Art Week 2018

various, MA

Contact Name
Sue Dahling Sullivan
Project Dates
April 26 - May 5, 2019
Municipal government and planning, Social action and justice, Placemaking/placekeeping, Marketing, Event, Downtown preservation/main streets, Cultural Heritage
Hailed as ‘the Bay State’s most creative festival’ and a ‘creative disruptor,’ ArtWeek has quickly expanded to become an award-winning ten-day cultural event that shines the spotlight on the creative economy with 500+ unique experiences (many free) in 130+ towns/communities. Launched in 2013 as ArtWeek Boston with just 28 events, this community program of the nonprofit Boch Center is built on partnerships and collaborations of all kinds (110+ already confirmed for 2019), with the goal of making arts, culture, and creativity both accessible and affordable to all. Featuring hands-on, behind-the-scenes, learning-based, and special access to the creative process, ArtWeek is an innovative idea that is lighting creative sparks in rural and urban areas statewide. ArtWeek New England anyone?
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:
• Create an innovative festival model that engages ALL
• Build lasting partnerships and collaborations
• Focus on learning-based interactive, unique, creative experiences
• Increase creative communities visibility
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
no change
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):
• Produced by the Boch Center, a nonprofit performing arts center in Boston, as a signature community program (as a result of a strategic plan)
• Presented by Highland Street Foundation (shared values in promoting affordability/accessibility to arts & culture)
• Lead Champions: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism + Mass Cultural Council (also is our Creative Communities sponsor)
• Over 110+ community partners (statewide, regional, and community) as well as 15+ media partners confirmed to-date for 2019 ( – an increase from ArtWeek’s 2018 total of 74 partners
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
ArtWeek has had a significant impact on community-level collaborations that have helped activate civic engagement, galvanized new sources of financial support, increased awareness and visibility about the creative economy, sparked cross-community partnerships, engaged cultural districts and main street groups, and inspired public participation. (We have gathered many case studies and examples in each of these areas.)
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
• The popularity/recognition of Restaurant Week as an industry-wide sector game-changer
• National Endowment for the Arts research papers on changes in arts participation
• La Placa Cohen 2017 Culture Track Report
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
• Articulate and communicate festival vision as an innovative creative economy model
• Recruit and build a network of partners, collaborators, and champions (traditional & nontraditional)
• Educate event hosts and partners about benefits & impacts (meetings, presentations, webinars, event coaching)
• Develop simple technologies (website/wordpress, on-line application, etc.)
• Celebrate successes and document failures (quantitative & qualitative metrics)
• Collect stakeholder feedback (event hosts, partners, media sponsors, tourism collaborators, etc.)
• Continuously refine/evolve model annually based on learnings and feedback from all stakeholders
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
• ArtWeek Boston was originally focused on local neighborhoods, then expanded to Greater Boston, and by 2017 had expanded to Eastern Massachusetts with 250 events.
• Interest from the rest of the state inspired a transition to an annual festival and statewide expansion in Spring 2018, and rethinking aspects of the model so it could support that statewide expansion
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Like any start-up (profit or nonprofit), the challenges are not surprising or unexpected:
• Launching an innovative new model with little to no resources
• Convincing people of the potential (especially when launching the original local model, and then again when we went statewide in 2018).
• Funding for increased resources needed to support growth (human, tech, etc.)
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
• Data on results and impact at all levels (ranging from individuals, groups/organizations, small communities to gateway cities)
• Strategic Champions Support (like Mass Office of Travel and Tourism, Mass Cultural Council, and other partners listed on the website)
• Providing tools, resources, and support to event hosts and community partners (webinars, e-toolkits, online training) to make getting involved easy for all
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
• Invest in the power of collaboration and partnerships and build from there
• Help others achieve success and share the spotlight
• Be Creative and Think Outside the Box; Remember that “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats”
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?
• ArtWeek uniquely provides a 10-day umbrella to promote Cultural Tourism in every town and across region
• ArtWeek fosters new relationships between business groups (like chambers of commerce, main street groups, business improvement districts), local government entities (schools, libraries, town halls), and creative economy members (individual artists, cultural centers, creative small businesses, associations, etc.) that last year-long, are town-wide, and/or are inspiring new reasons to ‘head downtown’
• ArtWeek embraces multi-disciplinary and genre-blending experiences that embrace social justice topics, creative place making projects, community-building events, and cross-sector partnerships
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
• Cultural Tourism: In just five years, ArtWeek has been recognized by USA Today and Fodor Travel, Expedia, and Thrillist; and ArtWeek is now a top annual event recognized by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau alongside long-standing events like the Boston Marathon and Head of the Charles
• New Relationships Examples: Harwich Culture Center leveraged ArtWeek for a town lease extension, new Chamber partnership, and cultural district plans; Town of Franklin received increased arts funds from the Mayor and achieved official cultural district designation; Plymouth attracted new audiences, retail spending, and tourism website hits, etc.
• New Events Examples: Framingham has done an ArtWeek mural-mile fun run two years in a row; #StandWithImmigrants on the Boston Common attracted international and regional visitors; Marion Art Center did week-long programming that attracted new town partnerships, visibility, and local participants
How did you measure this success or progress?
We have developed a ArtWeek program Strategy Map (based on the Balanced Scorecard strategic planning theory) with a dashboard that captures metrics across four key areas (customers/stakeholders, programs/processes, information/technology, and financial). Surveys, onsite visits, anecdotal stories, and data collection/analysis help us measure success.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
• Fast rate of growth/expansion fueled by public enthusiasm for the ArtWeek concept
• Growing diversity and number of supportive partners across sectors (ex: 2019 new partners include Trustees of the Reservations, and regional young professionals groups)
• Value of media partnerships (who can’t support individual events but find ArtWeek as a perfect sector-wide event that they can support)
• Increased local and statewide government support and interest: ArtWeek as an Advocacy tool