our work

arts, culture and

Creative County

In partnership with the Barr Foundation, the Creative County initiative is investing more than $2 million to support a strong ecosystem for arts, culture and creative enterprise that is sustainable, equitable and accessible for all.

CCI ALAANA Artist Grant

ECCF’s Creative County Initiative (CCI) is pleased to expand the inclusivity of its grant-making by funding new works or works in process in any artistic medium by artists who identify as ALAANA (African, Latine, Asian, Arab, Native American)

Learn more and apply.

2020 – 2022 investment areas

Essex County Creates logo

communications and connectivity at creativecounty.org

A NEW website to connect our communities and elevate the work of local artists, makers and creators.

Public art & creative placemaking grants featured image

public art & creative placemaking grants

Funding for new, collaborative placemaking and public art projects.

A group of folks gathering for cultural planning

cultural planning

Engaging communities in municipal planning that is inclusive of arts and culture.

Public art & creative placemaking grants featured image

building capacity

Opportunities for arts and culture organizations to further their missions and compete in our creative economy.

A group of folks gathering for cultural planning


Bringing all parts of the sector together to learn, network, inspire and thrive as one united ecosystem. 

learn more about creative county

creative county steering committee
Karen Ristuben, Program Director, Creative County Initiative
John Andrews, Creative Collective, LLC
Rachel Borgatti, Executive Director, Beverly Main Streets
Nonie  Brady, Community activist, philanthropist
Hehershe Busuego, Director of Programs & Racial Equity
Danielle Coates-Connor, Communications consultant
Aaron Clausen, City Planner, City of Lynn
Ana Colmenero, Trustee, Peabody Essex Museum
John Colucci, ECCF Board Chair
Michelle Curran, Communications writer, storyteller
Michelle Finamore, Fashion+Design Curator, Art Consultant
Beth Francis, President & CEO, ECCF
Steve Immerman, President, Montserrat College of Art (retired)
Katie King, Owner, KM Recruiting
Kelly Shea Knowles, Director of Development and Communications
Noah Koretz, Director of Transformative Development, Mass Development
Stratton Lloyd, COO and Vice President for Community Leadership, ECCF
Ana Tinajeros, Founder Dance to Power, Afro-Latin dance artist
Pedro Miguel Soto, Creative Economy Senior Fellow, MassDevelopment
Lisa Miller-Gillespie, Eecutive Director, Lawrence Festival of the Arts
John Moynihan, Executive Director, Firehouse Performing Arts
Jean Nichols, Biotechnology Executive, (retired)
Jon Payson, Former ECCF Board Chair
Cristian Recinos, Community Activist
J. Casey Soward, Executive Director, The Cabot
Jennifer Welter, Town of Lynnfield, Planning & Conservation Commission
Eunice Zeigler, City of Methuen City Councilor, State Senate candidate, singer/songwriter
special project grant

Special Project funding in the range of 2K-5K through Essex County Community Foundation’s Creative County Initiative is available for a uniquely innovative aspect of an overall program within these general categories:
* advancement of cultural planning
* diversity, equity, inclusion and access
* public art or creative placemaking
* arts leadership
* creative space development
* organizational capacity building


Learn more

the work of creative county
  • CREATES a regional voice for arts, culture and creative expression in Essex County.
  • PROMOTES transformative community and economic development.
  • ELEVATES arts and cultural experiences that celebrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and access across communities.
  • INVESTS in artists and the creative economy in an environment of rapidly changing demographics.
  • CELEBRATES Essex County as a vibrant place to live, work, create and collaborate.
racial equity statement

ECCF’s Creative County Initiative is a systems-based commitment to supporting a strong ecosystem for arts, culture and creative enterprise that is SUSTAINABLE, EQUITABLE and ACCESSIBLE for all in our region.

Creative County holds racial equity and justice as core values. During this period of pain, stress, and national uprising and solidarity, we are committing to address injustice and systemic racism through the work of CCI.

