State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development/CT Office of the Arts

Funding Received: 2013
Multiple, CT
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
September 16, 2014

By Rod Frantz

To date, over thirty storefronts, six buildings, and two arcades have been activated in Bridgeport, Torrington, New London, and Sandy Hook¬¬—and we’re still counting. Each offers a unique lesson on the collaboration between artists, property owners, and municipalities.

CreateHereNow (CHN) has helped generate over $100,000 in income for Connecticut artists through it’s spin off initiatives: The State of Makers (SOM), $30,000+; EnvisionFest, $12,000+; LAMP (Light Artists Making Places), $25,000; IMPACT (Imagine Mixing Percussive Artforms CT), $2,000; and combined storefront programs, $30,000+.

New London's "Bike New London" storefront New London's "Bike New London" storefront[/caption]

Momentum has outpaced our staffing, so placemaking groups are forming meet-ups on their own initiative in four municipalities: Bridgeport, New London, Derby/Shelton, and Clinton—furthering the notion that CT is a State of Placemakers! Local youth are taking leadership roles, as “CHN Emerging Leaders,” in several of our communities. A recent example is the need for a skate park and places where youth can activate spaces in their downtowns, bridging the separated neighborhoods of our colleges and downtowns. These young people attended local CHN meetings, were identified and mentored by CHN staff, and are now exercising leadership roles in their communities.

New London's Siobhan, aka The Eyeglass Lass New London's Siobhan, aka The Eyeglass Lass[/caption]

Recent Wins
In Bridgeport, fourteen new arts and creative services offices will launch in the formerly underutilized, historic McLevy Hall building as the result of the CHN Space Xchange Project.

In New London, ten new storefront spaces will launch on September 27th with a citywide celebration including music, hand made goods, guerilla dining, and light installations.

Regional offices of the Connecticut Small Business Development Center have announced their intention to work with entrepreneurs in New London and Bridgeport to help build their business skills at no cost. The School of Business at Southern Connecticut State University wants to partner with CreateHereNow/The Space Xchange Project in Bridgeport to extend their internship program and foster an ongoing relationship.

A great outcome of our work has been the dedication of funds for access and engagement across the state for populations that do not have access to creative pursuits and/or connections to creative communities. The best placemaking harnesses the creative energies of all possible cultural contributors.

New London's Pam Natale in the State of Makers storefront. New London's Pam Natale in the State of Makers storefront.[/caption]

Recently, one of our Storefront initiatives—actually an entire building with several artists, an arts organization, and a theatre company—came to an end after a year of learning and collaboration. It’s one thing to envision an artist community in one building and another thing altogether to actually undertake developing this sort of collective. In this type of project, managing the personalities of the players and their expectations are critical to success. From the beginning, the path of the project needs to be mapped out with a Plan B in place.

In a surprise turn of events, the property owner wanted to raise the rent to an unmanageable number for the collective. This occurred as the result of a courthouse moving across the street and the property owner seeing new profitability for the space resulting from that relocation. This property owner benefited from the building clean up and use, and the project enjoyed subsidized rent for a year.

In the end all agreed there were many lessons learned about developing a collective, leveraging local support, and fostering tourism. Several of the initiatives will carry on in an abbreviated fashion. We now realize that if we had a Developer-in-Residence to help our arts organizations navigate real estate issues, it might well have been a different outcome. We’ve learned that in the future, providing real estate 101 coaching could greatly benefit our placemaking community.

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