What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
In 2010, Beverly Main Streets launched the Downtown 2020 initiative, which identified arts and culture as a key economic driver for revitalization. Downtown 2020 is a vision for what downtown Beverly can and should become – a vibrant community that celebrates the arts and creativity with cool places to live, work, shop, play and experience. The vision represents more than 1000 voices from the community and it centers around 3 goals:
1 - Downtown Beverly will be recognized as a regional center for the arts, culture, creative industry and innovation
2 - Downtown Beverly will be the location of choice for retail and creative businesses that appeal to residents, students and visitors
3 - Development in downtown Beverly will follow a clear direction that leverages the unique assets of each corridor.
These goals informed the creation of a cultural district master plan completed by Community Partners Consultants and funded through the NEA Our Town grant program. The Beverly Arts District was planned to tap into the $8.4 billion New England economic impact and the 83,000 jobs generated by the creative economy regionally as documented in “New England’s Creative Economy: Nonprofit Sector Impact,” the New England Foundation for the Art’s 2011 report, and contribute its own impact to the regional economy as well. An overarching goal for the district is to build upon the region’s robust creative economy market, which, according to the North Shore Creative Economy Market Analysis and Action Plan, consists of 2200 creative economy enterprises employing up to 20,000 people and contributing over $3 billion in annual sales.
For Montserrat College of Art, the project goals included working with Beverly Main Streets and the City to broaden the scope of the college’s contributions beyond the campus; to make transformational change in the physical, social and economic climate; and to create a sense of place in downtown Beverly.
Specific goals for the district project included:
- To strengthen the sense of place in the downtown and provide an incentive for people to live, visit, and experience the city.
- To help rehabilitate empty or underutilized buildings and put vacant properties back on the tax roll.
- To serve as a destination point for citizens and tourists, and
- To be a catalyst for further cultural and economic development for the city.
Short-term goals related to the master plan process included the following:
- To create a signature work of public art to highlight the unique artistic energy of downtown Beverly;
- To obtain a local cultural district designation with a managing entity approved by the Beverly City Council;
- To obtain cultural district designation from the Massachusetts Cultural Council;
- To increase the visibility of artists and art through district identity and branding;
- To connect local artists with a network of peers and supporters
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
On a local level, Beverly Main Streets was named the managing entity of the arts district in 2014. At the state level, designation by the MA Cultural Council was achieved in 2015.
As funding for the large-scale public art installation stalled, the project goals shifted to focus more on creating smaller-scale programs and public art installations, building awareness of the BAD brand; using the cultural district to establish a stronger network of artists; and advocating for municipal policies in support of a strong creative economy. The partnership between Beverly Main Streets and the City of Beverly that helped drive the cultural district planning effort has become stronger and has generated opportunities to formulate more ambitious goals in terms of planning and policy. Goals that emerged from this partnership include the development of a public art policy for the city; a collaboration on new zoning that allows for live/work space, maker space and brew pubs within the downtown; launching the new Mayor’s Gallery at City Hall; hosting a quarterly meeting with arts leaders to lay out programs and projects; designating and making significant infrastructure upgrades to the only public space in the district as well as streets and sidewalks.
In addition, greater attention unexpectedly had to be paid to cultural facilities that were put up for sale while BAD was launching. BMS | BAD played an active role in conversations with local officials and interested parties about how to preserve the historic Cabot Performing Arts Center and the Larcom Theatre as cultural facilities, rather than being torn down to make room for condominiums. Today, both theatres are under new ownership that is committed to maintaining the buildings as community cultural assets, and each offers a rich and robust calendar of cultural programming.
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):
Partners: Beverly Main Streets, Montserrat College of Art, City of Beverly, Community Partners Consultants, Studios at Porter Mill
Stakeholders: Local artists (defined as folks who live, work or study in Beverly); students, faculty and staff of Montserrat College of Art and Endicott College; downtown businesses; cultural and historic organizations; residents of Beverly; visitors to Beverly
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
As a key component of BMS’ Downtown 2020 initiative, the Beverly Arts District has helped keep arts, culture and the creative economy at the forefront of this multi-pronged effort to strengthen downtown Beverly through economic development, design and promotion. The planning effort for the cultural district integrated a variety of related community development efforts including a new way finding program, a plan to redevelop a public square within the cultural district, Montserrat College of Art’s development plans and a desire to create more public art.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
- Process of creating the Downtown 2020 strategic which utilized the expertise of a 3rd party consultant
- Other cultural districts designated by the MA Cultural Council
- Public art policies designed by other MA communities such as Boston, Cambridge and Salem
- Public art in cities such as Miami, Asheville, Chicago, Rio de Janiero, Oslo, Barcelona