Receive the latest news, grant offerings, and community events.
In June, we gathered for the sixth Creative Communities Exchange, bringing participants from around the region to the community selected in the final New England state to host CCX, Montpelier, Vermont.
This was the biggest CCX we’ve produced to date – in participation, but also in content. The CCX is made up almost entirely of workshops with a specific format that discuss a single project that focuses on an aspect of arts-based community development or creative placemaking. There is typically one full group session where we focus on a topic instead of a project, but we’re always focused on tools you can use. In 2019 we added two additional full group sessions and designed them all to focus on one topic: inclusion. We wanted to spend intentional time creating spaces to connect with all participants, especially around various ways to challenge ourselves to make our creative work inclusive. Because an inclusive community is naturally more creative, and a community can’t call itself creative if it’s not inclusive.
CCX is equal parts about learning and connecting, two things we hope will continue beyond our time together. The reflections here in Part I of the CCX Recap blog are from the participants’ perspective – your survey responses and real-time reflections during the event whether verbal, online, on big sheets, or in table notes.
In the CCX Recap Part II: NEFA Learnings, you’ll see a summary of some processes we experimented with to adjust our planning and outreach for CCX 2019 to enable more inclusive programming and participation, as well as summative reflections on all six CCX events. We made some important first steps last year that will inform our future activity across NEFA and across the New England Creative Economy Network.
Several CCX sessions, including the Creative Economy Awardees, are available to watch on NEFA's YouTube channel.
Thank you for your participation at CCX and beyond, and your continued work to build the New England Creative Economy Network, its strength and its capacity, and its inclusiveness. You shared your expertise and your heart this summer in Vermont, as I know you do in your daily interactions. Hopefully the reflections below are a welcome reminder to keep it up, because our communities need you!
CCX 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.
Ninety four percent of you said that the CCX met or exceeded your expectations – which is exciting, since 67% were new to the experience! When it comes to the logistical elements of the event, you loved the event setting, venues, schedule, length, and workshop format. You liked registration and the overall networking time.
Content and materials that you loved: the variety of workshops, the advance information about them – both online and in the program booklet – and the optional evening activities. You liked (didn’t love) the advance information about the event itself, the New England map, the networking lunch, special sessions, workshop handouts, and networking breakfast.
Eighty six percent of you found the workshops “useful” or “very useful,” with 13% noting they were only “somewhat useful.”
All the speakers were very prepared and organized. I appreciate how honest they were about what worked and what did NOT work. I felt like I got an authentic impression of what their projects were and what impact they had.
The top reason that workshops were very useful were if they were relevant to the participants attending CCX and the projects they are working on right now. This is impossible to predict when selecting the workshops of course, but feedback suggests that the format does support learning that is transferable.
Don’t forget, you can catch up on any of the descriptions and handouts from the workshops by downloading them from their Community Initiative.
Workshop leaders worked hard to prepare and share the primary “how-tos” of their projects. Overall, they appreciated the guidance from NEFA, both in advance and on event day, and learned a lot from session participants. One suggested a meetup with other session leaders to do a practice run in addition to the review time with Dee – great idea!
At this CCX, we tried something new by introducing three special sessions, facilitated by Dawn Ellis, focused on how to build more inclusive communities. Before the CCX workshops began, we stretched ourselves to open the possibilities of what inclusivity can mean and address where we are now. At the end of the first day, we explored complex collaborations with a panel including artists and cultural connectors and a large group brainstorm. After the Creative Economy Awards were distributed, we closed the event by re-imagining resources together, uncovering what we can each bring to our communities and finding new ways to include and value others for their unique perspectives.
We collected your feedback on the special sessions in real time, though handwritten notes, recorded group brainstorms on large papers posted around the ballroom, and through electronic note taking.
Coming into these sessions, you shared a range of feelings about inclusion in your work in response to the prompt, "In my community, how inclusive is our work? What makes me think this?"
Finally, reflecting on taking your learning beyond your CCX experience, you noted resources that were shared: “great ideas to steal from other communities and organizations and funding ideas for projects and for city arts organizations,” and “I am taking away the obvious need to center inclusion in all aspects of arts development.”
You envisioned new ways you could be ongoing resources for each other, citing your own expertise in:
Through all three special sessions, you also got your creative juices flowing through artistic practices like poetry, movement, and breathing exercises. You took advantage of the visual art materials like colored pens, paper, cards, and pipe cleaners, dispersed around the room without direction. By the end of the sessions, pipe cleaner figures appeared in various social media posts to tell the story of CCX.
In the first session, you responded to prompts to write a poem about yourself, which catalyzed introductions with other attendees you didn’t know. Prompts included phrases like, “I feel at home when…” “My special power is…” and “I deeply hope…” Volunteers shared lines of their poetry with the full large group, then Dawn ended the creative sharing by launching into a vocalized, improvisational, wordless sound piece; an exercise that was repeated with all participants at the closing of the whole CCX.
While we gathered some data in real time, we also asked you after CCX how you felt about the special sessions: How useful were the special sessions on inclusive creative communities?
Themes from comments about the special sessions:
How would you characterize your organization/community's work in relationship to inclusion?
Ninety eight percent of you were satisfied with the event networking. You specifically mentioned meeting people you only knew by name previously and the importance of informal time to exchange cards at meals in addition to connecting during workshops. Many of you mentioned follow-up meetings with people you met at CCX. Keep us posted on those and please share if anything develops!
Overall there was appreciation for the mix of enterprising artists, arts administrators, planners, and others that are engaged in creative economy initiatives. And special shouts out to the National Arts Strategies’ New England Creative Communities Fellows in attendance!
Your top suggestions:
We’ve already shared the importance of networking, so the other top three you listed are:
During the last special session of the CCX – and in the follow up survey – participants brainstormed about tools, information, and people that could be accessed after the event to help with inclusion and creative economy work. Please feel free to access and add to these lists throughout the year:
Of course, we couldn’t produce the CCX without the support of sponsors. And one very important outcome of those sponsorships is that it gives NEFA the ability to pass along that financial support to make the event accessible and affordable for the participants. This year many of NEFA’s state arts agency partners and the Barr Foundation also offered support to get their constituents to the CCX. We are proud that the CCX is considered a valuable investment in professional development that we hope brings more efficiency and cohesion to the sector across the region. Fifty five percent of you who responded to the survey said that you would not have attended the CCX without registration or travel support, so we join you in thanking everyone who made that possible.
Stay tuned for the CCX 2019 Recap, Part II – our own CCX Workshop where we describe the process and outcomes of producing a CCX. CCX as creative economy community initiative, if you will. Very meta.
Receive the latest news, grant offerings, and community events.