Lights, History, Agriculture! ECCF Funds Six New Public Art Projects

Feb 12, 2021Arts & Culture, News & Announcements, Press Release

Merrimack Valley photographers, writers and people seeking calm have probably found themselves at some point on the edge of the Spicket River in Methuen, where Essex County’s only natural waterfall – which once powered 19th century textile mills – drops 100 feet and tumbles over a bed of rocks on its way to the Merrimack in Lawrence.


It’s a place where industry, history and nature converge. And by summer 2021, the Falls will also be home to a dazzling display of vivid colors and hydro-powered lights designed by local artists to bring new life to this celebrated treasure.


“Light the Falls” – headed by nonprofit Methuen Arts – is just one of six new collaborative public art and creative placemaking projects being funded by Essex County Community Foundation’s Creative County Initiative (CCI). Launched in 2018 through a partnership with the Barr Foundation, CCI is designed – through a variety of facets – to elevate arts, culture and the creative economy in Essex County. The six new projects will join an already impressive list of CCI-funded public art projects that have successfully mobilized collaborations of nonprofits, artists, municipalities and local businesses to transform their communities through art.


“ECCF is incredibly thrilled to fund these additional projects, which merge creativity, collaboration and ingenuity into something that can unite the entire community,” said ECCF President and CEO Beth Francis. “Our first round of grantees proved that these projects are invaluable to improving the health, vibrancy and connectedness of our cities and towns and we’re excited to expand this to additional Essex County communities.”


The first round of grantees touched 14 Essex County cities and towns; these additional grantees will impact many more.


“The idea of creating a space where anyone and everyone can access art and culture is paramount to our vision for Essex County,” said CCI Program Director Karen Ristuben. “And bringing together all of the different sectors to create that opportunity, makes it a vision that is sustainable for the future.”


“We were really inspired by these new collaborations, which have not only designed innovative, creative plans to bring people together through art and culture but have also managed to persevere through COVID-19,” added Ristuben.


ECCF’s 2021 Public Art and Creative Placemaking Grantees, listed in alphabetical order by the leading nonprofit partner:  


Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards and Thomas Starr, public artist, $20,000 for Remembrances of Climate Futures, a multi-site series of public art plaques documenting the history of climate change from a future date in the 21st century.


Backyard Growers, $25,000 for Agri-Culture, a project that will use storytelling, multimedia arts and a participatory design process to create dynamic spaces in and around the community garden at Willowood, a low-income housing development in Gloucester.


Beyond Walls, $25,000 for Taking Classroom to the Streets, which will use existing large-scale works of public art in Lynn as the foundation for a cross-curricular educational experience for students to connect art with history, identity, culture, community and civic engagement.


LuminArtz, $25,000 for Centuries in the Making, which brings the iconic fishermen’s and fishermen’s’ wives’ memorial statues in Gloucester to life through art technology and sound effects.


Methuen Arts, $25,000, for Light the Falls, a visual display of color and hydro-powered lights designed by local artists that brings new life to the historic Spicket River Falls in Methuen.


North Shore CDC/Punto Urban Art Museum, $25,000 for Casa de Abuela, an experiential exhibit that connects art with the immigrant residents of the Point neighborhood in Salem through an immersive experience that mimics a Dominican “Grandma’s House.”


“Many of these installations will also include public events that further engage the community through storytelling, live performance art, concerts and more,” said Ristuben. Events will be publicized on, an online hub for arts and culture in the region developed by ECCF.


In addition to these full-scale public art installations, ECCF has also awarded three special project grants to:

  • Exposed Brick Literary Magazine in Lawrence,
  • 2019 CCI grantee, Iluminacion Lawrence
  • and Switch Rideable ArtScape, a 2019 CCI-funded project located in Ipswich.


For more information on ECCF’s work in art and culture, please visit


About ECCF

The mission of Essex County Community Foundation is to inspire philanthropy that strengthens the communities of Essex County. We do this by managing charitable assets, strengthening and supporting nonprofits and engaging in strategic community leadership. Since 1998, ECCF and its family of 250 charitable funds have granted $85 million to nonprofits, schools and students in Essex County and beyond. Our ultimate goal is to have 34 thriving cities and towns in Essex County and to improve the quality of life for the region’s nearly 800,000 residents. Learn more at