We pledge to:  

  • Continually work to meet goals of diversity, equity, inclusion and access (DEIA) in our work across Essex County, recognizing that continued learning and adapting is needed.
  • Create and support a CCI Racial Equity Working Group to ensure that our commitment to DEIA manifests in CCI’s programs, policies, and structures with intention, integrity, and sustainability.
  • Educate ourselves as to white privilege and systemic racism and learn how to build equity and inclusivity in all areas of CCI investment.
  • Create opportunities for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian – and other people of color – who, through arts, culture and creativity, bring meaning to our communities.
  • Build community through deep listening, learning, partnering, and collaboratively working to create a more equitable and just society.

Creative County Initiative strives to serve the health, well-being, and creative economy of Essex County communities by strengthening the region’s arts and culture ecosystem. CCI embraces a collaborative approach to building systems of sustainable support across all sectors for the creative makers, organizations, and citizens who bring creativity, connectivity, and meaning to our communities. Through its work, CCI strives to build community through cultural and civic engagement.

2020 is a time to pause, reset, reprioritize and continue to model the change we want and need in our world.

understanding the challenges

During the early planning period of this initiative, we spent time and resources to identify the creative sector’s greatest challenges. Six regional focus groups, 400+ respondent surveys, and economic data showed that Essex County is a culturally diverse region rich in arts and culture, which are necessary for strong, connected communities. Yet effective strategies to connect and support the creative sector across our region had not been developed.

This data showed clear needs from the arts and business communities:

  • We need SHARED AND EXPANDED RESOURCES for funding, creative spaces, and personnel/leadership development programs.
  • We need EDUCATION AND TRAINING to build capacity for collaborative work and stronger arts organizations.
  • We need MORE ART IN PUBLIC SPACES for greater access and engagement.
creative county goals

Phase 1 | 2017-2019: To build an arts ecosystem across our region and invest in arts, culture, design and creative enterprise that is sustainable, equitable and accessible for all.

Phase 2 | 2020-2022: Equip the Essex County arts and culture community with knowledge, tools and systems to increase the visibility and impact of the transformative power of arts and culture.

pilot phase success

During the first 2-year pilot phase, $750,000 was invested in four strategies:

  • Granted more than $300,000 to collaborative partnerships, bringing to life 12 Public Art and Creative Placemaking projects across our region. Learn more.
  • Convened 125 participants from 30 communities in support of cultural planning initiatives and mapping our critical cultural resources.
  • Gathered more than 700 attendees at the Essex County Arts & Culture Summit for meaningful discussion, workshops and networking to embolden the local arts sector.
  • Launched EssexCountyCreates.org, a regional online platform for artists and cultural organizations to enhance their visibility and share resources across the arts community. Learn more.
measuring impact

Executive Summary: Creative County Initiative year 6 evaluation report

art is essential.

ECCF’s Creative County work is powered by the contributions of our generous community.

arts & culture news

Creative County ALAANA Grants Application Open Jan. 1

Danvers, MA --- Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) is pleased to announce a new round of grants designed to support artists who have been historically and systemically denied access to resources that empower them to create and share their work. Applications for...

Second Cohort of Arts and Culture ChangeMakers Graduate

By Michelle Xiarhos Curran There’s a certain energy that’s generated when a group of artists and creatives come together in one room to talk, share ideas and support one another. It’s contagious. It’s almost electric. It’s exactly the kind of energy that recently...

Celebrating five years of Creative County

Live performances, inspiring speakers and a $2 million funding announcement top the 2022 Essex County Arts and Culture Summit By Michelle Xiarhos Curran When the beat dropped during Ana Masacote’s high-energy salsa performance at the 2022 Essex County Arts &...

ECCF Announces Next Cohort of Creative County ChangeMakers

Danvers, MA --- Essex County Community Foundation is excited to announce the second cohort of creative leaders who will participate in the foundation’s Creative County ChangeMakers program, set to begin March 28. Twelve artists, nonprofit and municipal heads will...

work & impact

creative county brochure cover

get in touch

Karen Ristuben headshot

Karen Ristuben

Program Director
Creative County Initiative

how can we help?

We would love to hear from you.

ECCF Logo in White Overlay


  1. 175 Andover Street, Suite 101
    Danvers, Massachusetts 01923