Regional Cultural Assessments
The NW CT Arts Council has conducted and published 2 Regional Cultural Assessments - one in 2004 and one in 2014. These studies have helped guide the Arts Council's mission and have directed our priorities from our inception onward.
Since the first Report was published in 2004, the NW CT Arts Council added the towns of Plymouth, Roxbury and Burlington to its service area. Many other programs and services were put in place, and so there was much more to reflect upon regarding the Arts Council's role in the region for the Cultural Assessment that was published in 2014.
You may view the FULL NW CT Cultural Assessment Report 2013-14 FINAL.
Below are excerpts from the Executive Summary of the 2013-14 NW CT Cultural Assessment Report, which you may also download HERE.
You may also view the full 2004 Cultural Assessment Report .
Northwest Connecticut Arts Council
CULTURAL ASSESSMENT REPORT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
After 10 years serving the area, the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council invited people from all sectors of the region and surround towns to “Tell US Like It Is” regarding the current state of the cultural environment in the region. This was done so that the Arts Council might better understand the needs of the cultural community, the views of the general public in all sectors.
The Key Issues identified that respondents felt needed to be addressed are:
- Promotion of the region’s cultural resources, offerings, and events (via marketing and regional events)
- Coordination and nurturing of collaborative efforts (events, marketing, operational services, opportunities)
- Implementation of support services to artists and cultural businesses (networking, workshops/seminars, advocacy, guidance/consulting)
- Increase of access to funding
In order for northwest Connecticut to improve the environment and the level of success for the region’s cultural community overall, that community needs to share a vision of what an environment that supports success would look like and then work toward that in various ways. From the responses to this survey, the Arts Council has interpreted the responses, and proposes that the environment would:
- have a growing number of people who value the impact of arts and heritage within our community and its impact on the various sectors of the region’s population
- have a growing number of people who have a pronounced awareness of and participation in the various cultural offerings throughout the region
- have a growing number of individuals and representatives from all sectors of the public invest in the cultural community as customers, funders, volunteers and more
- have a community that attracts new residents, businesses and visitors for reasons that include the strength of the cultural community’s contribution to the region
- have a cultural community that believes in and invests in itself through positive interaction on many levels
To improve the environment for a successful cultural sector in our region, the recommendations to address the Key Issues identified through this survey are as follows:
1. Promotion: Position the cultural businesses, artists, and the various cultural events and programs whereby more residents and visitors, and even the cultural community itself, are engaged and participating more frequently, more broadly, and more regularly.
- Greater awareness within the cultural community about its own assets, efforts, and activities. This is valuable in order to increase the attention that these entities receive from the public. Greater awareness will build the combined effort for attention: reinforce each other’s efforts through cross promotion, avoid duplication, encourage collaboration, etc. How do we increase awareness in this sector: networking, round table conversations, encouraging utilization of the Arts Council as a central source of information and a resource for gathering together on neutral ground?
- Build on successful regional promotional vehicles for the region’s cultural events and activities and resources/assets, and discover/develop new effective vehicles for promotion to be used by the Arts Council and shared with/introduced to our cultural constituents and other regional partners in various sectors, particularly the media, tourism, business sectors and municipalities. How – Evaluate the currently used vehicles promotional value. Collaboratively use those successful vehicles i.e. share use of, cross promotion, and avoiding duplication will build upon the currently used valuable promotional vehicles. Broaden the use by the Arts Council, various regional organizations, and the region’s cultural sector of new vehicles for promotion, such as social media, and other methods that emerge.
NOTE: Although the Arts Council seeks to provide a central source of information regarding Events and Cultural Resources, opportunities and activities for the region, other attempts to provide such things as events calendars, artist directories, etc. have emerged regularly within the region over the years. Although other organizations and town-centered websites use the Arts Council’s calendar, the Council needs to reach out to offer this tool for their use. Also, the Arts Council must embrace the fact that efforts to “recreate the wheel” will likely continue and should examine how to react to these duplications of services.
2. Coordinate and nurture collaborative efforts in order to broaden the reach and build greater awareness of recognition of the impact that arts and heritage have throughout all sectors of our population.
- Partnerships: Done in the right way, collaborative efforts can increase the number of stakeholders involved in the success of a venture. It can also address the commonly experienced lack of manpower for events, projects, shared services, and activities. How can the Arts Council nurture collaborative efforts: provide guidance and templates for successful partnerships, model this by being a partner in some instances, and introduce potential partners to one another?
- Marketing: Co-operative marketing can both conserve financial resources and provide a larger presence in the media. How - the Arts Council has begun, and can expand, co-op advertising in print and radio media, and can explore how this can be done on other marketing platforms as well (magazines, online ads, social media ads). We can also work more closely with the tourism bureau, jointly, to see what can be achieved collaboratively through their promotional efforts. Additional ways to market the region’s cultural assets efficiently and cost-effectively need to be explored through Council hosted Round Table discussions as well as through other avenues.
