BEVERLY — Montserrat College of Art and its partners are now standing at the forefront of the state’s efforts to bolster the creative economy.
Greg Bialecki, secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and Helena Fruscio, Creative Economy Industry director, came to a reception at the art college last week to kick off a statewide Creative Economy Network. This new network is meant to help creative companies find resources, such as space, talent and access to capital, and track their progress.
Creative economy companies include for-profit businesses, such as video game makers, architectural firms and musicians, as well as nonprofits, like museums and theater companies.
Lest you think the creative economy represents a bunch of starving artists, think again: There are more than 120,000 people who work for creative economy firms in the Bay State with an economic impact of $1 billion, according to state officials.
To help bolster those efforts, the art college and its numerous partners were designated on Feb. 12 as part of a statewide Creative Economy Network, with Montserrat named the North Shore regional leader. The college and its partners were the first of five such regional networks to be designated.
To understand the needs of creative companies, Fruscio met with 500 Bay State companies and nonprofits on a listening tour. She found they all had needs in five key areas:
access to business development;
access to capital and financial support;
visibility through events and marketing;
finding creative talent; and
She also found that help on a purely statewide level was not enough.
“It was really about what was happening in a given region in those five areas,” she said.
That’s where the idea for regional networks came in, said Fruscio, noting that the North Shore was ahead of the game in thinking about the creative economy — which is why the first such event was held here.
“You are doing it already,” Bialecki said, “and we know that.”
Since 2006, the North Shore has been at the forefront of boosting creative economy companies, thanks to the efforts of Christine Sullivan, executive director of the Enterprise Center, and Patricia Zaido, executive director of the Salem Partnership. In 2008, their report showed there were 2,200 creative economy enterprises on the North Shore.
Zaido and Sullivan helped found the Creative Economy Association of the North Shore at the Enterprise Center, an effort that was funded by a grant. That grant has now run out.
Montserrat has picked up the ball to provide staff to the local Creative Economy Association, which now becomes part of the larger statewide network.
Montserrat president Stephen Immerman said the college will work with partners, including not only Salem State University’s Enterprise Center and the Salem Partnership, but also the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development, the Newburyport Chamber of Commerce, Centerboard in Lynn, the North of Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Rocky Neck Art Colony, Beverly Main Streets, seArts of Gloucester and the Salem Chamber of Commerce.
One of their first efforts will be a program at the Salem State Enterprise Center called “Unlocking Creativity and Innovation,” which will be taught by Montserrat faculty.
“I think at some level, we all think it’s fun,” Bialecki said of the creative economy. “It’s enjoyable. We all understand at a local level how it adds to the quality of life and the character of our communities, but in fact ... it’s not just fun. It’s actually a very important business and a very important business for Massachusetts and for many regions of Massachusetts, like the North Shore.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.