In 2016, Stacy Lord and Laura Marotta started 501(c)(3) Creative Hub Worcester (CHW) to bring accessible arts education to the Worcester Area. CHW’s mission is to provide affordable and accessible opportunities in the arts for all Worcester community members, with a focus on at-risk and underserved youth. CHW directly serves Main South, a neighborhood filled with rich cultural communities and residents who deserve to access what Worcester has to offer. CHW provides arts services for youth, adults, and practicing artists, including space rental, art displays and events, after-school programs, summer camps, workshops, and public art exhibitions. Combining urban renewal with creativity, CHW and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston are working towards transforming the former Worcester Boys Club building at 2 Ionic Ave into a community arts center that will serve 250-350 individuals each day. By providing accessible arts education, “[Creative Hub Worcester] want[s] to create a space where community members can feel safe and supported as they explore the processes of art-making and collaboration.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic halted many arts organizations’ programming, CHW has found creative ways to continue providing accessible arts experiences to the Worcester community.
CHW’s core services include after-school art-based childcare programs; however, as the pandemic required a transition to virtual learning for students, CHW was similarly forced to put their after-school programs on hold. Many students were left without artistic opportunities. The CHW team personally delivered over fifty art kits to families and youth across Worcester who had no access to art supplies. The art kits contained supplies ranging from sketch pads, pencils, and watercolors to clay, handmade masks, print-out activities, and more. CHW also assisted local and regional children’s community centers and institutes to provide supplies for their virtual programming.
CHW’s childcare program serves children from families below the federal poverty line, single-parent households, or the foster care system. Due to instability and limited access to technology, many of these children are unable to receive their education outside of in-person environments. In September 2020, Creative Hub re-opened its childcare program by welcoming its youth back to in-person full-day remote learning. The art-focused program allows students to attend online classes and provides time for homework, snacks, and art workshops in a supportive and constructive environment that fosters creativity and learning.
In 2019, Creative Hub Worcester resurrected a vacant art space by revitalizing the Aurora Gallery. The gallery, located at 660 Main Street in downtown Worcester, curates exhibitions that focus on powerful, timely, and relevant themes. It features new artistic voices in Worcester, specifically those of silenced, under-represented, or otherwise marginalized individuals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aurora Gallery has continued to present a variety of socially distanced exhibitions through two events: Otherness and Creative Hub Celebrates Black Culture. The October 2020 opening of Creative Hub Celebrates Black Culture became a community celebration that featured an open-air reception, vendors, food trucks, and live outdoor performances. Unfortunately, Aurora Gallery was forced to close once again after the October 2020 exhibition due to COVID-19 restrictions. CHW aims to continue bringing thoughtful exhibitions and community events to Aurora Gallery once it is safe to reopen to the public.
Although Aurora Gallery is currently closed, CHW continues to produce public art projects throughout the community. CHW’s most recent public art project includes partaking in the City of Worcester’s Festival of Lights. The City of Worcester hosts the annual Festival of Lights in downtown Worcester to lighten up the darkest months of winter. CHW advocated for expanding the Festival of Lights to Main South to make sure that the area is celebrated and recognized as part of the City’s community. Local artists designed a window mural and ten lighted sculptures to be displayed along Main Street through April 2021.
CHW believes that to achieve “accessible arts,” they must bring the arts directly to the community. They plan to pilot the new Creative Hub Mobile Art Van this summer. The Mobile Art Van will partner with Worcester businesses to provide safe, on-site, and socially distanced art activities while encouraging new customers to support local businesses.
This June, CHW will launch their full-day children’s summer program (featuring field trips, outdoor activities, and arts education), expand their public art projects (with multiple events planned for the summer), and once safe to do so, will return to providing therapeutic and beginner art classes for the community.
Despite limitations and setbacks, Creative Hub Worcester has continued to offer accessible arts programming during the COVID-19 Pandemic. CHW displays resilience, passion, and care for the community as they inspire and foster creativity throughout Worcester. CHW plans to continue offering programs through the Summer and will be announcing upcoming events on their social media.
To learn more about Creative Hub Worcester, please visit www.creativehubworcester.org
To learn more about A&BC’s Creative Campus Initiative and partnership with Creative Hub Worcester, please visit https://artsandbusinesscouncil.org/creative-space/