- Events: Collaborative events that feature multiple artists, multiple cultural organizations, and/or multiple cultural venues can potentially bring greater attention to a venture and to the region overall. It can also generate broader buy-in, ownership and pride throughout the community. How - It is important that collaborative events be well planned, that the partnerships be authentic (fully engaged partners), marketed effectively, appeal to a broad audience and feel inclusive. The Arts Council has observed that having a central, coordinating entity for such efforts positively impacts the chance for success. The Arts Council can be available to help guide the initial set up of collaborative events, or provide a Peer Advisor Network consultant to help for such efforts.
3. Implement support services to artists and cultural businesses in order to build the capacity of individual arts and cultural businesses/organizations to succeed.
- Networking avenues allow those working in the field to periodically connect to one another and gather so that they are informed about area-wide matters as well as what colleagues in the field are dealing with, and then relate this information to what they are doing. These networking opportunities can be specific to the disciple or field, or be cross sector – all of which can potentially benefit those involved. How – The Arts Council will continue to offer, and hopefully increase, the annual CultureMIX events which are open to those involved in the cultural community at any level. The Round Table conversations, which are usually interest- or discipline-specific, were started again in 2013, and the Council has several scheduled for 2014, with the intention of continuing them as those in the field wish. These Round Tables offer an opportunity for those with common interests throughout the region to share information and brainstorm about common issues, with the neutral party in the form of the Arts Council facilitating. The Council can also encourage more cross sector networking, by informing the field about such opportunities.
- Workshops/Seminars – For both individuals and organization representatives in the arts and heritage fields, workshops and seminars help increase their capacity to be successful in their cultural businesses. How - The Arts Council, in addition to other resources in the region and the state, provide these. The Arts Council specifically offers workshops and seminars in response to needs expressed by their constituents and needs that have been observed by Council staff and board. We also pass along other opportunities for webinars, workshops and other learning opportunities to our constituents via our weekly e-blasts and our website. The challenge comes with hosting these sessions with limited funding and manpower resources. This can be addressed through collaboration and fundraising.
- Guidance and Consulting – Often individuals and/or cultural businesses fine the need for expertise in a area foreign to them or for a fresh perspective for a challenge they face, and outside guidance by someone with knowledge and training in the field or the specific challenge can meet those needs. Addressing such issues can be the key to more fully developing a venture or enabling it to more fully realize its potential. How – there are various resources within our region and the state that can be drawn upon for this, including SCORE, the Women’s Enterprise Initiative, and others. The Arts Council provides guidance in response to requests from constituents, and when instances call for more in-depth work for an organization, Connecticut’s Peer Advisor Network program (short-term, affordable consulting) is offered through the Council’s office. The Council can do more by making constituents more aware of the resources available to them.
- Advocacy – It is vital that constituents understand their role in advocating for their organizations and for the health and success of their field. They need to know that advocacy can make a different in funding, in their business environment, the economy, and more. How – The Arts Council is currently an active partner with the CT Arts Alliance, and stays informed of various issues via the CT Association for Nonprofits, Americans for the Arts, the Northwest CT Chamber of Commerce and other sources. The Council should continue to share this information with its constituents via the ebalsts, but should explore doing more to educate about advocacy, either via workshops or Round Tables.
4. Increase access to funding – in our rural region where, comparatively, that are fewer large corporations that have the ability to contribute significantly and consistently to nonprofits, the need for funds remains very competitive. The limited funding sources curtail the development of certain organizations.
- Government Funding: On the state-level, the Arts Council and its constituents can advocate strategically for increased funding for culture overall, and for more funding opportunities to be directed to our region. How – The Council may want to explore ways of unifying the advocacy voice within the region, via “how to advocate” sessions, presentations explaining the ins and outs of our state’s budgeting and appropriations process, and through Round Tables.
- Building the Case for Funding: Often, constituents are not aware of how to obtain funding or how to present a convincing proposal. Each time they successfully approach businesses and foundations for support, they strengthen the fabric of philanthropy throughout the region. How - The Arts Council can continue to explore various ways to gather data (attendance, socioeconomic, economic impact, etc.) that supports the case for funding culture in our region. The Council can also help make accessible the types of workshops and seminars that will strengthen the ability of constituents to write strong grants and build their own cases for support.
- Opportunities: Although our region has fewer large corporate donors than more urban areas, there are some non-local sources and alternative funding methods, such as crowd-sourcing. How - The Arts Council currently shares information it receives about funding opportunities via e-blasts and social media posts. Opportunities for traditional and nontraditional funding could be more actively researched. There may also be better forums to more effectively share this information and/or the ways to unearth this information. This effort may be something that can be realized through volunteer help. The encouragement of more collaborative projects may also open up additional grant opportunities to constituents. The Council could also further explore the possibility of being involved in re-granting on behalf of the State or other funders.