Creative Catalysts: Essex County

Creative Catalysts:

Essex County

September 25, 2019

Over the years, ArtWeek has been fortunate to have so many individual and organizations champion arts, culture, and creativity in their communities across the state. To help shine a spotlight on their collective efforts, ArtWeek will be featuring them in this “Creative Catalysts” series.


ArtWeek spoke with Karen Ristuben, Program Director for the Creative County Initiative of the Essex Country Community Foundation. With support of the Barr Foundation, they are hosting 2019 Essex County Arts and Culture Summit on Friday, September 27. Learn more about the Creative Community Initiative and how you can connect with other creatives and cultural champions in this thriving region!

April 13, 2018. Beverly, MA. 2018 Essex County Arts and Culture Summit. © 2018 Marilyn Humphries

What do you hope attendees will learn about by attending the summit? 

[Karen Ristuben] Attendees will learn how the field of creative place-making has evolved and is now embedded in community and economic development across the country; how Boston’s Cultural Plan has formed the basis for new sources of funding and cultural development across the city; how ideas around diversity, equity, and inclusion strengthen and expand the reach and impact of creative organizations; what constitutes effective cross-sector collaboration and how it can work to accomplish a major community project; and how ECCF’s Creative County Initiative and the Barr Foundation will be investing in this work over the coming years.

What role do think arts, culture, and creativity play in the economic and community fabric of Essex County? 

Where do I start? There is extensive data that shows the direct economic effects of arts, culture and creativity in our communities. The creative sector is one of the fastest-growing nationally and employers value “creativity” more than any other quality of leadership. But the quality of life measures are much more important: arts and cultural experiences make us more connected and civilized, more human, more empathetic, and they give our communities life and soul to make them where we want to put down roots.


Are there examples of what is happening in Essex County that get you excited about the potential impact of the Creative County Initiative? 

All 12 of our public art and placemaking projects are exciting examples of what this kind of investment can create for our communities, and all for different reasons: finding new relationships and meaning across community boundaries; activating public spaces for public discourse; investing in creative youth skills and confidence for the workforce; bridging cultures and building cultural awareness; and fostering a sense of community pride. Each one made creative works more visible, more valued, and more supported by the business, philanthropic, and town leaders of the host communities.

 What synergies do you see between ArtWeek and the short term and long term goals of the Creative County Initiative? 

It seems that as ArtWeek grows, more connections will be made within and between the arts communities across Massachusetts. Connectivity and collaboration are key elements of the Creative County Initiative.  Over the long term, CCI will build strength across the arts, government, and private sectors to sustain new systems of support for creative people, places, programs, resources, funding, and leadership. The visibility of ArtWeek programs will help us tell the stories of how a collective impact approach amplifies our shared goals.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share? 

Come to the Summit and make yourself known as part of our growing creative web here in Essex County!

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