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
March 10, 2014

CreateHereNow/New London is fully underway with a new partnership between New London Main Street and CHN. New London marks the third city in Connecticut to adopt a Storefront program, all of which are modeled on the original Project Storefronts New Haven, which developed sustainable creative businesses there and resulted in a zero vacancy rate for that neighborhood.

Bridgeport’s Arcade storefronts, Hartford’s "iConnect project," and now New London’s CreateHereNow program have launched and continue to innovate the Project Storefronts approach gleaned from five years of lessons learned. The goal remains to build a sustainable program that can then be owned by the city stewards of each place.

As a transportation hub on I-95 with ready access to Amtrak trains and a Long Island Ferry Line, our efforts focus on the drive through mentality of commuters currently just passing through. NL/CHN attempts to draw them in to experience this unique city with it’s thriving art/music scene and funky cafes, further fueling it’s recognition and rise as a center of creative innovation by seeding more diverse businesses.

CreateHereNow/New London explores a number of opportunities found within that city:  a number of under utilized storefronts, the city's little known live-work ordnance that enables store operators to inhabit the spaces where their businesses are located, the city's rent-subsidy program, property owners eager to become involved, and a burgeoning arts scene that lead the beginning of New London’s historic preservation efforts since its inception. But the most critical element of all is this unique, seaside community’s historic determination to be recognized as the first place to welcome artists, scientists, creatives and innovators of all types in “the New World” and encouraged them all to become active members of the community.

Uarts is a new program developed by CreateHereNow for arts access across the State. Uarts is made possible by a grant from the NEA and NADC (National Artist with Disabilities Center) at UCLA.

No previous funding existed to serve this population of potential cultural contributors and the underutilized creative work force they represent. Uarts will provide a network of “Supporting Artists” who will aid applicants in exploring and choosing an area of artistic pursuit, visual art, artisan work, materials reuse, up-cycling clothing, furniture and home goods such as rugs and pillows. Each supporting artist/artist team will explore the possibilities available to these underserved creative talents in order to develop creative on ramps to work.

The newest Uarts innovation is a mobile art delivery service and flyer production/marketing unit that employs two artists with disabilities.

We believe this model can transfer to a population in need of employment to establish a better, more productive quality of life. The theme in founding Uarts is “Everyone Makes Places” so let’s make a place that provides creative work for those who do not fit into traditional work roles and have challenges in accessing programs that can support their intrinsic talents.

On March 22nd we launch our INSPIRE conference to inform and educate artists throughout the state on becoming a “Supporting Artist” with Uarts.

The McLevy Hall Space Exchange program has issued applications for creatives and innovators to find space in that historic building in the heart of downtown Bridgeport and we are looking forward to the launch of this new model for a collaborative, co-creative, placemaking center this spring.

With the CreateHereNow Arcade Storefronts literally a block away, the McLevy Hall Space Exchange continues our efforts to create vibrancy in downtown Bridgeport by breathing life back into a formerly vacant building. Our partnerships with the office of Mayor Bill Finch, The Bridgeport Office of Economic Development, The State of Connecticut Historic Preservation Office and other community partners will result in a new destination place in downtown that actively compliments the Arcade Storefronts, creating a new mass of sustainable, creative opportunities in Bridgeport.

IMPACT-Imagine Mixing Percussive Artforms CT, Community Radio Station WPKN 89.5-FMs celebration of our state’s richness of ethnic drum styles and drum circle enthusiasts gets it’s initial launch on February 22nd in the historic lobby of the Arcade Storefronts project in downtown Bridgeport. IMPACT planners and promoters have asked CHN to help introduce them to CHN communities around the state for future percussive celebrations which will culminate in September in Hartford with a Mega Drum Circle performing a ninety minute Percussive Symphony.

Along with New London, the cities of Putnam and Middletown have expressed interest in developing their own CreateHereNow projects and joining the growing networks represented by State of Makers, the artisan makers program that will be traveling to CHN communities this summer.

Deputy Director Kip Bergstrom continues his placemaking conversations with his staff at Kip’s “Chew on This” food for thought, weekly series of BYO lunches in the conference room at 1 Constitution Avenue in Hartford. These robust and far ranging discussions are informed by the writings and lectures of the American psychologist James Hillman, author of Soul and City.

This week’s topic was, “What makes the soul of a place?”

Next week’s discussion centers around the idea that “We need to think outside the box about how we redevelop our mills and their villages.”

Recent press and radio:
Margaret Bodell in a front-page story in the New London paper, The Day.

Rod Frantz on radio station WHUS at UCONN Storrs.