New Haven, CT

Contact Name
Cindy Clair
Project Dates
Dec. 2013 to June 2014 (and currently through June 2015
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2015
The Arts Council's Community Engagement Initiative, launched in 2013, invites artists, artist collectives and arts organizations to submit proposals for community projects that invite the public to actively participate in the creative process. A project might address a community concern or be designed to animate a space. Projects can target a group ( i.e. recent immigrants or seniors), enliven a neighborhood, or facilitate interaction among community members. Four to five projects are selected and funded with small stipends of $1500 to $2500. Our first round of projects in 2014 ranged from an art installation created by youth in response to gun violence to a project that invited passersby to read Shakespeare scenes with professional actors on a public street.
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:
Goal: To engage community members in making and experiencing art that reflects and is relevant to their lives.

Our region is abundant with wonderful concerts, exhibits, plays etc. But there are many residents, particularly those in the City of New Haven, who do not participate in the arts offerings of the arts community. There are numerous barriers, perceived and real that prevent community members from fully engaging in the arts. We use this initiative to encourage arts organizations and artists to think differently about engaging with community members. Our small financial incentive encourage experimentation, to get outside the confines of arts venues.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals have not changed. We were pleased with the results of our first year and have selected projects for our second year. Perhaps not surprisingly, more individual artists than organizations responded to our request for proposals. For artists, who have few funding opportunities, our initiative offered a huge opportunity. One unexpected outcome is that our dollars have been used as leverage for the mayor's community grants, which fund projects that address neighborhood vitality.
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):
Artists and arts organizations, schools, libraries, social service organizations. Some of the projects target specific groups. In some cases, the artists had previous relationships with the partner organizations. In other cases, we've made introductions and facilitated partnerships.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
This project weaves the arts into community development. For example, one of the current projects will engage community members in creating two mosaic benches as part of a larger street beautification project in a blighted neighborhood. New trees will be planted and a community garden created.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
So many from the Animating Democracy website. The Laundromat Project in NY, the Open Space project of the Walker Art Center etc.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The project was born from budget cuts and the elimination of a Community Program Manager position. We wanted to continue our community engagement work in the absence of a staff person. The board was asked to allocate $10,000 toward the initiative. The executive director developed the RFP with staff input and the program was launched.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
We expected to refine the RFP after the first round, but there was no need.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
In year one, there were only minor obstacles (weather for outdoor projects). In one case, the timeline had to be adjusted.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
We rescheduled projects when needed.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Do it!
2. Be prepared to discuss & possibly refine projects. Some artists have fabulous ideas, but may need to scale back projects that are overly ambitious.
3. Select a variety of projects that employ different arts disciplines, types of target audiences etc.
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?
So far, the impact has been small, but we need much more of this type of activity.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
The projects we funded met our goal, so we consider it successful. We just need more money to fund even more projects.
How did you measure this success or progress?
We expected final reports from each of the organizations or artists funded. Projects were documented, received media attention, and most importantly impacted those individuals who were engaged in creative activity.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
One project worked with students at six different high schools. At each school a group of students chose an environmental or social justice theme for painting a recycled oil barrel. One school selected the theme of gun violence. Their can was displayed with the others at City Hall, where it was noticed and appreciated by the mayor. Ultimately, the oil can was used as the receptacle for a gun "buy back" program run by the police department last summer.
CCX Workshop Handout