What is art? It’s an age-old question, nearly impossible to answer, and yet perennially captivating. This summer, the Office of Planning & Economic Development (OPED) wants to ask a similar question: Where is creative work going on in our city, and how can the City help? In addition to other projects, OPED has directed funds from a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant to conduct a study of both the scope of the creative economy and its economic impact on the city.
“Our mission is to support, grow, and showcase creativity-based enterprises in the city, that is to say, those that include the creative execution of an original idea, art or craft. Learning how best to achieve this aim without a clear and factual picture of what work is already being done in Holyoke is tremendously difficult.
“This study will allow us to gather both quantitative statistics and qualitative feedback from our creative businesses and individuals. We will then use that data to better market our existing industries, observe where the City could provide needed services, and identify areas of possible growth,” Bianchine said.
To assist Bianchine in the study, the Office of Planning & Economic Development has hired Patrick Prendergast and Cynthia Espinosa, who will provide valuable support in the study’s completion over the summer. Prendergast, a recent UMass Amherst graduate, is the publisher of Pioneer Magazine which is dedicated to covering arts culture, and politics in the Pioneer Valley, and sees this opportunity as a great fit.
“Working on Pioneer has taught me not only an appreciation for the variety and quality of creative work being produced in this area, but it has also enabled me to see how impactful this work is for local communities, both culturally and economically,” Prendergast said.
Espinosa, also a UMass Amherst graduate, is the Farm Program Manager for the local non-profit Nuestras Raices, which promotes human, community, and economic development through focusing on projects which relate to food, agriculture, and the environment in Holyoke. Espinosa is excited to conduct this study in order to better understand how the Latino community contributes to the creative economy of the city.
The study will entail dozens of interviews with community members active in creative industries and the classification of businesses into sectors, which will enable the Office of Planning & Economic Development to more accurately determine trends, draw comparisons, and identify unique attributes of local businesses.
Marcos Marrero, Director of Planning & Economic Development believes this study to be an important step in producing substantive growth and new job creation in the creative economy for the city at large.
“Holyoke is abundant with natural, architectural, and cultural resources, but our greatest asset remains our citizens and the great work they do each day. This study will enable us to get a firm grip on what opportunities exist for us to help businesses and individual creatives to expand their impact,” Marrero said.
Bianchine agrees. “This study has many purposes, but it’s vital for us to have a snapshot of the activity going on so that we can be more precise and effective in our promotional efforts going forward. We want to have a better metric on which creative industries are more prominent in the city so that we can support and promote them more effectively,” Bianchine said. “Manufacturers, writers, artists, musicians, innovators, web developers… the list goes on!”
According to Bianchine the office is taking a decidedly open approach to defining what counts as a creative business, and will assess possible candidates for inclusion in the study, on a case-by-case basis.
Creative Holyoke businesses and individuals are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be included in the study. All that’s required is a brief twenty-minute interview with Espinosa or Prendergast at a convenient location. Or, if you’d prefer, take the survey online – Creative Economy StudyShare