Keene, NH

Contact Name
Shannon Mayers
Project Dates
In 2012 the Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College started a program and guide called Creative Connections, our goal being to provide a wide range of opportunities for the community to engage with visiting artists and programs that went beyond one masterclass or a post-show talkback. In the past 2 years we have engaged the community with a diverse range of free public programming that has significantly changed the perception of the Redfern as a "campus only" venue to a valued community cultural resource.
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 2011 the Redfern committed to a strategic initiative to increase and expand our engagement and connection to the local community. Historically the Redfern lacked visibility and didn't have much impact to the local community. It was to build new audiences and share our live arts programming with more people. Some of the Redfern’s challenges were:
1. The perception that Redfern events didn’t have a curricular connection beyond the performing arts majors.
2. The Redfern events were “just for the college students”.
3. The perception that Redfern programming wasn’t connected to the local community.
The Redfern Arts Center realized that we didn’t know who our audience was, and perhaps they didn’t know who we were either, and the fact that so many artistic events (over 100 presenting, academic and community group performances) were taking place in their own backyard.
The Redfern needed to find better ways to successfuly engage our campus and local communities with our programming. Beyond the Redfern programming, the goal was to also find ways to promote all of the arts that took place on campus
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The Creative Connections program has evolved from a guide that listed our free public programming to an ongoing resource that invites the community to participate and contribute ideas on ways to create meaning exchanges and immersive experiences with artists, live performance and each other throughout the year. We realized it was also important to bring the public programs to the community, and hold events in other institutions in Keene.
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 Redfern has partnered with the KSC Office of Arts and Humanities and the Office of Advancement to help create relationships with other departments and community organizations. We have also partnered with a variety of academic departments to created a range of threaded events that surrounded the live performance (i.e public exhibits and lectures). The Redfern has partnered with the Colonial Theatre to provide arts education outreach and the Keene Public Library as a community resource for Redfern public programming
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
Creative Connection aligns itself with the mission of Arts Alive which is to serve the cultural community of the Monadnock region by providing information and resources for artists (visual, performing, crafts, music), and for organizations whose purpose is to promote these artists, and to promote excellent audience experiences.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
It is our goal that we can partner with other community organizations that offer similar engagement and outreach.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The Redfern staff consulted with colleagues from other university performing arts centers about their engagement strategies. We also talked with faculty and staff members, led a student focus group, and met informally with community members in the local region. Based on our discussions, we selected programming that could stimulate community participation and collaboration
Through our research and effort, we expanded our outreach activities and free public programming to appeal to a broader audience. To that end, the Redfern created a new guide entitled Creative Connections , a resource for both the college and the surrounding community to explore our season through a thematic lens, and to discover the breadth of free activities that were offered during the season. In addition, we offered new ways for our audience to give us feedback through a Post It Note Wall, video interviews, Facebook postings or informal conversations with artists over brownies and coffee
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
There is more involvement from stakeholders, and we do more evaluation of the programming for impact, success, and our ability to provide engaging and thoughtful programming.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Creative Connections is an evolving and ongoing resource, and our major obstacle was the community's perception of the Redfern
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Community members who participated in our free public programming or post-show activities were the most instrumental in changing the perception of the Redfern. They share their positive experiences to other community members who may be more likely now to engage in our activities
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Know your community
Involve your stakeholders in the planning process
Know your organization's ability to follow through on successful programming.
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?
There is raised awareness within the community (both campus and external) that culture and the arts takes many shapes and forms, and is accessible and affordable.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
The Redfern has received considerable positive feedback on the Creative Connections programs, and often relay to us that through these programs, the live performance experienced is enhanced, informative and enjoyable.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Feedback through surveys, focus groups and individual meetings with community memebers
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
None at this time, but the project is ongoing.