ECCF, MVPC Welcome New Merrimack Valley Arts & Culture Specialist

Nov 8, 2023Arts & Culture, Feature Story

ECCF, MVPC Welcome New Merrimack Valley Arts & Culture Specialist
Haverhill resident Jenny Arndt to lead critical efforts to strengthen the creative sector
One month into her new Merrimack Valley Arts & Culture Specialist role, Haverhill resident and artist Jenny Arndt has already immersed herself in learning how communities center arts and culture in local development.“Culture, however you define it, is the beating heart of a community. And the arts are one way of pumping the blood,” said Arndt. “I think it’s important for the creatives in the community to have a seat at the table when discussing development and planning to keep the things that make a community livable at the forefront. Arts and culture should never be an afterthought.”
Her new role, a one-year pilot position, was created through a collaboration between Creative County at Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC). ECCF seeks to strengthen the creative sector of Essex County with a collaborative approach to ecosystem building and support; MVPC is looking to increase local capacity to create vibrant town and city centers and communities that are safe, healthy, inclusive, diverse, and accessible, and offer many natural and cultural opportunities.
“So many of the objectives of Creative County align with the goals of MVPC, and we are thrilled to partner with them to test the impact of this new position,” said Karen Ristuben, program director of ECCF’s Creative County Initiative. “Jenny will play a critical role in developing positive connections across the arts, cultural, municipal, and business sectors of the 15 communities MVPC serves.”MVPC serves Amesbury, Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Methuen, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Rowley, Salisbury and West Newbury.
Arndt will be embedded within the MVPC and responsible for research, data gathering, and analysis, cultivating relationships within the Merrimack Valley arts and culture network and developing positive connections across the arts, cultural, municipal, and business sectors of those 15 communities.“MVPC is thrilled to embark on this new arts and culture initiative, recognizing that arts and culture planning is a fundamental cornerstone of downtown vibrancy and sustainable economic development,” said Jerrard Whitten, executive director of MVPC. “We believe that the creative spirit of a community enriches lives, fosters inspiration, and catalyzes economic growth. With Jenny in this new role, we aim to harness the transformative power of the arts to create a more vibrant, inclusive, and economically prosperous region for all.”
Arndt, a painter, muralist, and arts educator, is Creative Haverhill’s former arts and culture coordinator. This nonprofit supports Haverhill arts and culture and provides experiences and access at the intersection of art, culture, and community. She also served as the campaign director of Haverhill Promise, a cross-sector education collaboration
.“So much of Jenny’s experience is rooted in cross-sector collaboration, and we are excited to see the creativity and innovation she brings to this role,” said Ristuben.ECCF is also eager to test how the foundation can better engage with the community.“This will be a great learning experience for us over the next year,” said ECCF Executive Vice President and COO Stratton Lloyd.Arndt said the people she’s met and the discussions she’s had have been the most valuable part of the first month of her new work.“What I’m super excited about as I go out into the community is reaching out to the different organizations, the different artists who don’t normally have a seat at the table,” said Arndt. “There are so many ways the planning world and the art world overlap, and I think we will find that uniting the two will be mutually beneficial. It’s going to be a great year.”