By Brian Goslow
Ayer, MA- Built on the nearly four decade legacy of the former Groton Center for the Arts, 3Rivers Arts, a Ayer-Mass. based non-profit regional arts organization, has the stated mission of “engaging the humanities for artful living in central Massachusetts by connecting artists with audiences in a variety of creative forms and expressions” through quality arts education and events. Artscope’s managing editor Brian Goslow cornered executive director Monica Hinojos to see how things are progressing at 3Rivers Arts and find out about its summer offerings.
WHAT ACTIVITIES HAVE BEEN ON YOUR PLATE TODAY?
A medley of activities is always on my plate each day. Today, everything from The Nines festival sponsorship meetings, board member discussions, a team meeting, working on The Nines creative brief and other 3Rivers Arts projects and events. Of course, answering questions for an influential arts magazine.
HOW HAS THE FIRST YEAR FOR 3RIVERS ARTS GONE AND WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION FROM THE COMMUNITY?
I think we’ve come out of the gate with a bang. We broadened our reach to 12 communities and have plans to reach more. Last year, we offered a variety of art events, such as the Artist’s Masquerade Ball, the Art+Music Project (AMP!), and launched the Artists Collaborative. The Artists Collaborative was very important to me. We have such talented artists in our region that should be seen and heard. They deserve a spotlight. I also wanted our collaborative to be inclusive of all mediums. Musicians, writers, dancers and other creators are invited to join.
We’ve tried to build something here that hasn’t been done in our region before. I would say overall the reception has been extremely positive, so I know we’re doing something right. We’ve shifted gears as an organization, which creates its own set of opportunities and challenges, but overall it has been a very positive experience, learning an improving as we go. There is a Japanese concept, “kaizen,” which means constant improvement. That’s what we’re doing.
WHAT WENT INTO THE DECISION TO “REBRAND” THE GROTON CENTER FOR THE ARTS ORGANIZATION?
Simple. It was for the artists. The GCA was only serving a couple of youth programs when I took the helm. I wanted to use my experience of working on economic development and arts projects and find a way to showcase the artistic talent we have in the region, while having that same creative community spur economic development. In addition, there are many towns in our region that didn’t have a similar arts organization to the GCA. I wanted to create a way to bring art and cultural activities to more communities, whether a big footprint or small.
GETTING AN ORGANIZATION OFF THE GROUND IS ENOUGH OF A CHALLENGE; WHAT GOES INTO RAISING THE MONEY AND FINDING GRANTS TO PUT A LONG-TERM PLAN INTO PLACE AND ENDURE?
That has been our biggest challenge. If I were to use an analogy, last year was about laying the foundation and building the frame. I am lucky to have a board that contributed in significant ways providing their expertise to accomplish that. While a small group, they had my back every step of the way. Honestly, grants have been difficult. In a building year, there’s no record of success at doing many of the programs and projects we launched. It’s understandable. We’re building our board of directors, which readers should consider joining. We’re a fun group. We’ve also created strong new partnerships that will support our long-term organizational plans.
WHAT KIND OF PROGRAMS DO YOU HAVE THAT MAKE YOUR ORGANIZATION A WORTHY INVESTMENT FOR SPONSORS AND CONTRIBUTORS?
We have several events that attract different demographics and have far reaching impact for connecting to audiences that would be appealing for sponsors in our region. They range from small art shows that support local artists to The Nines, which will attract thousands from far and wide to the area. Why they should consider us a worthy investment is because we’re creating programs and events with an emphasis on the arts to improve the quality of life for everyone, not just the art lover — but also for the local businesses that will reap the benefits of the creative economy.
I’m blessed to have an amazing staff of professionals who are deeply committed to our mission, who have backgrounds in music, publicity, theatre, and running other art organizations and their own galleries in the past. That brain trust has put us in the position we are today. In many ways my team churns work out like a creative agency, and we can shape our promotions to tailor fit a sponsor’s needs from social media, print, event signage and more. So their dollars aren’t only buying a logo on a sign or website, they’re getting a creative campaign out of their sponsorships. It’s a win-win. It’s incredibly fun to work with so many creative people in the office, and then I have the joy of being an advocate for extraordinary artists throughout the region. I’m surrounded by creativity. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
I’M SURE A LOT OF AREA KIDS ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE ARTWORKS SUMMER CAMP, WHICH OPENED JUNE 24 AND IS HELD AT THE GROTON SCHOOL …
Absolutely. Our camp is very popular with the campers who attend. They get a dose of little bit of everything while at camp whether for only a two-week session or for the full six weeks. They can choose from art, dance, theatre or music for their “majors”, but have the option of attending a Lego camp and writer’s workshop where they’ll write and design their own hardcover book for those little architects, authors and publishers in the making.
Plus, there’s plenty of recreation time for them to run around during extreme soccer to swimming twice a day. They love it, and the parents love it because the kids are happy and can’t wait for the next day. It’s a family. They look forward to camp each and many have stuck with it since they were four years old and go through the Counselor-in-Training program because they want to become camp counselors at the camp one day. They simply never want to leave. We owe all of that goodwill to our fabulous Camp Directors and their staff. They adore every camper and make a real connection with each one, which provides that additional sense of security and peace of mind for the parents. We’ve started calling it the “best six weeks of summer!”
