creative county

cultural planning

ECCF is committed to investing in knowledge and technical support to engage communities in municipal planning that is inclusive of arts and culture.

our commitment

Through 2022, ECCF will invest more than $250,000 in cultural planning initiatives that create better conditions for the arts sector to thrive.

If you are interested in free, local cultural planning technical assistance, please see application here.

our goals for cultural planning
  • Essex County will be recognized as a supportive region for creative professionals.
  • Strengthen the capacity for collaboration within and between communities.
  • Foster inclusion and equity among our diverse communities.
  • Broaden the value of tangible and intangible cultural assets related to community development goals.

merrimack valley: place and meaning in 2020


In 2020 our Merrimack Valley cultural planning work shifted to two virtual projects. A searchable digital Cultural Focal Points map is now a permanent resource for the region’s planners and policy makers. We invite you to add data to this new community asset!

And, led by the creative team at Elevated Thought, Merrimack Valley Expression Book 2020 was created as a beautiful tribute to the places, spaces, and people that make living in the Merrimack Valley meaningful, especially in this most challenging year.

See the final Summary/Report for Phase 1 of the project.

Merrimack Valley Expression Book 2020

A tribute to the beautiful places, spaces and people that make living in the Merrimack Valley meaningful.

2019 cultural planning labs

In early 2019, the Creative County Initiative partnered with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission to develop and deliver four sub-regional cultural planning labs for municipal officials, planners, and arts leaders from the nonprofit and private sectors in Essex County.

The goal of the labs was to introduce the community benefits of cultural planning to stakeholders in Essex County. Desired outcomes included:

  • An expanded base of knowledge about the benefits of a cultural planning approach.
  • An expanded base of knowledge about cultural resources in Essex County and their importance to the livability and vitality of the region.
  • An expanded regional network of support for county-level cultural planning initiatives, which will commence in calendar year 2019.

Read the full report

Essex County Cultural Planning Labs report

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

arts and culture


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...

get in touch

Karen Ristuben headshot

Karen Ristuben

Program Director
Creative County Initiative

A couple right by the Beverly and Salem bridge

community voices

“A city as rich in cultural history as Methuen is a perfect fit for the Merrimack Valley Place and Meaning Project. I heartily encourage all Methuen residents to participate in this worthwhile effort and ensure that all aspects that make this city unique are memorialized for all to see and understand.”

– Neil Perry,
Mayor City of Methuen

how can we help?

We would love to hear from you.

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