Arts and Culture to receive a big boost in Essex County | Press Release

Jan 30, 2018Arts & Culture, Press Release

ECCF partners with the Barr Foundation to make $750,000 investment in our Creative County

Danvers, MA— Essex County Community Foundation announced today that it will spearhead the first ever comprehensive countywide effort to elevate arts and culture in our region.

ECCF’s Creative County Initiative, a partnership with the Barr Foundation – a $1.7 billion private foundation based in Boston – is a chance to increase the vibrancy of Essex County cities and towns by investing in the transformative power of arts and culture.

“Arts and culture are such a big part of who we are in Essex County,” said ECCF President and CEO Dave Edwards. “When the Barr Foundation presented us with the chance to elevate their importance in our communities, we were thrilled.”

A group of dedicated volunteers guided the creation of the initiative, and a steering committee, led by Program Director Karen Ristuben, is moving it forward.

The Barr Foundation is committed to advancing the arts statewide through local community foundations, which are uniquely positioned to convene groups of people for regional change. ECCF is one of five community foundations across Massachusetts to receive a $500,000 grant through Barr’s Creative Commonwealth initiative. The $500,000 – plus another $250,00 raised by ECCF – will be reinvested into the local arts and culture scene over the next two years in several critical ways:

  • Grants for Planning, Public Art and Creative Place-Making. ECCF will grant a total of $500,000 over the next two years to municipalities, businesses and artists working collaboratively with nonprofit organizations on public art and creative place-making projects. A portion of the grant money will also be used to provide Essex County cities and towns interested in developing cultural plans with toolkits and training.
  • Arts & Culture Summit. ECCF will host an annual countywide summit that will bring together artists, nonprofits, businesses and municipal leaders to learn, connect and collaborate during a full day of meaningful discussion, workshops and learning. The first summit will take place on April 13, 2018 at The Cabot in Beverly, where we will unveil our Creative County grantmaking program.
  • Online Arts Hub. will launch in April 2018 and will allow artists and organizations to promote events and activities directly to the public. The site will also provide critical resources to Essex County’s arts and culture community.
  • Essex County Cultural Plan. A countywide arts and culture plan based on a community’s values, heritage and common vision can have a positive social and economic impact and connect our 34 cities and towns, improving the quality of life in Essex County.

The Creative County Initiative marks a turning point for arts and culture in our region. Imagine an Essex County where artists and nonprofits work together to renovate a creative workspace; where businesses and nonprofits collaborate to install environmental artwork along the river; or where municipal leaders combine efforts with a nonprofit to provide transportation to arts and culture events. Imagine a region where people – all people – are connected to a shared vision for arts and culture. By funding innovative cross-sector collaborations, convening an annual educational summit focused on arts and culture, and including the arts in regional and local community development, ECCF sees Essex County as a place where everyone is included in the cultural fabric of our communities.

“Arts and culture are so vital to us all, not just for individual enrichment, but more importantly to unite communities and our region, to celebrate diversity, to support artists and to bolster our creative economy,” said Edwards. “By investing in the transformative power of arts and culture in all these ways, we are ensuring that Essex County will always be a vibrant, creative place to live and work.”

The Barr Foundation believes that community foundations can – and should – play a vital leadership role in advancing arts and culture.

“Massachusetts is full of creative talent and cultural assets that have the power to bring communities together,” said San San Wong, director of arts and creativity at the Barr Foundation. “Community Foundations are important civic leadership institutions with the potential to bridge that gap, connecting donors who want to make meaningful investments in the places they care about and strengthening the capacity of artists and organizations whose work enlivens communities.”

For more information about ECCF’s Creative County Initiative, and to register for the April 13 Arts & Culture Summit, please visit