integrate the arts and creativity into policy and zoning decisions.
  4. SECTOR CONNECTOR: Efforts that use technology, networking, and training to enhance the capacity of creative people and places and their connection to other sectors.

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.

Past Exchanges

  • June 6-7, 2019: Creative Communities Exchange (CCX)
    with local host Montpelier Alive (Montpelier, VT)
    View event photos
  • 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

New England Creative Economy Network

NEFA occasionally brings together an informal network of creative community thinkers to discuss New England creative economy priorities and strategies.

What is the New England Creative Economy Network (NECEN)?

A group of people involved in creative community building and advocacy from around New England who brainstorm about the region’s economy, priorities, and strategies. The goals of the network are to:

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

Who is in the NECEN?

People involved in arts, urban planning, local government, philanthropy, business development, education, media, tourism, cultural heritage, community building, youth development, entrepreneurship, economic development, historic preservation, and more  who want to see creativity having a positive effect on the directions of their communities.

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


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