Panelists at the “Art Works: A Public Forum on Creative Economies in Central Massachusetts” discussion last week at WSU agreed that the region has a host of opportunities and challenges in developing a stronger creative economy. The discussion, co-sponsored by the Worcester State University Urban Studies and Visual and Performing Arts Departments, was hosted by Hank Stolz, host of “Wake Up Worcester” on WCRN/Charter Channel 3.
Panelists included Worcester Mayor Joseph C. O’Brien; artist, painter, printmaker, advocate and organizer Antonio Fonseca; WSU Department of Urban Studies Chair Dr. Steven Corey and Interim Director of the Worcester Center for Crafts Dr. Carol B. Donnelly.
“We are at a remarkable time in our city,” said O’Brien. He praised the Worcester Cultural Coalition for its work in supporting and communicating with the creative economy community, but said there is more work to be done. One of the challenges the panel addressed was geographic.
“Our arts are spread throughout the city,” said O’Brien, “not centrally located.” Corey agreed and raised Providence, Rhode Island, as an example of a city that used the creative economy to reinvent itself. He noted that Providence has a geographic center of artistic and cultural offerings. But, panelists all stressed that Worcester and the greater region have to find their own way.
“The point is not to imitate others,” said Corey, “but to ask ourselves, what do we want this city to become?”
One idea came from audience member Maureen Power, of the WSU Urban Studies department and the Intergenerational Institute. She suggested creating public art throughout the city and creating a transportation opportunity to move people through the city to view and engage with the arts.
Fonseca embraced the idea. “If art become of the people, it will work itself out,” he said. He recognized the diffuse nature of the arts throughout the city, but also recognized that as the arts have become more spread out and decentralized – so has the power structure, which he sees as a positive. “The playing field has been leveled,” he said.
Panelists suggested that a key role the city could play would be to help artists, businesses and the greater community connect better.
“Having a web and a connection is important,” said Donnelly. “Worcester State University and the Worcester Center for Crafts are working hard to continue to forge a relationship.”
O’Brien said that is a key part of the city’s approach. “Erin Williams and the Worcester Cultural Coalition are working hard to knit the various groups together,” he said.
He said supporting the creative economy is key to the future of the city. “Entrepreneurs want to know if this is a dynamic community and a place where they want to work and live,” O’Brien said.
Panelists agreed that a positive sign would be communication networks tightening so that diverse groups start talking to each other about the arts and the creative economy.
“At the core of this is the goal that artists will be talking to scientists and engineers about this,” said Corey.