Claremont, NH

Contact Name
Melissa Richmond
Project Dates
July 2013 - November 22nd, 2014
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2015
The City of Claremont celebrated its 250th Anniversary in 2014, and through collaborations was able to engage the community in public art, music, and live performance on a scale more typical of a community ten times its size. The West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts played the role of facilitator for the Claremont 250th Celebration Committee, and through that partnership the community built a 53 foot public art sculpture in the heart of the city, commissioned a major work for flute and orchestra, and created a spectacular celebration with quality artists that reached an underserved community's hearts. Now following the tremendous success and outpouring of appreciation, new collaborations are taking shape that will change the face of the city.
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:
- Increase civic engagement in all types of events, especially cultural events
- Improve the internal and external impressions of Claremont and encourage community pride
- Present high quality events (artists, musicians, and administrators)
- Increase arts and culture support by local businesses
- Draw audiences from outside the greater Claremont area
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals remained largely the same, but in some cases we were blown away by the level of success we had in achieving those goals. When planning for the public art sculpture began the business support and excitement from the community reached a level that we never anticipated. The small public sculpture idea residing on our wish list, became a 53' steel sculpture with nearly full in kind support from local businesses. The sculpture itself makes use of hand tracings, done by those living in or visiting the community during the collection. The integration of the community into the project brought an excitement and ownership from residents we never anticipated.
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):
Overall City Revitalization:
The City of Claremont (All Depts and Claremont Parks and Recreation)
West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts (WCCMA)

Claremont 250th Celebration:
Claremont 250th Celebration Committee was the approval, fundraising, and planning group for the celebration. The body was made up of local residents, representation of from WCCMA, Claremont Parks and Recreation, The City of Claremont Finance Dept, and the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce.
Claremont Savings Bank (sponsor)
NH Charitable Foundation (sponsor)
The Residents of Claremont, and visitor's to Claremont (sponsors, volunteers, donors)
NH State Council on the Arts
New England Foundation for the Arts
Art Works (NEA) through Windham Orchestra
Vermont Arts Council through Windham Orchestra
Lake Sunapee Bank (sponsor)

Celebration Events: Each includes the above partners
Canam Bridge (donation of steel and fabrication, planning)
Stone House Forge (equipment for cutting out handprints)
National Field Representatives (sponsor)
Red River (sponsor)
Mascoma Bank (sponsor)
Businesses providing in kind services for construction, site work, and transportation.

Commissioning of Major Work for Flute and Orchestra:
Windham Orchestra
Kinan Azmeh (composer)
Melissa Richmond (in kind donation of performance)

Other Celebration Events:
Mark Harvey and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra
Burlington Taiko Group
Castlebay (musicians)
Granite State Arts Market
Maple Avenue School

Collaborations on-going:
The City of Claremont Planning and Development
Claremont Parks and Recreation
Claremont Maker Space
West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts
River Valley Community College
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Many of these collaborators were already working together on smaller scale projects, with the plan to increase creative businesses and resources within the community. Focuses have been redevelopment of the historic mills, downtown revitalization, and introduction of quality arts programs (performing, visual arts, and education). The City of Claremont has been the leader in revitalization through redevelopment, and supportive of the importance of the arts for a livable community. Claremont's Planning and Development Department was instrumental in recruiting the TwinState MakerSpaces as a potential new mill tenant, leading to the 2015 opening of the Claremont MakerSpace.

As a result of these parallel efforts and relationships, many of the mentioned project partners are planning new projects for 2015 and onwards. What that will mean for the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts in particular is much needed space collaborations with the Claremont MakerSpace. Planning has also begun for new community events with music and visual arts in the downtown with WCCMA, Claremont Parks and Recreation, and the Claremont MakerSpace. Relationships have been strengthened with local businesses and we believe that community engagement will increase as a result of the programs that were available during the Claremont 250th. These developments will be huge for WCCMA's long term sustainability, as a small, young grassroots organization.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
WCCMA has been active in attending NEFA programs and conferences (including CCX Portland and North Adams), as well as having support from the NH State Council on the Arts. Encouragement and support from the City of Claremont has also been vital. Without an active and engaged Claremont 250th Celebration Committee our ideas would have mostly remained ideas. All the exposure we have had to these groups have played a part in the ideas and partnerships we have developed.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
At the recommendation of Claremont Planning and Development, WCCMA's Executive Director Melissa Richmond joined the Claremont 250th Celebration Committee in early 2013. The committee spent several months during the summer of 2014 brainstorming the Claremont 250th events. Ultimately the event roster was finalized as:

Retro Ball (Spring 2014) – Music and food from 1914-44. Participants dressed for the period, and the music and food was a tour through time that progressed as the evening went on. Administration by WCCMA

Birthday in the Bricks – Arts and Music festival, carnival rides, car show, vendors, and food. Tremendously successful event with a “something for everyone” approach, with high quality artisan vendors and cultural music festival. This event also incorporated community and school residencies with Castlebay folk duo and Burlington Taiko Group, and featured performances by the participants. Administration by WCCMA, Claremont Parks and Recreation, and Granite State Arts market.

