BEVERLY, MA

Contact Name
Gin Wallace
Project Dates
2012 - 2015
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2017
Tags
Marketing, Networking, Policy, Event
We plan to share the story of how we became BAD (in the best sense of the word!) and how being BAD has helped local artists thrive and helped the community expand their cultural experiences and participation. Starting with an NEA Our Town Grant, we mapped out the master plan for our arts district, embraced the acronym BAD (after much consternation) and started to create our identity. Two years later, we are a designated cultural district by the MA Cultural Council, have seen hundreds of new cultural programs offered, had a role in saving 2 historic theatres, attracted new creative businesses, advocated for live/work space and maker space zoning changes, launched an annual BAD fundraiser and unveiled 3 new pieces of public art. Best of all, everything we’ve done can be easily replicated!
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:
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
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
2011: Beverly Main Streets applied for an NEA grant with partners Montserrat College and the City to create a master plan for a cultural district; our application was rejected because the NEA team felt it would overwhelm our small organization
2012: Montserrat College stepped in as the lead applicant and applied with the same project; a $75,000 grant award was made
2013: Montserrat College hired Community Partners, Inc to consult with the team on the master plan for the district; the report and recommendations were delivered after much input from residents, artists, organizations, etc
2014: The City approved the creation of BAD and the Beverly Main Streets Board of Directors agreed to take on the responsibility for managing and funding BAD
2014: The Beverly City Council designated BMS as the managing entity of BAD
2014: The BAD branding was launched with a new logo, website, sidewalk stencil, buttons, stickers, arts programming and our first public mural
2014: BMS applies to the MA Cultural Council for designation as a Cultural District
2015: MA Cultural Council approves the designation
2015: BMS | BAD continue to work with partners to identify artists, connect artists with new opportunities; host and/or sponsor arts programming; apply for grants; work with City on policies that encourage arts and economic development


If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
We have maintained a laser focus on our overall goals (connecting artists, increasing programming and public art, supporting artists thru policy and procedures changes) but we have modified our tactics and our timetable as opportunities have arisen. For example, we paused our work developing the public art policy and stepped in to help secure new owners of the 2 historic theatres when they unexpectedly were put up for sale, and we took advantage of a new business opening up which came with an old red fence piece that hid its back yard from street view and we created a rotating public art gallery on the fence.


Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
- Securing funding for the large-scale public art resulting from our national competition, although other public art initiatives and policies have been completed or are underway
- Securing long-term funding for administration of all the potential possible for programming within the cultural district, although BMS and partners are being entrepreneurial in making things happen
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
- Having a master plan which reflected the community’s wishes and interests
- Initiative, fortitude and endurance of BMS staff, City Planning department staff, downtown business owners, and the artists themselves others in creating alternative public art and cultural events in the Beverly Arts District
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1 - Involve a wide variety of stakeholders in the early stages of the planning process to get their ideas and input and give them ownership in the outcome
2 - Reach out to get a comprehensive idea of organizations, businesses, community resources, and others who can play a role in creating activity, programs, and excitement within the district. The NEFA database and the local and state arts council agencies are a good place to start, broadening out to the business community, city officials, and neighborhood/civic leaders.
3 - Be clear about specific steps for implementation and outcomes, who is doing what, anticipated costs, and responsibilities. Be open to change and new ideas. Be flexible!

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?
We have reduced vacancy rates on Cabot Street to close to zero. More than 10 new creative businesses have opened downtown and 3 have already outgrown their initial spaces. New zoning changes allow for artists to have live/work space. We are expanding what the community thinks of when they think “art.” Any night of the week, you can attend a concert, gallery reception, movie screening - or listen to a local artist curate a playlist at a local pub (now a coveted invitation to be the week’s artist).
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
The biggest evolution is that when we started, we thought that the BAD team was going to have to do all the work of creating new programming, fundraising and promoting the district. We did do that in the first 2 years and now the artists, businesses and arts organizations are stepping up and taking lead roles. They are coming to us and saying “we’d like to apply for this grant” or “we’ll host this event if you’ll help promote it” or “hey, we have an idea for…” The artists are finding us instead of us having to do all the outreach. It truly is becoming a collaborative effort, which opens up more possibilities and strengthens the foundation for BAD to continue to be a viable, dynamic and sustainable entity.
How did you measure this success or progress?
- Vacancy rates of 1st floor commercial spaces downtown
- Number of cultural programs offered in the district
- Number of artists who have created profiles on the BAD website
- Sales revenue from ticketed events (based on qualitative reporting from venues)
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
- The number and diversity of projects which are applying for grant funding through our local Cultural Council
- The discovery of world-class talent and creative businesses that we never knew existed in downtown Beverly, for example, the band Caspian which just finished a world tour and Parlee Cycles which hand crafts custom road race bicycles and has won major accolades including Race Bike of the Year from Cycling Weekly.
- Media exposure including features on WCVB’s Chronicle TV show, coverage in North Shore Magazine, Salem News daily newspaper, and Beverly Citizen weekly newspaper, and inclusion in the Boston Globe’s “must do” events.
CCX Workshop Handout