Arts gets a boost

The year is off to a good clip but it is worth pausing and taking note of fantastic news unveiled Wednesday about the North Shore’s arts community.

The Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) announced by press release plans to “spearhead the first ever comprehensive countywide effort to elevate arts and culture in our region.”

The arts initiative, according to the release, will include a $750,000 investment over a two-year period in local arts and culture organizations in communities ranging from just outside Boston to the New Hampshire line and Route 128.

The initiative is great news because it represents a concerted effort to put a significant investment behind the principle that arts and culture can translate into economic benefits for communities.

The initiative’s driving force is the Barr Foundation, a $1.7 billion philanthropic foundation committed, the release stated, to “advancing the arts statewide through local community foundations.”

Why is this effort so important? Arts and culture are not stodgy words dripping with exclusivity. They are community crossroads and gateways to enhancing downtowns, involving youth in creative activities and breaking down isolation that keeps seniors and other residents in communities from the full participation in life they deserve.

Arts and culture cross ethnic, language and geographic boundaries in an age when mobile technology and information erases borders and frames human differences as unexplored possibilities.

ECCF and Barr are enhancing arts’ potential to be a catalyst for change at the local level by awarding $500,000 over the next two years to municipalities, businesses and artists working, the release said, “collaboratively with nonprofit organizations on public art and creative placemaking projects.”

ECCF also plans to host annual arts and culture summits to, according to the release, “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 at The Cabot in Beverly. April is also when Online Arts Hub, EssexCountyCreates.org will launch an artists’ and organizations’ event promotion site.

The release said an Essex County Cultural Plan takes into consideration “community’s values, heritage and common vision” in proposing ways to connect the county’s 34 communities.

Arts and culture is already bringing new vitality to Lynn’s downtown and to the once-dark Chevalier Theatre. Public art has become a Peabody Square staple and on Broadway in Revere.

Art is already strengthening communities and bolstering their economies across the North Shore. ECCF and Barr have joined forces on an initiative that will give individual communities, artists and organizations much-needed support and allow resources and ideas to be exchanged.

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