Northwest Connecticut Arts Council
CULTURAL ASSESSMENT REPORT Executive Summary
Both the Torrington Area Foundation for Public Giving, a community foundation serving 12 towns, and the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, which serves 20 towns in the region, supported the formation of the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council in June of 2003.
The mission of the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council is to promote the arts and cultural resources of Northwestern Connecticut as integral contributors to the quality of life in the region, to assist all artists and cultural organizations in their efforts to thrive, and to inform the general public about, and give access to the arts and culture of the region.
Soon after the Arts Council was formed, it was determined that a cultural assessment was the best method for learning what needs the Council might address to help the regions cultural community thrive. With this information, the Council would then be better able to base its activities on feedback given directly by the community it would serve. This would help to ensure that the Council would develop into a truly effective and long-lasting agency.
The Assessment was primarily directed at the 22 towns that would be served by the Arts Council. These towns included Barkhamsted, Bethlehem, Colebrook, Cornwall, Falls Village/Canaan, Goshen, Hartland, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, New Hartford, New Milford, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury/Lakeville, Sharon, Thomaston, Torrington, Warren, Washington, and Winchester. The population of these towns totals approximately 134,372 with residents also including New York City weekenders. Because the survey was available online, there were responses from people living in other neighboring towns who had a connection to the Arts Councils service area.
Participation in the Cultural Assessment Survey was directed at seven sectors of the community:
- Artists/Artisans (visual, performing, literary, film & fine crafts)
- Cultural Organizations (performing groups, museums, galleries, art associations/leagues, theaters, historical societies, organizations offering instruction, libraries, community centers, churches)
- The Media
- General Public.
The Assessment involved handwritten and emailed surveys, but also included interviews with leaders of some cultural organizations. There were 282 responses to the survey, primarily from the cultural community. All results were tabulated and analyzed, and are the basis for the final report. The full report (available upon request) includes key findings, key issues, recommendations, survey results, and a list of those who responded, with the exception of the general public participants names. We also included a list of organizations of which we are aware, but which did not respond to the survey. This Executive Summary includes an abridged version of the Key Issues and Key Recommendations sections.
There is a great deal of cultural activity occurring throughout the region.
- There are numerous visual and performing artists, and many artisans, both professional and amateur.
- Close to 180 cultural organizations have been identified, and additional organizations new to the Council are discovered regularly.
- Cultural offerings regularly occur in a variety of venues. These range from outdoor fairs, agricultural festivals, outdoor performances, theatres and concert halls, a multitude of churches, town halls, public libraries, historical societies and history museums, numerous art galleries, art associations and leagues, schools, both public and private, lend their spaces for performances, exhibits, and classes in the arts. No art museums exist in the area.
- Organizations set up to specifically support the work of artisans in the area exist.
- There is an active musicians union, the Torrington A.F.M. Local 514.
- There are writers groups that offer opportunities for readings, information about workshops, and networking.
- Film and video are represented by the New Milford Film Commission, film festivals, and cinemas in the area. There are also courses in film available.
- Arts Education is a basic component of most every school in the region and consists primarily of visual art classes, vocal, and band instrument instruction. There are a few schools with string instrument instruction. Many schools have informal theatre programs for students, but no formal drama workshops or instruction on a regular basis. Fewer still have dance instruction as part of the curriculum. Adult education in the arts is readily available. There are a variety of opportunities for arts education through the many independent teachers, various summer programs, and year round instruction.
- There are many opportunities, not only for people to view high caliber professional performances and art exhibits, but to participate in performance and exhibit opportunities at an amateur level.
- As far as cultural diversity, a few festivals in the region regularly present performers from a variety of cultures, but there are very few cultural organizations based in our own region whose missions are centered on a specific culture.
There is a clear need for increased and coordinated promotion of the wealth of cultural offerings throughout the region.
- Increased funding to support culture in the region was mentioned by many sectors. It was the main need expressed by cultural organizations and artists.
- Many organizations are volunteer-run, or have an extremely small staff. These people, along with artists in the area, are meeting the basic needs for their operations, but have little access to expertise that would help them move forward and realize their full potential. They also have few opportunities to meet with one another and share information.
