Rob Gregg presented the following report to the Board of Selectmen last night on the Cultural Alliance of Medfield’s s work and status.
The Selectmen’s meeting focused on the downtown, and had reports from nine separate groups that deal with differing aspects of the downtown (see the agenda I posted for the full list of groups represented). Richard and I both opined the we found it hugely interesting and helpful, and endorsed a next step of holding a visioning “summit” or “charrette” in the fall focused specifically on the downtown, in order to craft the strategy and agenda for moving forward. By contrast, Mark said that hearing from all the groups took too much time away from the selectmen doing their work, and that he would curtail such reports.
July 15th meeting with the Selectmen
The Medfield Cultural District appreciates this brief opportunity to acquaint you with two particular aspects of our organization while addressing how those impact downtown redevelopment.
First, we are comprised of seven members: Kirsten D’Abate, Jean Mineo, Deborah Kelsey, Diane Borrelli, Sarah Reposa, Bill Pope, and myself. We will very much miss Deborah‘s energetic participation, and we wish her just the best as she takes her skillset to Gloucester. In her stead, Alex Lunt, our Senior Librarian, will give his leadership.
We meet monthly at the library to tackle a wide range of opportunities which are focused on increasing local and visitor spending. At the moment we are exploring how best to maximize the experience anyone has when visiting cultural sites in Medfield, some of these being attached to history, commerce, recreation, and the arts.
Another agenda item is to decide how best to promote a community-wide calendar. Amid all our challenging tasks, we are moving ahead to acquire designation as a non-profit charitable organization and to consider how a part-time leadership position can better leverage both public and private perceptions of delivering cultural activities.
To embody our focus as to how Medfield’s assets are differentiated from those in any other community, we have changed our name to the Culturalliance of Medfield. Inasmuch as we will designate over time a number of cultural districts within the town, we felt than a name change would clarify our organization and allow for additional districts to be included. Thus, Medfield will have a variety of cultural districts identified by name and geography. A good metaphor for the alliance is an umbrella which gathers underneath it a variety of persons and organizations needing collective coverage.
Item number two. The Culturalliance is learning valuable lessons in our process to differentiate Medfield’s cultural amenities from those in every other town. We constantly ask ourselves this question: “Why do these set us apart from other communities?” We are always narrowing our focus. In doing so, we are learning to jettison the generic. What is it that Medfield wants to be known for? What do we need to do to own it? If one might say a brand could be “Preserve the Past, Engage the Future,” then we ask, “How is this different from every other community who wants to do the same?” The answer is, it really isn’t. Our strategy is to move beyond the first level of creativity.
Both visitors and locals perceive Medfield for what it is – good or bad. What is it that sets us apart from any other community?
The Culturalliance of Medfield responds positively to the need to rejuvenate downtown Medfield, in fact all that lies within its borders. To that end, Medfield needs to be much more specific in finding its niche. Why do visitors come to town? How soon will they return? What will they tell their friends about their experiences here?
The Culturalliance champions community branding as a process which involves the entire population of this town. A brand is the preservation of an essence. We cannot build a successful brand using focus groups because a “group-hug mentality” will only give us a watered-down generic brand, a “one size fits all,” which is not a brand at all.
Small towns across America are succeeding today in setting themselves apart. Travelers Rest, South Carolina, a town one-third the size of Medfield, has repositioned itself from being a gateway community to now being a destination. Opelousas, Louisiana, twice the size of Medfield, now brands itself as perfectly seasoned, with a flavored history, music with a spice, and a zest for life with its flavored food. Springfield, Vermont, identical in population to Medfield, overcame its predicament as a pass-through town for commuters (doesn’t this sound familiar?), with a brand which resonates its reinvention.
Part of your agenda tonight is to hear from ten different organizations as to Medfield’s downtown redevelopment. Each of these can admirably tell you what they are doing, and some can tell you how they are doing it. What is missing to our collective response is why we are doing what we are doing. Economic development requires community-wide participation in establishing how we want people to think of us. The answers to what we do and how we do it are easy to identify. You will hear them tonight. Instead of looking at Medfield from the outside in (what ?, how?, why?), our suggestion is to reverse this process. Look from the inside out. That begins by asking the question “why.” Why are we different from any other town? Why do people come here? In today’s economy, the answer starts with the experiences of locals and visitors when they are here. Only then will we know why, and if, Medfield is inspiring.