ZUMIX was honored at The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) Creative Economy Awards on June 7 as part of the New England-wide Creative Communities Exchange held in Montpelier, VT. Three awards were presented along with a $2,500 unrestricted prize to each.
“These awardees are selected for their clear community development strategies and outcomes, deep collaboration, and innovative use of local assets” said NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards as she addressed the over 250 participants at the closing session. “We are proud to have this work in our region, and want to celebrate their success to date, encourage them to continue, and hold them up as examples for other communities around New England.”
The first award was presented by Todd Trebour of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to the Steel Yard to recognize the exceptional leadership and cumulative work of the organization on behalf of Providence – and Rhode Island’s – creative economy. Founded in 2001 as an industrial arts center in the outskirts of Providence, the Steel Yard has grown into a 3.8-acre campus that includes a craft school, a manufacturing studio, and an outdoor community venue. They also bring their inclusive design and public art process to other communities, training local artists and championing fair pay for creative work. They are a quintessential example of the community pride and economic impact that result when hard working artists bring people together to learn and to craft beautiful objects.
The second award was presented by Karen Mittelman of the Vermont Arts Council to Burlington City Arts to recognize the exceptional leadership and cumulative work of the organization on behalf of Burlington – and Vermont’s – creative economy. Established in 1981 by Mayor Bernie Sanders as the all-volunteer Mayor’s Arts Council, Burlington City Arts as it’s now known, has evolved from a festival organizer into a crucial city department that keeps the arts at the center of Burlington’s life. BCA has done it all when it comes to arts-based community development; one of the first departments in the nation to be designated as cultural planner, they integrate the arts into planning for economic development, education, and urban design. They have renovated and manage city facilities like Contois Auditorium, Memorial Auditorium, and the Firehouse, now known as the BCA Center. They continue to produce and partner on events large and small, but also manage exhibitions, educational programs, calls for artists, art sales, and other artist resources, including all the public art they help facilitate.
The third award was presented by Luis Cotto of the Massachusetts Cultural Council for Constelación de Historias, a community storytelling project of ZUMIX, a youth development, arts, and creative technology organization in East Boston, MA. Constelación de Historias was born out of a need to gather community voices around the crucial issue of gentrification in East Boston. Constelación de Historias used the ZUMIX Radio platform and partnerships with local advocacy groups and youth journalists to produce radio stories and events that gave a voice to local citizens during the City of Boston’s comprehensive planning process for East Boston. Project elements included an Audio Challenge to teach teams of youth and adults the elements of an audio story; a Block Party to share the collected stories through art installations, a Sound Walk that mapped these stories along crucial spaces undergoing change, and a Story Loft of live storytelling, performance, and zine making, all live broadcast in Spanish on ZUMIX radio.