ECCF Announces Next Cohort of Creative County ChangeMakers

Mar 4, 2023Arts & Culture, Press Release

Danvers, MA — Since 2021, Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) has graduated 22 artists, nonprofit and municipal leaders from its Creative County ChangeMakers program, an immersive leadership support program that fosters their roles as creative leaders building a more inclusive and sustainable arts and culture ecosystem in Essex County.

Participants of the program have connected, formed partnerships and leveraged ChangeMakers grants to seed impactful arts and cultural projects across Essex County.

Beginning March 30, a new cohort of participants – hailing from eight different communities across Essex County – will spend the next eight months immersed in facilitated and project-based learning, peer networking and leadership trainings. This collaborative learning will be facilitated by ECCF’s Creative County Program Director Karen Ristuben and Lisa Miller-Gillespie, president of the Lawrence Festival of the Arts, who is a graduate of the 2022 ChangeMakers program.

“We are incredibly excited about this new cohort of ChangeMakers,” said Ristuben. “Not just for their individual passion and advocacy for arts and culture, but also because we’re adding some really strong leaders to a growing network that understands the importance and power of thinking regionally and strategically about the ecosystem.”

The 2023 ChangeMakers are:

Mitch Ahern, Trustee, G.A.R. Hall and Museum, Lynn

Cynthia August, President, Ipswich Art Association; Chair, Ipswich Cultural Council

Julie Barry, Senior Planner for Arts & Culture, Planning & Community Development, Salem

Edwin Cabrera, Chair, Lynn Hip Hop Wall of Fame; Founder, Lynn Music Foundation

Marisa Chaurest, Adjunct Faculty Fellow, Northern Essex Community College

Otto de la Cruz, Independent Artist, Lawrence

Kelsey Duran, Owner, KDuran Studios, Lawrence

Jerry Johnson, Chair, Theatre Department, Salem State University

Jennifer Loiselle, Chair, Methuen Cultural Council

Vanessa Lopez, Director, Veasey Memorial Park, Groveland

Erin Padilla, Executive Director, Creative Haverhill; Cogswell ArtsSpace, Haverhill

Jess Yurwitz, Founder and Owner, Slow River Studio, Topsfield

“I am excited to co-lead the 2023 cohort as we have an amazing group of people who will no doubt take the mission of ChangeMakers and expand upon it,” said Miller-Gillespie.

Miller-Gillespie added that as a 2022 cohort member, she found ChangeMakers to be an educational, eye-opening and enriching experience, and that she felt supported at a time when, as an artist and nonprofit founder, she felt isolated.

“Being a part of ChangMakers introduced me to other creatives who I learned from and developed ties with to increase the connectivity of artists in Essex County,” she said.

ChangeMakers, like much of ECCF’s work, is rooted in a collaborative process of local and regional ecosystem building and connecting people with diverse perspectives and different backgrounds.

“Building this interconnected system is critical to solving challenges holistically and leveraging new opportunities equitably,” said Stratton Lloyd, ECCF’s vice president and COO. “This growing network of innovative thinkers will help to form the foundation for more resilient and sustainable communities.”

For more information on the work of Creative County, visit