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Sterling Cultural Council: The Community Connector

Justina Crawford, Program Officer

Members of the Sterling Cultural Council host a community input session to gather input for a new arts umbrella organization.
Members of the Sterling Cultural Council host a community input session to gather input for a new arts umbrella organization.

Each spring, we encourage Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) to gather community input to better inform council priorities for each granting season. Input can be gathered from in-person conversations, public convenings, and/or through surveys. Collecting viewpoints from members of the community can help LCC members better understand the community’s needs, interests, and knowledge of local resources. Members of the Sterling Cultural Council embarked upon a new process this year to help reinforce the importance of arts and culture as their town moves to create a new master plan.

The last time the Town of Sterling completed a master plan was in 1962. With the addition of a new town administrator and residents interested in “doing something new,” the town is now investigating ways to revitalize the community. Sterling Cultural Council found it necessary for the creative community to come together to gather input on the LCC’s current work and ways in which arts and culture can be elevated as part of the master plan.

Artists and residents with an appreciation for the arts were asked to attend a meeting with the idea of forming a collaborative that would support new ideas and give way to the creation of a new, nonprofit organization that would further arts and culture in Sterling.

How they did it: Once the date was reserved at the senior center, the LCC began working on its messaging. Colorful flyers were created with local partners and posted throughout town and via email to attract curious residents. Articles in the town newspaper were published with the headline, “Sterling needs an Arts and Cultural Association.” Conversations on local cable TV were scheduled and the buzz continued to spread throughout town by word-of-mouth.

Last month, more than 35 community members attended the meeting to discuss the possibilities of inter-agency work, intergenerational programming, local and national funding opportunities, new programming initiatives for all ages, designated space for arts and culture, residency programs for artists, exhibition opportunities, partnerships with cultural organizations, and ways to support local artists. Most importantly, the community stressed the importance of having a creative hub for gathering aside from the beloved senior center. This input will not only assist the LCC as they consider their focus for the upcoming grant cycle, but also will assist the town as they move forward with their master plan.

Andrea Driscoll, Chair of the Sterling Cultural Council, wants the LCC to be a “big deal in town.” In addition, she also has advice for Local Cultural Councils who are thinking of ways to gather input. “Put yourself out there with a consistent goal and try. Art really brings people together,” she said.

LCCs serve as a community connector and while the community input process can seem daunting, there are a number of ways to approach it. It’s not a one-size-fits-all method. Convenings provide face-to-face contact and deeper discussions, but LCCs can also make the decision to collect input through surveys or other means. The important thing is that community input happens, and it provides LCCs with an opportunity to better understand the community’s cultural needs and improves the visibility of the Council.

The Sterling Cultural Council’s process provided them with a great outcome and strong actionable results they can use in creating a stronger arts and culture community. Questions for Sterling? Contact Andrea Driscoll.

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