Birthday Concert by the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra and Sculpture Lighting – Performance by the legendary Aardvark Jazz Orchestra of Boston, including the world premiere of the “Claremont Suite” by Mark Harvey. The premiere included the Claremont Community Jazz Band sitting in with the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra for a 30+ piece ensemble. Administration by WCCMA.

Classics Celebration and Claremont – World premiere of the major work for Flute and String Orchestra Commissioned by the Claremont 250th Committee, by internationally acclaimed composer Kinan Azmeh. This performance was held in Claremont as well as Brattleboro, Vt, and performed as part of the Windham Orchestra's 45th Anniversary season featuring a newly commissioned work at each of their 4 performances. Administration by WCCMA and the Windham Orchestra.

In December of 2013 local sculptor Ernest Montenegro presented ideas for a sculpture to commemorate the 250th anniversary. With the encouragement of the 250th committee and the WCCMA board Ernest approached businesses in the community and was met with a staggering amount of in-kind and monetary support. This project was the spark that guaranteed funding for the sculpture and the entire 250th celebration.

The project management for the sculpture including contributions from WCCMA and the Greater Claremont Chamber of Commerce, but the majority of the major leadership in managing the project was done by Canam Bridge and the City of Claremont, with input from the sculptor.

Through the project partners' professional expertise, all events were managed smoothly, and strong collaborative relationships were built. As soon as key pieces of funding were secured, each partner took their on their own project, meeting separately as necessary, and provided regular reports to the 250th Committee at weekly meetings.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Each partner was given a lot of latitude to adjust their projects as needed, and the committee supported those changes. The larger framework of the project steps didn't change dramatically, many portions were considered tentative until the funding was ensured. Once secured, the project details laid out were confirmed and put into motion. Coordination of so many moving pieces over such a short amount of time with very few people was a challenge, but by having skilled leaders and a supportive committee, we were able to move quickly to adjust. In the end, we found we were able to add additional touches to the projects once we were a month out and confirmed that we had money remaining in the budget.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The major challenges were primarily in working with volunteers not accustomed to event planning and management. It was difficult for some volunteers to understand the planning and fundraising process, but ultimately they had trust in the administrators. There was some negative reaction to plans by small pockets of people within the community, but the support far outweighed the negativity. The biggest obstacle was pulling off this number of major events with only a couple key volunteers and project supporters. To replicate this project without these key skilled volunteers would require a significant increase in financial support to compensate event planners.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The 250th Committee, The City of Claremont, and the in-kind services of the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
- Ensure that you have an engaged business and granting base
- Have skilled leaders for project management and strategic partnerships
- Increase the planning time from 1 year to 1.5 – 2 year if working with a small body of volunteers (in this case 8 volunteers and skilled support from the City of Claremont)
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 heart of Downtown now has a 53 foot tall public art sculpture as a landmark, for many a daily visual reminder of the roots of creativity in the Community. Surrounding this sculpture are the Common Man Inn and Restaurant located in 2 refurbished mill buildings, and the soon – to – be Claremont MakerSpace, also situated in a former mill building. The sculpture has opened dialogue among everyone in the community, and the music events have actively engaged members of the community that are normally disconnected from the arts. Though we don't expect that this will suddenly mean we have a full house at classical music events, it has identified how to engage the community in new ways, and how powerful collaborations with groups like Claremont Parks and Recreation are in the equations of engagement. Now with engagement from the Claremont MakerSpace, who are a much larger organization than our tiny nonprofit, Claremont is poised for big changes. We expect a significant amount of financial growth from our local businesses for WCCMA through our participation in administrating these very respected events.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Aside from the obvious facts that we have a wonderful and large piece of public art work in the middle of our city where previously there was none, and we have created a major orchestral work by a respected composer that will likely be performed around the world, there is the local support that was profoundly successful in a measurable way.

Our initial 250th celebration budget was projected to be around $40,000, and we expected that would be raised through small sponsorships from local businesses in $1,000 - $5,000 amounts. When the sculpture was introduced into the project we were looking at a budget closer to $100,000, plus in-kind donations that would value projects at closer to $250,000. The sponsorships ended up coming in the $5,000 - $25,000 range, with nearly all sculpture expenses being donated by local businesses. On the engagement side, over 600 people participated in having their hands traced for the sculpture, we estimate well over 2,000 people attended the Birthday in the Bricks Festival, and over 300 attended the Windham Orchestra performance total. Surveys and online feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Our sponsors were asking how we can continue events like this in the future, and engagement in social media has been strong with groups not previously engaged in arts programs.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Surveys were given at the Windham Orchestra performance to solicit audience feedback. Comments were monitored on social media and at events. Attendance was measured at events, and feedback was solicited from donors. On a basic level, we were able to answer the questions: "Did we present the planned activities to our standards?" and "Did the public respond favorably" with a resounding yes in both instances. The programs also had some level of support from the NH and VT Arts Councils, NEFA, and the NEA.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The major unexpected impact was the excitement and full engagement of our manufacturing and skilled trade businesses. It was fantastic seeing how excited they were to be a part of a piece of public art, and looking at their largely functional trades in a more abstract manner. This perfectly complements the Claremont MakerSpace, which will focus on the intersection between artistry and “making.” We believe this collaboration will be fruitful for years to come.
CCX Workshop Handout