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Artists Discuss Challenges and Opportunities for Local Economy

November 13, 2009
By: WSU News

Worcester suffers from Gilligan’s Island syndrome said Andy Fish, local artist and author of graphic novels and comic books. “We’ve made a radio out of coconuts and we’re pretending it’s a real radio,” said Fish at the Worcester State College event, “Art Works: A Public Forum on Creative Economies in Central Massachusetts,” last Wednesday.    Fish was one of six panelists appearing with moderator Mark Lynch, host of Public Radio WICN’s “Inquiry.”

The panel discussion was the first in a two part series.  The second panel discussion on the creative economy, “Creative Prosperity,” will be held April 7, 2010 and hosted by Hank Stolz, Host of “Wake Up Worcester on WCRN/Charter Channel 3.

Both panels were organized by Worcester State College’s Urban Studies and Visual and Performing Arts programs, along with a group of community artists and cultural leaders.  Both sessions are also sponsored by the Worcester Business Journal.  Visual and Performing Arts Chair Michael Hachey welcomed guests to the event.  “First and foremost, the arts on campus are flourishing,”  He pointed to the new art gallery, the new Visual and Performing Arts major and alliance with the Worcester Center for Crafts as proof.

All of the panelists agreed there was much to be done to foster a creative economy in the region.  Joseph Farbrook, an artist who works in Worcester, but lives in Boston, said, “Worcester is the town that refuses to recover.  “But artists are the intrepid explorers,” he said.  “They will move into bad neighborhoods and create.”  Erin Williams of the Worcester Cultural Coalition, who was not a panelist, but was in the audience and instrumental in planning the event, said the city is ready to work with artists and has space for artists at discount prices, but only needs to hear the artists’ plans.  She offered the assistance to artists interested in exploring the topic further.  The office phone is 508-799-1400.  The cultural coalition’s website is: .

Film producer and actress Andrea Ajemian said Worcester is a very easy city to work in and she has been employing local talent in her feature films for eight years.  She would like to see tighter connections between the area colleges, their students and the arts. Antonio Fonseca agreed and said alliances should be with younger students and the greater community as well.  “We have to start with the people,” he said.  “Art is teaching.  Art is the street.”

Worcester State College Theatre Professor and stage director Adam Zahler said artists should be part of the planning process.  “You don’t just plan for the arts,” he explained, “You bring the artists to the table to talk about economic development.”  He said a perfect example of that model is Burlington Vermont.  He was in Burlington in the early 1980s when Bernie Sanders ran for mayor.  He says the seed that was planted then has produced today, “a lot of local art.  It’s fun and it’s beautiful.”

Panelists at last week’s event were:

Andrea Ajamian: Award winning film producer and actress. Host of Worcester Love, the online guide to all there is to know about Worcester.

Joseph Farbrook: An artist whose far-ranging work encompasses video game technology, virtual space, installation art, and network culture. Professor, WPI.

Andy Fish: Artist and author of graphic novels, comic books, who works across many formats including print and the internet. Teaches at the Worcester Art Museum, Emerson College, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Antonio Fonseca: Artist, painter, printmaker, advocate, organizer, and participant in artist alternative work space. Native of Puerto Rico, whose political and cultural themes are expressed in his art.

Tracy Kraus: Critically acclaimed flutist, Executive Director of the Worcester Chamber Music Society.

Adam Zahler: Professional stage director, Professor of Theatre at Worcester State College. Twice a recipient of the Elliot Norton Award. Directed works in New York, Vermont, Virginia, Russia, and Edinburgh, Scotland.

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