By CLOEY CALLAHAN
Over the weekend organizers of the Newburgh Arts and Cultural Study (NACS) held its final public event, “The Summit: Knowing More,” which was a two-hour long discussion of its initial findings, conversations with residents and live performances.
In attendance was Mayor Torrance Harvey and a number of council members including Ramona Monteverde, who gave final remarks, Karen Meija, Robert Sklarz and Anthony Grice. Performances were by Newburgh Performing Arts Academy Senior Dance Ensemble, classical guitarist Joy Zelada and actor and musician Chaundre Broomfield.
“Art is generally understood as an activity or product done by people with a communicative or aesthetic purpose, something that expresses an ideal, emotion, or more generally, a world view,” said Harvey in his opening remarks. “It is an important component of culture, reflecting economic and social substrants in its design. Art is a celebration of multiculturalism.”
NACS has been working in the community for months to gather data for the first ever comprehensive inventory and assessment of the arts and culture ecology in Newburgh. Over this time, they held a number of workshops and conducted a large survey, which over 400 people participated in. Each initiative was to better understand the city’s cultural assets and how they affect economic, social and cultural growth.
Doing the leg work for this study are three entities: the resident-led Newburgh Arts and Cultural Commission, consulting firm Lord Cultural Resources and project managers Naomi Hersson-Ringskog and Naomi Miller. The Lord team, alongside Hersson-Ringskog and Miller, led and guided Saturday’s event.
The study is now in its final phase, where it will use participant’s final discussion during the Summit to create a full report. Though, there was extensive research between April and now to get to where they are. There were four community workshops, with 139 registrations, 22 stakeholder interviews, four site visits, and nine piggyback meetings with organizations like Community Voices Heard, No Hate Here, Scenic Hudson Successful River Cities Coalition and more.
“In the last few months we have been honing the true spaces where arts and culture can intersect with other areas like economic development, transportation, business, technology – really to harness the power of arts and culture to realize goals across the city,” said Joy Bailey-Bryant from the Lord team.
NACS’ survey found that the most common cultural activity attended in the last year was music, at 71 percent, followed by visual arts at 70 percent, food/culinary/distillery arts at 60 percent and historical landmarks/events at 56 percent. Additionally, it found that 59 percent of those who took the survey typically go to more than five events per month. In regards to how they found out about the vents, 59 percent was through social media, 45 percent through word of mouth and 15 percent through email lists.
While the study highlighted a significant amount of Newburgh’s strengths, like it’s location, diversity, pride, history, culture and beauty, it also considered some of their weaknesses like its social, demographic and geographic divisions, weak funding, lack of infrastructure, trust in leadership and fears of gentrification.
However, during the Summit, NACS took both the city’s strengths and weaknesses, in addition to the poll results and earlier workshop discussions, and identified nine emerging opportunities to focus on in Newburgh, which include:
1. Foster more collaboration and partnerships
2. Engage people to celebrate, connect, and empower the city’s diverse communities
3. Cultivate community action and nurture community leaders to build trust
4. Provide training to artists, residents, and youth to develop creative careers and businesses
5. Centralize communication, information, and do more robust marketing about Newburgh arts and culture
6. Create more spaces for art, artists, and creative businesses in Newburgh
7. Leverage Newburgh’s creative businesses for workforce development and job creation
8. Improve city government support/policies for arts and culture (public art, infrastructure projects, streamlined processes, simplified regulations, etc.)
9. Develop additional financing and funding for arts and culture
In addition to outlining emerging opportunities, NACS also created the first ever Newburgh arts and cultural inventory, which is a “living, breathing document” of what Newburgh has to offer in the arts and cultural space. It includes not only the inventory of different business and places but an artists and creatives directory and a calendar of events. It is meant to be updated once a year and can be found at newburghculture.org/inventory.
“Art and culture are very important and are very much a part of our master plan in the City of Newburgh and it is a significant component in our revitalization efforts as well,” said Harvey.
To find out more about the initial findings of the study and to view the final report when it’s ready in early January, visit newburghculture.org.