Empowering Communities Through Art: Reflecting on the Creative Community House New England Workshop

Empowering Communities Through Art: Reflecting on the Creative Community House New England Workshop

Image of Cabin at Tops'l FarmRecently, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Creative Community House New England workshop organized by National Art Strategies. Held at the picturesque Tops'l Farm in Waldoboro, Maine, this five-day event brought together a dynamic group of artists and community organizers from across New England. Together, we delved into the transformative power of art as a tool for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusivity within our communities. The workshop was a catalyst for powerful conversations, deep connections, and innovative ideas that are poised to drive positive change in the region.

 At Tops'l Farm, a sense of shared purpose filled the air as we embarked on a journey to explore new avenues of community engagement through art. The Creative Community House New England Fellowship provided a unique platform for artists and organizers to exchange ideas, experiences, and strategies for fostering lasting social impact. Surrounded by the beauty of nature, we gathered with open hearts, eager to learn and collaborate.

Throughout the workshop, we engaged in thought-provoking discussions that spanned a range of topics essential to our mission. We explored solidarity economy principles and practices, delved into liberation culture, democracy, and leadership development, and honed our understanding of the social change ecosystem map. These discussions provided a valuable framework for contextualizing our roles as change-makers and identifying avenues for impactful community engagement.

Theory of Change Map from Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants

One of the highlights of the workshop was our exploration of Design Thinking—a human-centered approach that prioritizes empathy and equity. Through exercises like empathy mapping, we learned how to better understand the needs and perspectives of the communities we serve. This approach enables us to develop solutions that are not only innovative but also deeply connected to the real needs of our diverse communities. 

Colored notebooks as part of art Activity

The workshop was enriched by the talents of my fellow participants, who led engaging group activities that ranged from self-expression through art and movement to exploring new poetic structures. These activities fostered a sense of unity and connection, reminding us of the power of creativity in building community bonds.

The Creative Community House New England Fellowship has inspired me to infuse new energy and focus into the work of Queerlective. The insights and experiences gained from this workshop have illuminated the path forward. Building on the foundation we've established, Queerlective is dedicated to realizing positive change through various programs.

 Queerlective is committed to empowering individuals who may have been underrepresented in the nonprofit sector. We are working diligently to establish a board and develop a program of professional development that nurtures community leaders who prioritize human-centered decision-making and equity.

The Social Change Ecosystem Map

Our passion for amplifying diverse voices and fostering inclusivity drives us to launch three new programs. The BIPOC Artists Exchange Fund aims to provide travel support for artists across New England to participate in art activities in New Hampshire. The Youth Art and Culture Activation grant will support after-school art and cultural events led by youth, fostering their creative growth and community engagement. Additionally, our network of Teaching Artists will receive professional development and resources to create novel applications of art and community activities.

The Creative Community House New England workshop has been a transformative experience that has invigorated my commitment to using art as a catalyst for change. The connections made, discussions had, and strategies learned have paved the way for Queerlective to expand its impact. As we move forward, we are armed with inspiration, knowledge, and a deep sense of purpose to empower communities through art, creating a more vibrant, diverse, and equitable New England.

 Harvest Mandala Activity made by fellows

 Thank you to all of the fellows, NAS and the Barr Foundation for an amazing week!

Juanita Austin | New Haven, CT
Xochi Cartland | Auburn, ME
Jannelle Codianni | Providence, RI
Josh Croke | Worcester, MA
Emilia Dahlin | Gorham, ME
Pampi Das | Simsbury, CT
René Goddess | Portland, ME
Ozzy Gold-Shapiro | Northampton, MA
Jeff Kasper | Northampton, MA
Katherine Leung | Milton, VT
Amyas McKnight | Boston, MA
Christy Mihaly | East Calais, VT
Nadine Nelson | Hamden, CT
Dani Robbins | Bar Harbor, ME
Merrilee Schoen | Bangor, ME
Ellen Smith Ahern | Lebanon, NH
Jess Sweeney | North Adams, MA
Dan Wenger | Camden, ME


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.