The New England Foundation for the Arts presented its Creative Economy Awards on June 10 as part of the New England-wide Creative Communities Exchange held in New London, CT.  Two awards - one to an organization and another for a specific project - were presented along with a $2,500 each unrestricted prize. The awards are selected for their clear community development strategies and outcomes, deep collaboration, and innovative use of local assets; and are models for those invested in the New England creative economy.

“For 40 years, NEFA has engaged, informed, and helped energize the New England region through grantmaking, research and publications, online services, and convenings – like the CCX - that bring together New England’s cultural community,” said NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards as she addressed the over 250 participants at the closing session. “With over 30,000 cultural nonprofits, businesses, and professionals, New England’s creative economy is one of the distinguishing strengths of our region.” 

The organization award was presented to Rhode Island Latino Arts to acknowledge the exceptional leadership and cumulative work of the organization on behalf of Providence – and Rhode Island’s – creative economy. Founded in 1988 as the Hispanic Heritage Committee, RILA has become Rhode Island’s leading nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the promotion, advancement, development and cultivation of Latino arts, including the art, culture, history and heritage of Rhode Island Latinos. With the leadership of Marta V. Martinez, RILA operates numerous programs, including:

  • The Rhode Island Latino Arts Network, Latino Artists Directory, and Latino Gallery
  • Hispanic Heritage month and year-round events, from artist gatherings to music classes
  • The first Spanish-English bilingual Rhode Tour walking tour app
  • Nuestras Raices, The Latino Oral History Project of RI
  • And soon to come, a Latino Cultural Corridor in the heart of Providence.

The project award was presented to the African Burying Ground Memorial Park/City of Portsmouth, NH. After the unexpected revealing of a more than 300-year old burying ground for African and African-descended people underneath a City street, the City of Portsmouth, NH, closed and transformed the street into an evocative public gathering space to acknowledge its past and to return the site to sacred ground. The Portsmouth City Council appointed an African Burying Ground Committee and asked the group to determine how best to honor those buried on Chestnut Street.  The Committee – comprised of representatives from the Seacoast African American Cultural Center, Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Inc. and the Portsmouth community – worked diligently to carry out that charge.  With original works of outdoor public art at its core the site has become a focal point for telling a more complete story of Portsmouth’s history and reflecting on the site’s lessons for our current age. The site has stimulated national attention to Portsmouth as a site for African American tourism, calling attention to and uniting other important historic sites. The Memorial Park is a testament to the long and sustained commitment of the citizens and leadership of Portsmouth to create something beautiful from unacknowledged history, while aligning with the physical infrastructure complexities of town planning. The award was accepted by Vernis Jackson, Chair of the African Burying Ground Blue Ribbon Committee, Chris Dwyer, City Councilor, and Stephanie Seacord, member of the African Burying Ground Blue Ribbon Committee.

“NEFA has a legacy of generating ideas and testing new initiatives, and here at the CCX, we celebrate all of you who are innovating, connecting, collaborating, and fueling the revitalization and transformation of our communities,” Edwards noted during the ceremony.

About NEFA
The New England Foundation for the Arts invests in the arts to enrich communities in New England and beyond. NEFA accomplishes this by granting funds to artists and cultural organizations; connecting them to each other and their audiences; and analyzing their economic contributions. NEFA serves as a regional partner for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England’s state arts agencies, and private foundations. Learn more at


Images by Emilie Farrugia/The Day:
(Top) Cathy Edwards, NEFA's executive director; Creative Economy Award recipient Marta V. Martinez, Rhode Island Latino Arts' founder; Randall Rosenbaum,  NEFA board member and executive director of RISCA.

(Bottom) Stephanie Seacord, member of the African Burying Ground Blue Ribbon Committee; Vernis Jackson, Chair of the African Burying Ground Blue Ribbon Committee; Cassandra Mason, New Hampshire State Council on the Arts; Cathy Edwards, NEFA executive director; Chris Dwyer, City Councilor, City of Portsmouth.

Contact: Ann Wicks | 617.951.0010 x534