New Haven, CT

Contact Name
Margaret Bodell
Project Dates
May 2016-May 2017
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2017
Tags
Workforce Development
East St Arts (ESA) is an entire building dedicated to creative workforce development for persons with disabilities and local artists and makers. Our strategies to include diverse populations in arts programming by hiring and training local artists to hold workshops with persons of all abilities and their support staff, and develop a salable product, have already been shared in other CT communities. We have extended the purpose of an existing creative business, collaborated with designers, marketing experts and local colleges for branding and merchandising, helped to shape the new identity of the Upper State St neighborhood, and provided creative opportunities for people of all abilities to produce artful products, earn meaningful income, and connect to new friends and community.
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:
Provide creative opportunities for persons of all abilities, support local artists by training and hiring them to host workshops. Preserve traditional crafts like caning and weaving with new design elements for contemporary tastes as well as traditional. ESA addresses the lack of opportunities for persons with disabilities to become cultural contributors and connect with their arts communities. Additionally employees CT artists to train and run workshops. Many CT artists are impoverished and this collaboration aids all.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
We have proven that providing this all access studio training for support staff and local artists is a new source of income generation and we wish to expand ESA to other organizations. We are developing a network called Open arts for East Coast arts programs that work with these populations to address the acknowledgement that art and artisan work can lead to income. Our Goals have grown to make policy changes and to build and contribute to this emerging field called Creative Workforce Development.
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):
Marrackech Inc. the non profit social service provider supporting ESA

The City of New Haven, supported ESA with a CBDG block grant to renovate a blight stricken building into a neighborhood icon. In addition, ESA has been awarded a Mayors Grant to install public art on the building developed by our artisans and local artists – the community and stakeholders will attend the unveiling of this community based work in May 2017 on the occasion of our year anniversary.

CT office of the Arts – Awarded ESA a small grant to develop the support staff inclusion trainings.

Real Estate developers of the new apartment complex known as Corsair are our community partners in planning upcoming events and initiatives as well as near by restaurants, coffee shops and retailers.

Upper State Street Association- cross street neighborhood businesses will join in the Spring block party to celebrate East St Arts
Arts Council of New Haven just awarded ESA a Arts Award, we will out reach and liaise with them to attract creatives from other fields such as Fashion Design, eco arts and printing.

Other stakeholders are our immediate businesses the coffee peddler, and Big Green Pizza Truck- headquarters soon to be a restaurant where we will sell our aprons and hand-printed napkins too.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
As these usually unseen populations help expand and change culture in the neighborhood, they are seen as contributors to a new community of new arrivals to the apartment complex in a historic building that was just completed as well as longtime residents in the neighborhood as ESA will lead the way and has begun beautification, week end events, and open studio to all.

ESA relates as a model of what can be for other populations who have previously have not been able to explore their creative talent, connect with society and contribute to the arts.

The development strategy is to become sustainable through our artisan work and provide more opportunities to the astounding number of those persons receiving social service compensation who do not fit in traditional jobs such as transitioning high school students with autism that often become isolated as no creative job opportunities exist for them with mentorship that has been specially trained to accommodate there needs. The next generation of access professionals needs more attention and programming to ensure this field continues to grow and make the changes we need to expand these opportunities.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Gateway Arts in Boston, Spindleworks in Brunswick Maine, LAND in Brooklyn, Creative Growth in California.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
Making Space in an old building for a new concept, working with consultants who were innovators and local artists, Branding and marketing considerations, business plan. community input, artisan trainee input, identifying funds needed grants applied for and won. Working out programming and plans for future expansion.

Step 1 was identifying the location, we moved our chair caning operation to another part of the building to make room for our arts workshop.

Identifying start up funds and what materials we would need, what products we could begin making with a limited budget but big creativity.

Look for unusual funding sources in government such as Block grants. ESA received a block grant to renovate and rebrand the then blighted building

Look for partners in teacher training, colleges, other programs so staff will understand the field and use best practices.

Designing schedule, evaluating who should participate based on interest in the arts. A interview and a 6 month check in if they are selected to attend.

Accessing each applicant for skill level and talent. Re-evaluate in 6 months this has been astounding to see quick results in skill.

Developing contracts for store sales of goods and vending at outside events schedule.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Each month we try out a new event to improve foot traffic: bluegrass music, weaving night, participate and create our neighborhood meet up
We determine what is successful to keep in the calendar.
A growing list of Studio rules to respect the learning keeps evolving
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Trying to reaching decision makers at the State and Federal level to allow attendance of individuals with disabilities to participate in studio programs as a option for alternative job training.

Other obstacles are the demand for more trained workshop teachers to extend hours of this specialized studio, we lack dedicated funds for training, in short we were stretched thin and with our growth needing additional staff.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
We are still working on proving the benefit of our program as sheltered workshops are now outlawed as they provided no social contact for working and made sub minimum wage. The Connecticut Office of the Arts helped position East Street Arts as a its premier booth at the Big E Connecticut building to showcase our program. Our director was interviewed on Television which is building our reputation as a source of opportunity.
The obstacle of reaching decision makers is on going. The obstacle of teacher training is being addressed by developing a new fee structure for community members who want to attend the studio as a maker space in the evenings generating income we can use to train teachers.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Lean all you can from the history of existing programs.
2. Build a program that reflects your unique neighborhood as this identity will shape your brand. Look at the history of place and include the knowledge of elders in the community.
3. Hold open forum for possible attendees provide a hands on experience to introduce the concept.
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?
People who engage in creative placemaking projects mostly do not know how to tap into communities who are challenged to explore creativity. We have made a creative hub to connect people who may not be on social networks, may not have transportation, have a range of seen and unseen disabilities. And changed the streetscape.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
Our artisans, local artists are earning income, collaborating with the City and its businesses, recycling goods, hosting events, and bringing people together at East Street to see what we are doing, have a coffee and enjoy our lounge area in front of the store on the street.

ESA is providing creative opportunities and is growing with participants each day of all levels of abilities, ESA is building a field for others to learn from.

In one year ESA is half way to sustainability by selling its goods, developing its products and is half way to generating the income to cover its overhead and operating expense.
How did you measure this success or progress?
Product sales and excellence in quality, partnerships with designers and other industry professionals, growth of the East Street Neighborhood as an arts district dovetailing Upper State Street. Success is a paycheck for our artisans being compensated for their work. Change of policy that would provide artisan training funds.

Success is also measured by the studio participants self worth, learning, new friends, community connection and adding to the history of makers in New Haven but most important earning income from their talent. Additionally the next generation of access leaders is emerging - the numbers may not be big but a few leaders are already working on our project.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
Self esteem of all participants as creating meaningful employment for diverse populations who would not have the opportunity is monumental - its a feeling of accomplishing a shift in perceptions.

Parents and family members are surprised to learn how much their family member attending the program can exceed expectations when given opportunity through creativity and participation.

The action step of formulating a coalition to change the policies for job training funds that are allotted in social service.

Designers also love the fresh creations when co working with our studio attendees who equally contribute to the creative process.

You can start a creative workforce program with the right Social Service program.
People who are seen as to disabled to create or craft is simply untrue. Artists can bring creative options and create options.
Build a network of families and caretakers who can help with funders and government
CCX Workshop Handout