Essex County Creative Economy to Get Boost from State Grant

Apr 21, 2021Arts & Culture, COVID-19 News, News & Announcements, Press Release

ECCF-led virtual platform will distribute and promote region’s digital creative content

Essex County’s cultural organizations and artists will soon have a powerful tool to aid in their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a $230,000 grant from the state’s Regional Pilot Project Grant Program.


Essex County Community Foundation – in collaboration with area nonprofits and businesses – is using the funds to develop and maintain a centralized system that will distribute and promote the digital creative content produced by artists and arts and culture organizations from across Essex County. This new platform, an extension of – a regional online arts hub developed as part of ECCF’s Creative County Initiative (CCI) – will host and broadcast concerts, theater productions, classes, exhibits and much more.


“This type of tool is so critical to the economic recovery of our local artists and cultural organizations, especially the smaller ones without the budget or resources to distribute and promote digital content on their own,” said CCI Program Director Karen Ristuben. “Our hope is to help create a level playing field that will allow everyone in Essex County’s creative economy to rise and thrive together.”


The ECCF grant is just one of 37 grants totaling $5 million awarded by the Baker-Polito administration to support recovery solutions tailored to the specific economic needs of individual regions across the Commonwealth and fund projects that uniquely address local concerns.


“These grants will empower recipients to leverage their own local expertise to tailor recovery strategies that support the unique needs of each region of Massachusetts,” said Governor Charlie Baker.


A March 8, 2021 report released by the Mass Cultural Council revealed that Massachusetts nonprofit and municipal arts and cultural organizations experienced an overwhelming $588,334,079 loss in revenue since March 2020. The Commonwealth’s working creatives – individual artists, teaching artists and scientists/humanists – cite $30,403,616 in lost personal income due to the pandemic. Regionally, 2.3% of jobs are in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector (well above the state’s rate of 1.9%), indicating that Essex County’s creative economy has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.


“So many of our local artists and cultural nonprofits were operating on shoestring budgets before the pandemic and now we’re in real danger of losing some of what makes Essex County so unique and vibrant,” said ECCF President and CEO Beth Francis. “This grant will go a long way in helping us to lift up our region’s creative economy and we are so grateful to the Baker-Polito administration for this support.”


In addition to distributing and promoting creative content, Essex County’s new virtual platform aims to contribute to the recovery of the region’s creative economy by expanding digital audiences and patrons for artists, nonprofits and cultural groups and enabling gig and creative workers to monetize their work.


Spotlight Playhouse in Lawrence, which participated in testing the digital distribution channel in December, experienced a 16% increase in viewership of their holiday cabaret.


“We’ve already seen some very tangible results, and this grant will give many of Essex County’s artists and creative organizations the opportunity to experience that same type of economic gain,” said Ristuben.


The Regional Pilot Project Grant Program grant awards were made according to several factors, including an ability to demonstrate a collaborative approach on strategies to support recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis. ECCF, which leverages the power of collaboration for much of its work in Essex County’s 34 cities and towns, is the only community foundation to receive a grant.

“Partnerships have been key to the success of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan, and the Regional Pilot Project Grant Program is one more way for the state to support and encourage the kind of collaboration that will lead to economic recovery, resiliency, and growth,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. “In order to ensure an equitable and full recovery in every region of Massachusetts, our administration will continue to embrace locally-driven initiatives to address the challenges and unlock the opportunities that will usher in a ‘new normal’ that benefits all communities and residents.”


Essex County Creates/Virtual is expected to launch later this spring.

View a map of all prior and current CCI Partnership Grants and Special Project Grants.