Essex County is part of the Greater Boston area. In the north, it encompasses a large region with 800,000 residents, including towns and cities such as Lynn, Lawrence, Beverly, Salem, Manchester by the Sea, Gloucester, Rockport and Ipswich. The coastline is so beautiful; populated with fishing villages and artist colonies.
Yesterday, representing Voices of the Horizon, I went to Essex County‘s first Arts & Culture Summit for arts organizations, artists, designers, community leaders, town and city planners and business and development leaders. It was presented by the Essex County Community Foundation and the Barr Foundation, and held at the Cabot Theatre and Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. There were about 400 attendees, representing a vibrant, engaged and diverse group of people. The summit was a great success, so well put together and led. I was very impressed from start to finish. As Voices of the Horizon begins its journey in the state of Massachusetts, and particularly in this region, I was able to make some interesting contacts, and above all, see who some of the key players are in the public and private realm, and in the arts and culture fields.
All the speakers were talking about using the arts to build community – to build bridges and break down barriers – and about how vital and valuable the arts are for our social, political, urban and rural landscapes.
Mark Davy and Lillian Hsu (two examples of the outstanding speakers), shared some of their work.
Mark is the founder of Futurecity, a London-based cultural placemaking agency, who “create cultural strategies, broker cultural partnerships and deliver major art projects” (https://futurecity.co.uk). They have incorporated purposeful, meaningful arts into major development projects in London and globally. One of the projects Mark spoke about is, The Illuminated River. It is simply gorgeous. The bridges along the Thames River in London have been individually and artistically lit, creating and illuminating a cultural space for the city, free for all to see. It is shown beautifully on their website.
Lillian is the director of public art and exhibitions for the Cambridge Arts Council (www.cambridgema.gov/arts). She is also doing remarkable work to invigorate and bolster the public arts scene of Cambridge. She spoke about the intrinsic value of art, and how art in the public realm is a social justice issue and should not have to be fought for and justified. She has engaged artists in community work that resonates deeply with the work Voices of the Horizon aspires to do, and that I have done over the years. For example, she has worked with artists and the Cambridge Health Alliance (Golden Shoes Campaign), the educational system (Hoop Suite, an amazing interdisciplinary arts initiative by Anne Myer and Dancers), and intergenerational projects (Arts through the Ages, bringing seniors and teenagers together).
These brief examples highlight the quality of the participants and the quality of the day. It will be very exciting to see in what way Voices of the Horizon can become an active participant in this dynamic community of artists, activists and policy makers.