July 17, 2019
Asset Mapping the Merrimack Valley | Press Release

People create maps to help them define, explain and navigate their way through the world. Without them, you’d hardly know how to get from point “A” to point “B;” where natural resources are most abundant or how climates differ. And without understanding how those things connect and relate to one another, we can’t begin to tell the complete story of a specific place.

We know that in the 15 Essex County communities of the Merrimack Valley – a bi-state region that straddles the Bay State and New Hampshire – there are likely thousands of known and unrecognized arts and cultural assets. And each one alone is valuable: a place to examine 18th century art, take a scenic bike ride through salt marshes or attend an annual summer festival that celebrates local music.

But taken together, these assets begin to complete the picture of a region rich in history, industry and pride.

“We recognize that some of our greatest assets are the rich cultural expressions of the diverse people who live and work here,” said Karen Ristuben, program director of ECCF’s Creative County Initiative, the Foundation’s plan to mobilize our region’s artists, arts and cultural organizations and community and business leaders to collectively elevate the transformative power of arts and culture. “Our community values are rooted in our arts and culture and give the Merrimack Valley its unique sense of place.”

Essex County Community Foundation – together with the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) – have a plan to identify, connect and map the people, places, organizations and events that reflect the history, values and culture of the 15 Essex County communities in MVPC’s geographic area.

And you are invited to help.

On Aug. 7, 2019, from 9am – 1pm, artists, planners, nonprofits, government officials, community members, neighbors and the curious will gather for Valuing Arts, Culture and Creativity: Asset Mapping the Merrimack Valley, where community building expert Tom Borrup will co-lead the interactive program.

The event – a kickoff for what will be a yearlong community-engaged process  – will take place at the UMass Innovation Hub, located on the 3rd Floor of the Harbor Place Building, 2 Merrimack St., Haverhill.

“Asset mapping – which involves the identification and inventory of both tangible and intangible cultural assets – is foundational to cultural planning,” said Ristuben. “Our goal here is to build capacity for collaboration within and between the 15 communities of the Merrimack Valley, which includes building relationships and connections among arts, culture and community groups, as well as with municipal governments and agencies.”

Those communities include Newburyport, Newbury, West Newbury, Groveland, Georgetown, Rowley, Salisbury, Amesbury, Merrimack, Lawrence, Andover, North Andover, Methuen, Boxford and Haverhill.

Additional objectives of this comprehensive asset-mapping project include:

  • Fostering equity among the diverse communities of Essex County and increasing the collective capacity of the cultural sector to address community concerns.
  • Identifying a broad range of cultural assets and uncovering hidden assets.
  • Cultivating different ways of thinking about the meaning and relative proximity of cultural assets within individual and nearby communities.
  • Connecting cultural assets with the community development process.

“We’re really excited about this collaborative process, what it means for the Merrimack Valley and the implications it has for all of Essex County,” said Ristuben.

Register here for Valuing Arts, Culture, and Creativity: Asset Mapping the Merrimack Valley.

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Though the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students is not yet fully known, what we do know – and what the early data confirms – is that learning has suffered, equity gaps have widened and the time to come together to create systems that work for all students is now.

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