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.

In response to the immediate needs of artists in the wake of COVID-19, ECCF has partnered with Rocky Neck Art Colony to launch the Essex County Artist Fund to support and lift up artists across Essex County.

Learn more, donate or 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
Ana Colmenero, Trustee, Peabody Essex Museum
Matt Coogan, Town Manager, Town of Boxford
Felipe Collazo, Musician and President, Bread & Roses Festival
John Colucci, ECCF Board Chair
Michelle Curran, Communications writer, storyteller
Judith Farzan, Board Chair, Essex Arts Center
Michelle Finamore, Fashion+Design Curator, Art Consultant
Beth Francis, President & CEO, ECCF
Greg Federspiel, Town Administrator, Manchester-by-the-Sea
Deborah Greel, Public Art Planner, City of Salem (retired)
Steve Immerman, President, Montserrat College of Art (retired)
Katie King, Owner, KM Recruiting
Noah Koretz, Director of Transformative Development, Mass Development
Stratton Lloyd, COO and Vice President for Community Leadership, ECCF
Barbara Lorenc, Arts-focused property developer and Chair. Econ Dev Committee Amesbury Chamber of Commerce
Ana Masacote, Founder Dance to Power, Afro-Latin dance artist
Pedro Miguel Soto, Planning Director, City of Lawrence
Lisa Miller-Gillespie, Eecutive Director, Lawrence Festival of the Arts
Jean Nichols, Biotechnology Executive, (retired)
Jon Payson, Former ECCF Board Chair
Jackie Rosenthal
Carol Lavoie Schuster, Vice President for Grants, Nonprofit and Donor Services, ECCF
J. Casey Soward, Executive Director, The Cabot
Doneeca Thurston, Executive Director, Lynn Museum
Rosario Ubiera-Minaya, Executive Director, Amplify Latinx
Jennifer Welter, Town of Lynnfield, Planning & Conservation Commission
Eunice Zeigler, City of Methuen City Councilor, State Senate candidate, singer/songwriter

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.

art is essential.

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

arts & culture news

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...

New placemaking project helps grow food and community

Creative County supports agriCulture, a new gathering spot in Gloucester By Michelle Xiarhos Curran Nonprofit Backyard Growers built the community garden at Willowood, a Gloucester Housing Authority development, in 2017, and they have managed it ever since. In the...

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.

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