1. A coordinated promotional effort to increase awareness of the numerous cultural offerings in the area will address both the need to better inform the public, and the need to reinforce the marketing efforts of cultural organizations and artists. The Arts Councils mission, in part, is to meet the goal of improving the promotion of the areas culture. The Arts Council aims to develop a regional cultural events calendar, to which people can submit event information directly, and which can respond to specific searches on-line. A printed version will also be available at businesses, libraries, chamber of commerce offices, real estate offices, tourism information centers, town halls, and cultural institutions themselves. The events calendar could be linked to other websites that have an interest in providing this information. In addition, the Arts Council could offer advice and workshops on publicity, perhaps led by members of the media.
A cultural resource directory should be developed by the Arts Council to encourage people to look within and nearby the region for the cultural resources that they seek. This too will help broaden the populations perspective on how much there is here, which naturally promotes the areas cultural activities and events. This may also serve artists and cultural organizations in their search for various resources to help accomplish their goals.
There is also a need to develop incentives for people to travel and to sample new cultural experiences in the region that may not be in or around their hometowns. The Arts Council can develop region-wide campaigns and programs to encourage visitation by local residents and visiting tourists. This will aid in the marketing needs expressed by area organizations and artists.
2.Cultural organizations must expand their sources of funding. Because funding is increasingly difficult to come by, each cultural organization in the region must become more diligent in pursuing grant and sponsorship opportunities, and in nurturing audiences to become contributors.
The Arts Council can assist in this effort by providing or directing constituents to various workshops on grant research and writing. In addition, the Arts Council can provide or direct people to workshops on specific ways that organizations can strengthen their management structure so that they are better able to support broader fundraising efforts. The Council can also notify organizations about grant opportunities. Through its campaign to increase awareness of the multitude of cultural offerings within the region, the Arts Council would also aim to emphasize to the community that the region's quality of life is directly tied to its culture. In turn, the Council would convey that the publics support of these organizations is a vital component in their success and ability to enhance all our lives.
3. Guidance is needed to help strengthen and stabilize the operations of various cultural organizations, and the way in which individual artists manage their businesses. This is important in order for these organizations and artists to realize their full potential and provide the public with the greatest possible benefit.
The Council would provide guidance or assist in finding the right guidance in areas such as building boards or volunteer groups, setting up management systems, creating a marketing campaign, long-range and strategic planning, or examining organizational structures. The Council would also post or circulate job notices.
In addition, the Council would encourage organizations, as well as individual artists, to connect with one another on problem solving, in order to learn from one another, collaborate on solutions to common problems, and to expand their perspectives. This may be done through regular networking meetings, and/or an online bulletin board.
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The Cultural Assessment Survey project was made possible by grants from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
The Northwest Connecticut Arts Council is additionally grateful to the following for their assistance and support in implementing and completing this Cultural Assessment for the region:
Torrington Area Foundation for Public Giving, Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, Maryann Ott Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Bitsie Clark, Andrew Roraback, Tony Gravett, Anita Garnett,Beau Black, Brett Thomson - Connecticut Council on Humanities, Connecticut Music Educators Association, Cynthia Allen, Cynthia Hockswender, Julia Vecchitto, Litchfield Hills Travel Bureau, Litchfield Performing Arts, Melissa Morse, Morgan Lehman Gallery, New Hartford Art League, The Register Citizen Newspaper, Scott C. Shuler - CT State Department of Education, Terre Lefferts, The Warner Theatre, TheatreWorks New Milford, Thomaston Opera House, Torrington Musicians Union, Town Halls and Libraries throughout the region
THE FULL CULTURAL ASSESSMENT REPORT
The full report's contents include: Introduction, Overview, Responses, Key Findings, Key Issues, Key Recommendations, Cultural Assessment Survey Results Summary, Participants in the Cultural Assessment Survey, Additionally Researched Cultural Organizations, Acknowledgements, and the list of the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council's board of directors and the steering committee that guided the Assessment.
You can download the full report (free Adobe Acrobat reader required;
The full Cultural Assessment Report can also be obtained
by request to:
Northwest Connecticut Arts Council
40 Main Street, Suite 1
Torrington, CT 06790