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Projects Win Creative Economy Grants

Ideas Become Reality in UMass Initiative

UMass Lowell Image
City support for artistic and cultural activity, and its economic impact, is one of three Creative Economy grants to UMass Lowell faculty.

By Sandra Seitz

Three faculty members, each with innovative ideas for adding to the public life of the region, will see their projects come to life with the help of Creative Economy grants from the UMass President’s Office. 

Assoc. Prof. Susan Gallagher of the Political Science Department, Assoc. Prof. David Lustick of the Graduate School of Education and Prof. John Wooding of the Political Science Department have won grants for 2012-13.

Creative industries, arts and cultural organizations are considered critical assets in Massachusetts, a state that has a well-educated populace, but few natural resources and a relatively small manufacturing sector.
The University of Massachusetts established its Creative Economy Initiatives Fund in 2007 to support projects in the arts, humanities and social sciences that benefit regional economies, empower communities and improve quality of life. This year, the fund awarded more than $135,000 across four campuses.

Two of the UMass Lowell projects involve unique approaches to educating the public about climate change.

The Walden Climate-Change Collaborative will provide climate-change education at public parks, historic sites and preservation areas, in partnership with the Thoreau Society and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“We plan to start out by developing a digital platform for the presentation of materials on a site that will be modeled as a ‘classroom in the woods’ at Walden Pond,” says Gallagher. “Our goal is to advance public understanding of the ways in which climate change is affecting conservation areas, historic ecosystems, regional communities and traditional modes of living.” 

Materials will draw from Thoreau’s writings as a founding figure in the environmental movement. The UMass Lowell participants include Charlotte Ryan, associate professor of sociology, and Joseph Fisher, librarian.

The Cool Science Learning Campaign will develop a program of informal science learning that will be deployed along two bus lines within the Lowell Regional Transit Authority (LRTA). The LRTA and Anastas Advertising Associates are donating more than $13,000 in transit advertising space and discounts for this project. 

“Informal science learning happens outside a formal classroom setting, reaching the public through billboards, bus shelters and transit advertising,” says Lustick. “This will expand learning opportunities for the communities along the two bus lines.” 

The creative development phase of the project will engage K-16 students with climate change science and solicit their artwork for use in the public education science campaign. Prof. Robert Chen of UMass Boston will review submissions for scientific accuracy and relevance.

Reinventing the City: Assessing Economic and Cultural Development Strategies in Lowell will investigate the direct effects and benefits of creative economy initiatives – crucial knowledge for local leaders, policymakers and legislators. The work will document how policies to promote the arts and culture were developed in Lowell, what institutions and actors played key roles in the adoption of this revitalization strategy and how the dynamic of critical initiatives played out in the city’s community and governance. 

“Especially since 2000, with the re-launch of the city's cultural affairs office, Lowell has made a highly visible commitment to artistic, cultural and heritage development,” says Wooding. “Establishing the impact of Lowell’s strategy to reimagine itself while building on its historic legacy will inform future social and economic strategies, not only for this city but for similar cities all over the world.”

Working with many community partners, the UMass Lowell investigators will include Wooding; George Chigas, lecturer in cultural studies; Prof. Jehanne Gavarini of the Art Department; Prof. Philip Moss of the Economics Department; LZ Nunn, director of development for the Lowell Community Foundation and Alex Ruthmann, assistant professor of music.