Claremont, NH

Contact Name
Melissa Richmond
Project Dates
9/2014 - 5/2016
WCCMA's youth arts enrichment initiative was designed to simultaneously encourage curiosity and passion for arts in youth, and strengthen the demand for skilled arts professional in the local economy. For a young grassroots organization in an underserved community cross-sector collaboration is an essential part of breaking through existing barriers and silos. The successful Claremont HopStop Family Show (beginning its 4th Season in Fall 2017) is a partnership with the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College's Community Venture Initiative, Claremont Parks and Recreation, and WCCMA that is offered at the CSB Community Center in Claremont, NH. The series has a casual format encouraging kids to dance and sing with quality artists, and has become a beloved program for young and the young at heart.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
WCCMA's Youth Arts Enrichment Intiative's goals are to enable and encourage all youth to have access to quality arts education and music resources (including musical instruments). More specific to the HopStop Family Shows in Claremont, the goals were to create an introduction to the performing arts for ages 3 and up, and to gather the community together for live performing arts. There was a gap in programming in Claremont for this age group in particular that WCCMA did not have the capacity to reach. The Hop, their Community Venture Initiative (CVI) aims to increase the Upper Valley community’s engagement and access to Hop programming. CVI builds on the Hop’s commitment, over its 50-year history, to community-oriented programs involving a strong network of local organizational partners, as well as on ideas generated by the Hop’s Class Divide Project, a three-year initiative that examined socio-economic class via the arts. With this in mind, Claremont was a very clear area of interest for CVI programming.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals have remained the same, but they have broadened somewhat. We found that audiences shifted dramatically from program to program, occasionally drawing a small number of young children while attracting a large number of senior citizens. We asked ourselves the question of if this was a problem, or if this was just a part of the need in the community. In subsequent years, we have considered ways to make the intention of the program clear, while still welcoming anyone in the community. Occasionally we will have a senior citizen complain about the volume of the young participants, or how much they are running around. We are remaining true to the goal of connecting with young children and marketing the program that way, but allowing the organic audience to evolve with the needs of the community.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The partners in this project are the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College, the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts, and Claremont Parks and Recreation. The Hop manages and funds the program, WCCMA is the Claremont coordinator (Hanover has a long running HopStop program fully coordinated by the Hop), and Claremont Parks and Recreation provide the facility and staff support at the Claremont Savings bank Community Center.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
For WCCMA this was an important way to expand community outreach without adding an overwhelming burden to the organization. The goal of the organization overall is to increase engagement, access, interest, and exposure to arts programs, but WCCMA has a very limited capacity. Without the partnership of Claremont Parks and Recreation it would not be possible to have a venue for programs of this size in the downtown area, and without the Hopkins Center there would be no way to fund or have the administrative support to have a program like this in Claremont. This partnership is an ideal connection of the strengths of 3 organizations, and a successful model of a truly collaborative program. All three partners communicate effectively, work well together, respect the expertise and ideas of the others, and as a result bring together the users of all 3 organizations - perhaps the most important goal of all three. Basically the collaboration brought the strategy of outreach to all in the community held by all three organizations to a new level in the Claremont area.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
WCCMA has attended 3 years of CCX programs, 2 years of Idea Swap, and 6 years of other programs around Creative Community development by NEFA and the NHSCA. Many projects have included ideas or models that included some degree of government partnership, or wisdom reaching wider into the community for promoting organization awareness or collaboration. No one projects stands out as a close model, but two that spring to mind that have provided some thoughts and wisdom were RAMP in Bellows Falls, VT (a presenter at the North Adams CCX), and the Children's Museum of NH in Dover, NH (also a past CCX presenter).
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
WCCMA had connected at different times with the Hop and Claremont Parks and Rec expressing openness to and interest in any outreach ideas that may come up. As the Hop was considering expanding the HopStop programs, WCCMA was an organization that they consulted to talk about needs in the region and venues that would be accessible to a large part of the population. WCCMA suggested Claremont Parks and Recreation as a third party. Ultimately after a thorough exploration was completed by the Hop, it was determined that this would be a great partnership for all involved, and that it would be a true benefit to the community. At that point WCCMA and the Hop began communicating as partners in the program, and working together to plan and evaluate the program. Ongoing data is captured to determine program impact, and all 3 partners consult about any strengths and challenges arise. Everyone gives input on adjustments to the program, with the Hop making budgeting and programming decisions, and the WCCMA making on site coordination decisions. Claremont Parks and Recreation provides facility support, freeing up WCCMA to focus on artist and audience care.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
The steps have remained essentially the same, but the partners communication regularly about observations, needs, and how they feel the program is reaching their goals of community outreach. WCCMA remains in regular communication with both partners, and meets with the Hop multiple times per season to discuss the logistics, marketing, and results. Most evolving area of the project has been the marketing, and the partners attempt to continuously enrich the network of groups that help to connect their users with information on the program. Marketing is a challenge in Claremont as well as constantly evolving, but between WCCMA and the Hop staff, there are always new relationships within the school districts in particular being cultivated.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Marketing and development of loyal attendees has been the greatest challenge. There is no one great place to advertise or list events in Claremont and the bordering community. There is a growing number, but still a small loyal bunch, that attend the HopStop every month.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
A strong working relationship between the partners, and continuous communication and supportive relationships has been essential. All three partners are vital, and all three bring different insights and ideas on how to reach people in the community.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Know your community and have a goal that focuses on their needs
2. Know the challenges and strengths you have to offer, and the areas you need the most help
3. Choose partners carefully that can fill a gap in your capacity and work well with you
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
The project has greatly increased the impact and reach of WCCMA in the community, and it has filled an important gap in Parks and Recreation programming.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Audience interaction with the HopStop program is 3-4 times that of most live performance audiences at WCCMA, new audience members are participating all the time, and we are continuously hearing thanks from the users of the program.
How did you measure this success or progress?
We measure success through audience counts, repeat visitors, audience feedback, and community buzz.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
We did not anticipate the large participation of the senior citizen community in the program. We look at this as a positive, and a great opportunity to offer programming they are enjoying, while bringing multiple generations together in one space.