Waterville, ME

Contact Name
Jennifer Olsen
Project Dates
2011-present
What began as a project to program a downtown vacancy became a community branding and marketing initiative, spurred an arts consortium, sparked a walkability plan for social equity, and created new private investment in our city. Arts partners consisting of The Maine Film Center, Waterville Opera House, Waterville Public Library, Waterville Main Street, and Colby College Museum of Art aligned through Common Street Arts gallery and instruction space to form Waterville Creates!, a program and marketing consortium.
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:
Initially funded through the Maine Arts Commission's Creative Communities=Economic Development, the project articulated three goals: to implement strategic marketing of arts and cultural assets, to pilot a cooperative arts venue, and to develop incentives and strategies to recruit artists and creative businesses. It is important to note that during this time, The Waterville Opera House, The Maine Film Center, The Waterville Public Library, and The Colby College Museum of Art all underwent multimillion dollar renovation projects in order to build capacity for larger audiences, new technology, and more significant programming.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
Leadership changes occurred throughout the community, with new investors seeking deeper partnerships with this work and thoughtful and intentional outreach beyond mere financial sponsorship. This gave us the chance to look inward organizationally, look at our partnerships to deepen them, and then to consider our current audiences and those potential and unlikely audiences throughout the community. For example, the Maine Film Center, rather than offering a free movie ticket to teens, now offers a digital media class, where student work is then shown at the cinema, and partnerships formed with the local high school technical center for ongoing support of student work.
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):
Original arts project partners The Maine Film Center, Waterville Opera House, Waterville Public Library, Waterville Main Street, and Colby College Museum of Art expanded to include Colby College Center for the Arts and Humanities, Thomas College, Inland Hospital, Maine General Hospital, The City of Waterville and The Unity Foundation.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Waterville seeks to leverage its arts assets as it brands itself as a regional arts destination, a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, an educational resource for workforce development and social equity, and community design that is beautiful and functional for all its citizens.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
2011: Community-wide Branding Initiative: Converge and Create *Historic Rehabilitation and Expansion of Waterville Public Library * 2012: Historic Rehabilitation and Expansion of Waterville Opera House * 2013: Expansion of Colby College Museum of Art * Maine Film Center expansion and conversion to digital format of Railroad Square Theater* 2012: Common Street Arts Gallery and Instruction Space Opens * Installation of Public Art Mosaic at Library: Au Courant! * 2013: Expansion of Performance Schedule to 100 performances at Waterville Opera House * 2013: Waterville Creates! member organizations partner with Unity Foundation to establish collective impact strategies
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
The following components were deemed essential for the success of Waterville Creates! • Dedicated Staffing-3 full-time positions (Executive Director, Education/Outreach Coordinator and Administrator • Physical site for Waterville Creates! • Development of a governing board • Partnership with existing fiscal organization to oversee Waterville Creates! • Establishment of robust youth outreach to area schools • Community cultivation and support • Creating greater accessibility to arts education programming • Strengthening collaborative marketing program
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
We were limited by the capacity of small arts organizations to spend time on collaboration when existing demands within each agency are stretched thin.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
The Unity Foundation, Colby College, and The City of Waterville were committed to offer technical assistance and supportive resources to help us keep the positive momentum going.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Talk to each other often, both formally and informally. Get real about your weaknesses. Begin with the easy wins, where the energy currently is.
Trust. Risk. Repeat.
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?
Relationships among our organizations have strengthened, and larger funders have invested in this work. The City has responded to the ideas of the creative sector in its planning work.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We entered into this project with partners who had varying degrees of readiness for collaboration and they remain committed to performing as a team to grow our resources together.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Number of attendees, individually and collectively, increased investment from stakeholders, tracking of engagement through social media and other means, development of shared messages and their distribution, shared audiences, increase in integrated event programming.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
Investors saw the concentrated energy and enthusiasm and have come to the table to foster larger investments.
CCX Workshop Handout