A National Network of Creative Community Fellows

April 3, 2018

By: National Arts Strategies

Across New England, there are creative people working to make their communities better for everyone. Creative Community Fellows links artists, community organizers, urban planners, arts administrators and cultural entrepreneurs across New England, creating a community of practice that holds Fellows accountable and helps them take their work to the next level. All are united by their integration of arts and culture into positive community change strategies. Fellows are driven by their desire to connect and exchange with one another and a love for the places they call home. Does this sound like you? Applications for Creative Community Fellows: New England are now open. Deadline is April 22 - Join the community. 

Fellows jump-start the program by living and learning together for one week in Vermont in an incubator-like environment building their skills in strategy, leadership and design thinking. Over the course of five months, they take monthly online courses in topic areas such as community development, finding capital and support, budgeting and more. Together, they share updates on their projects and meet with leaders in the field who serve as mentors. Fellows test, adapt, and build on their work, walking away with clarity and a strategy to move forward.

This program began as a national initiative. Over the four years it has been running, NAS noticed that Fellows who are clustered in the same geographic location tend to form collaborations and offer peer support even after the conclusion of their program cycle. Focusing on New England will support Fellows in building strong regional connections. They will go on to join a national network of Creative Community Fellows alumni.

New England is a diverse region, including rural, urban and suburban communities. Fellows will benefit from hearing the range of perspectives represented within the cohort – unlocking potential solutions to the community issues they are addressing. Together, they will form a network of support as each one makes a shift towards positive community change.

In the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, there is a lack of studio space for artists, despite the number of creatives that call this place home. Allentza Michel (2016-17 Fellow) and her team at Powerful Pathways are using the entire neighborhood as a canvas, literally. By pairing artists and designers with residents, they are working to transform intersections that need cross walks, parking spots that might be parklets, old pay phones that sit untouched and dusty, to re-brand Mattapan and revitalize the community. At the end of 2017, Allentza and her team at Powerful Pathways received a Love Your Block award in the Arts and Beautification category from the City of Boston for their work founding Mattapan Open Streets/Open Studios, and launching Mattapan Open Studios, in partnership with many artists, individuals and organizations.

Katy Moonan (2014-15 Fellow) shares that Holyoke, Massachusetts is a gateway city bursting with its potential for growth as much as with its limitations when it comes to a healthy partnership between community, culture and economy. The city suffers from unemployment, segregation, gang violence, a struggling school system and a feeling of isolation. Katy brings together the craft of weaving, ESOL classes, literacy training and employment opportunities to create community while fostering creative and economic growth. What began as a program from immigrant parents in Holyoke Public Schools in 2013 transformed into a community weaving project known as Tejo Holyoke in just a year. In 2016, the project was fully incorporated into a 501c3 non-profit social enterprise known as ArteSana. In 2017, Katy and her team purchased and opened their first store front space where they host weaving workshops, ESOL and job readiness support classes as well as have a small retail area selling pillows and other products made by women in the community from discarded T-shirts.

Creative change-makers like Allentza and Katy are driving transformation across the region alongside local partners. Creative Community Fellows brings these cultural trailblazers together, to be part of something bigger, to learn life-changing skills and to see dreams become reality.  Meet the alumni here.

If you are creating positive change through arts in culture in your New England community; If you are looking for a community of practice and ready to contribute your skills; If you are curious, open and collaborative; Learn more about Creative Community Fellows and apply by April 22, 2018.



Creative Community Fellows is the result of the incredible support from The Barr Foundation