What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The Ashfield Town Spectacle is designed to celebrate and engage the local and rural Hilltowns in an exploration of the history and ethos of the area. We are seeking to unite diverse sectors in a celebration of our cultural heritage and the common strands of history that bind us together. We’d like to explore and elucidate questions like, “What makes a community, a community? What forces bind us together? What forces threaten to tear us apart?
This project was designed to utilize the relationships Double Edge has been carefully building with the town of Ashfield, as well as our knowledge of creating immersive, outdoor, site-specific work, and unite these two factors to create something utterly unique; something that payed homage to our hometown while retaining a clear Double Edge aesthetic.
The shape of the project includes a half day’s worth of activities on both June 3 and 4, beginning in the afternoon and spread throughout the day. These activities will range from oral storytelling to contra dancing, to stilt walking, to a town hall style debate, and culminate in a giant parade up main street. This project will showcase a creative economy, incorporating talents and contributions from throughout Ashfield, and demonstrate what we believe is a national model for rural artistic synergy with place.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
As we worked with the town of Ashfield we realized that we wanted to make a work that would speak to everyone. While we want this work to be incredibly place-specific, we don’t want it be just for locals. How can our story, honed and calibrated to uplift everything that makes Ashfield special, also be a vehicle for others to fall in love with their own communities? Another goal we discovered was the desire to incorporate the diverse talents and stories of our town residents into the show. To this end we have been refining systems to accommodate the wealth of information that we have been receiving from the town, and to integrate the various artistic gifts that our patrons have offered up. Another emergent goals has been responding to this current political moment. How can it be relevant to all that’s happening in our political sphere?
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 Town of Ashfield through the Ashfield Select Board - Working with the select board we have secured permits as well as sought to unite diverse sectors of the town.
The Ashfield Historical Society - The AHS has been instrumental in connecting the ensemble to various artifacts, sociological, and anthropological findings, and stories for dramatization.
The Ashfield Business Association has worked on cross-promotional efforts, and integrating various commercial efforts into the show.
Elmer’s Store is serving as one of the locations for the show as well as a producer.
The Ashfield Lakehouse is serving as one of the locations for the show.
The Ashfield local artist contingent has been contributing creatively to the show’s development.
The tradespeople of the community have been contributing to the show through their own unique mediums and we are looking to integrate as many as possible into the final product.
The Ashfield Farmer’s Market will be a part of the show.
The Council on Aging has been working with us as we look to connect to our elder community.
The local school system has been working with us as we seek to involve participants of all ages in the production.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
We are working closely with the town to coordinate our efforts with overarching community development strategies. We believe that when communities see themselves represented positively, and when various groups are able to coordinate in celebrations of place, this spurs positive growth. The festival will also attract a large amount of new visitors to the town over the course of the two days the Town Spectacle is staged, and the proceeding months where it will be remounted and adapted on our farm center. Our spectacles provide a revenue driver for the town of Ashfield, and the visibility of the Town Spectacle will serve to uplift and highlight all the incredible gifts our community has to offer.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We have taken inspiration from Argentinian street performances and festival traditions such as Mardi Gras as passed on by our Co-Artistic Director, Carlos Uriona. This will be our own version of these festivals and will incorporate the same combination of civic participation and social responsiveness. We also have drawn inspiration from the Norwegian project, Sense of Place, as well as our own recent touring to city centers. In our previous projects we have tried to interweave the specific history of the community being engaged. In this iteration we will be uniting our origin with the next step in our artistic development.