A STATED GOAL FOR 3RIVERS ARTS IS TO PROMOTE ARTISTS AND THE CREATIVE ARTS THROUGHOUT THE CENTRAL MASSACHUSETTS REGION. HOW HAVE YOU SET OUT TO ACHIEVE THIS AND WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR INITIAL SUCCESSES?
From the onset, I launched the Artists Collaborative and as a collective I got their ideas of what could support them the most as artists. We started with creative economy mixers bringing businesses and artists together to connect over a glass of wine to learn more about how the arts could be integrated in the local economy. We hosted national award-winning artists and poets, launched new events for our artists to sell their work or perform, and held our first Artist’s Masquerade Ball to showcase our artists. We’ll follow any lead if we believe it will help our artist collaborators.
We’ve established a strong partnership with New Habitat Partners in West Acton Village that will provide us a platform in Acton in 2014 for our artists work to be seen by a new audience. We’re reaching out to towns and cities in our region, and then gauging their needs to determine how we can meet those needs through the arts. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
TELL ME ABOUT THE “FLOW: THE WORK OF 3RIVERS ARTISTS” EXHIBITION AT THE CENTER ON THE COMMON IN HARVARD IN JULY …
This is one example of doing something in one of the towns in our community to showcase our arts collaborative members. It’s our first group art show for them. Not only will we have art on exhibit for the month of July, but also the opening reception will showcase two of our musicians in the collaborative. Neither has performed together, but both are excited to jam and experiment. Plus, some of crafters will table their artwork for sale. It’s also an example of my desire to partner with the regional cultural institutions to work collectively to raise the awareness of all the art offerings in the region.
The Center on the Common launched under its new identity late last year, but they’ve been working within Harvard to promote it as an cultural community space about the same amount of time as 3Rivers’ launch. They have a young, dynamic Program Director, who is a talented artist in her own right, trying to bring artwork from outside the Harvard community to the Center. This enabled us both to accomplish a goal. I hope that this becomes an annual event for us in the town of Harvard.
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO PLACE ANYONE INTO A WORKSPACE OR STOREFRONT THROUGH YOUR “VACANT2VIBRANT” CREATIVE ECONOMY INITIATIVE YET? (IF NOT, PLEASE TELL ME YOUR PLANS FOR THE “VACANT2VIBRANT” CREATIVE ECONOMY INITIATIVE …
Unfortunately, this is one of the plans that got sidelined when we started planning The Nines. While extremely talented, my team is small and all part-time at the moment, so we just didn’t have the staff or financial resources to launch it this year. We’re launching a different program similar in nature, but with more emphasis on getting our artist’s work on wall space throughout the region. We’re calling it “Occupy Wall Space”. A few businesses have already signed up, and we’ll do more over the summer and will continue to grow in every town. Honestly, it’s a matter of financial resources. We aren’t short of creative ideas, but need the funds or partners to help make them a reality. When we are ready to move ahead with it, we will have developed more connections and trust within the business community, and we’ll be able to launch it in the way it deserves.
YOU’VE GOT THE NINES MULTI-ARTS SUMMER FESTIVAL AT WILLARD FIELD IN DEVENS ON AUGUST 10. TELL ME WHAT’LL BE TAKING PLACE AND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE EVENT IN HELPING GET THE WORD OUT ON 3RIVERS.
Upon taking the reins at 3Rivers Arts, I had a vision of bringing a multi-arts festival to Central Massachusetts similar to the one I’m most familiar with from living in Austin, which is SXSW. I knew Devens would be the perfect location given its focus on economic development. I see the creative community as an engine for economic growth in the region.
I knew there was a potential local partner in Great Northeast Productions. My good fortune was that they were available, shared in the festival vision, and had the experience to bring this enormous vision to life. We want to create a collaborative artistic experience unlike anything that’s been seen in Central Mass before — one that fosters a highly imaginative and incredible coalescence of artists working with the strange and the astonishing. Kinetic art, art that toys with the perception of light and sound, and pieces that symbolize the “The Nines”.
We’re referring to it as a music + art + discovery festival. The discovery part comes from what people will discover there — bands they haven’t heard before, artists they’ve never seen before, and another cool thing is that it will have an eco-aesthetic. Our creative producers, FireSeed Arts, are environmental artists that transform discarded and unwanted waste and scrap materials into beautiful works of art, furniture and musical instruments.
Our mission for The Nines is to bring attention to the breadth of artistic talent in our region, bring top-tier bands to our area and build on this year after year. We want to introduce audiences to Central Massachusetts as a hub of artistic talent, and hopefully, a regular summer tour stop for their favorite bands.
Our vision is for a happy side effect of The Nines to be a cultural and economic boost for the area as well. In turn, 3Rivers Arts’ profile is raised and our other educational and artistic programming will benefit from The Nines.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR FOR 3RIVERS ARTS?
Our summer camp starts June 24, and then we have The Nines on August 10. We finish up the summer programming in Acton with AMP! on September 8, and we’re launching Preamp the night before to provide that last summer art fling. We end the year with our Artists’ Masquerade Ball in November, which will be bigger and better than our inaugural ball last year. We have big plans next year for more exciting projects. Stay tuned…