RAMP honored with NEFA's new regional award

ROCKINGHAM -- When administrators at the New England Foundation for the Arts were looking for an organization to receive their first Creative Economy Award, they wanted a group that had been around for a few years

They were also looking for a project with a track record, that had proved itself in the community.

And they were hoping to honor an organization that had reached out to other groups to collaborate on ways to increase the impact of arts in a town or city.

After considering about 30 different projects all over New England, the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project was awarded the 2011 Creative Economy Award from NEFA.

RAMP Executive Director Robert McBride accepted the $3,500 grant at a special ceremony that was held on May 20 at Mass MOCA in North Adams, Mass.

"It's always nice to get a pat on the back and recognition for what you do," said McBride, who was surprised at the conference with the award. "It was a great honor."

McBride started RAMP in 1995 to support art and artists in the Rockingham area.

McBride's vision, that art should be an important part of a community's long-term development plans, is now widely accepted as a cornerstone of what is known as the creative economy.

He said the award is important because national and regional groups have to understand that investing in art and artists is a slow process that builds community from the inside out.

"It's an incremental process,"

he said. "There is no big bang. You just have to stick with it and believe in what you are doing."
The award was given at a conference where art groups from throughout New England were talking about the work they have done.

The presenters did not know who would be winning the award until the announcement was made.

NEFA's Creative Economy award was established to honor organizations that can act as models for other groups across New England, NEFA Communication Manager Ann Wicks said.

And both for its sustained success, and for its ability to reach out to other groups in the region, RAMP was chosen as an indication of how far an arts group could go to bring economic development and vitality to a town.

"This was our first use of this fund and we really wanted to recognize an organization that has been able to mobilize a community," said Wicks. "We want people to know about groups like RAMP so we can share in their success, and hopeful they can serve as a model."

The New England Foundation for the Arts was established in 1976 as one of six regional arts agencies started with funding through the National Endowment for the Arts.

The New England nonprofit develops and manages arts initiatives on local, regional, national and international levels.

The group typically helps fund groups and individuals who offer art programs and this is the first time grant funding was awarded to a group like RAMP that helps art groups and artists do their work.

"The Creative Communities Exchange brought together a wide range of projects highlighting the many dimensions of the creative economy, including downtown revitalization, artist and small business professional development, impact data collection, planning, zoning, space development and marketing," said NEFA Executive Director Rebecca Blunk. "We look forward to making this award, which champions innovative partnerships and inspired leadership, a part of our annual work."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or