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CreativeGround highlights the people and places at work in the New England creative economy, and every other year NEFA hosts the Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) to celebrate the projects that leverage those people and places for community development. In preparation for the upcoming CCX in New London, Connecticut this June, CreativeGround is talking to creative businesses, nonprofits, and individuals from across Mystic Country. We start off by getting in touch with the CCX’s local host, the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition (SECT Cultural Coalition), to find out more about the creative economy of the area and what exactly makes Southeast Connecticut so unique.
The Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition is a Designated Regional Service Organization (DRSO). Until 2012, the greater New London and greater Norwich areas were without a DRSO. Enter the Cultural Coalition, which supports the CT Office of the Arts in the Department of Economic and Community Development to organize and advocate for the creative sector. I asked Executive Director Wendy Bury about the day-to-day operations of their small but mighty team…
CG: What is a typical day for you at Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition?
SECT: Our organization’s core values are to connect, communicate, and collaborate, so my days are filled with meetings around the region with our partners both in and out of sector. Our primary program, The Rising Tide Series, hosts roundtable meetings for our partners (museum directors, historical societies, etc.). And, we are currently preparing for a legislative breakfast, a regional performing arts organizations initiative featuring eighteen performing arts organizations, our monthly e-blast (chock full of news and info), and reviewing the creative economy section in our draft regional economic development plan, which is being finalized. Not enough hours in the day for our staff of two.
The Southeastern Connecticut region has a vibrant creative economy. In CreativeGround alone there are over 300 profiles in the New London County area! We asked Wendy to tell us more about what types of creative enterprises are represented in the cohort…
CG: What makes the creative economy in your region unique? What kind of cultural offerings can visitors to southeastern Connecticut expect to experience?
SECT: Southeastern CT offers a really diverse range of cultural offerings. We are fortunate to live, work and/or play in an area that has so much going on year-round. While many people know our region best as Mystic Country, we have an amazing collection of museums, historic sites, arts centers and more that extends into New London, Old Lyme, and up to Norwich and Colchester. We celebrate our heritage, whether it be tribal, maritime, military, artistic, or industrial. We are also historically, and continue to be, a hub for innovation. The exciting cross sector partnerships that are taking place right now are phenomenal and are having positive impact on our region.
CG: It sounds like there’s a lot going on! What creative businesses or cultural nonprofits have you visited recently and what did you see?
SECT: I am fortunate to visit many creative businesses and cultural nonprofits every week. Off the clock, the Hygienic in New London just had a huge arts weekend, and I recently went to see a great play at The Kate in Old Saybrook (Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center).
With the CCX coming to New London in June, we wanted to know a little bit more about the relationship with the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition. The SECT Cultural Coalition will act as the local host, which involves much more than just arranging venues. The local host works closely with NEFA to manage event logistics, cultivate presenters, plan local activities, and help get the word out about the event. We asked Wendy to tell us a little more about this relationship…
CG: What makes New London the perfect host city for the CCX?
SECT: Visitors to New London will quickly see that the arts are a visible and tangible part of the city- from numerous murals, a new cool makerspace, and public art projects to creative businesses and arts organizations. Beyond the outward artsy appearance, the City’s culture and heritage is firmly rooted in the arts. Arts are the heart and soul of the City. The City also has a fantastic music scene, venues for emerging artists of all types, and a rich maritime heritage that is celebrated through events and activities year-round. New London embraces the creative economy and the arts are part of the city’s economic development, community revitalization, and urban planning efforts.
CG: After the CCX, what will change about your cultural community for the better? What do you hope it will inspire?
That’s easy. I hope the CCX will raise New London’s and all of Southeastern CT’s profile as a hub of artistic and cultural excellence and innovation. I hope the CCX will inspire people to connect with our partners and come back to our area- for work or for play.
CreativeGround can be a powerful tool, especially for finding creative players in your community to help build on your assets and support your live community online. This is very much the case in Southeastern Connecticut, and we asked Wendy to tell us more about how CreativeGround has been a resource for community building…
CG: Based on your experience using CreativeGround, how does the site serve the creative economy in your region?
SECT:With the Cultural Coalition being relatively new (just entered our 4th year of operations), we are still getting the word out about CreativeGround. To be honest, it is an underutilized resource in southeastern Connecticut. We are working hard to encourage more of our partners (we have nearly 500 partners) to check it out and be listed. It serves as a fantastic connector for our region. Not just to be seen and found, but to connect with those outside our area.
CG: Why should New England artists, creative businesses, and cultural nonprofits be listed on CreativeGround?
SECT: Simple. Why wouldn’t you?! There are tons of tools available in the toolbox, but CreativeGround has both reach and depth, which is valuable. And, exploring the site and the listings can be very inspiring. We often live and work within the silos of our field, geographical area, or expertise. CreativeGround helps get us out of that silo mentality and provides a valuable service in promoting and connecting creative businesses and individuals.
Start connecting with your creative community: create your own public profile on CreativeGround today. List your projects, find potential collaborators, and even add affiliations and accomplishements to your profile (including whether your presented at a CCX in the past). Thank you to the Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition for taking the time to answer some questions about their work. Stay tuned for our next "On the CreativeGround" blog and take a look at our previous blogs here.
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