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Creative Circle looking to expand sphere of influence to Boston

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor SPRINGFIELD The Pioneer Valley is home to people who work in a wide variety of the arts from filmmakers to graphic designers to painters to craftspeople and now a new group wants to build a consensus of what the local creative economy needs to flourish. That group, called "Creative Circle," is open to anyone who is in the for-profit art scene, and meets from 5 to 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of the month at Theodore's on Worthington Street. Dawn Creighton, who started a similar networking event for people involved in the local green economy, said the idea to establish a networking group came out of a round table discussion conducted in Northampton last year about ways to build the local creative economy. There are state programs to support creative economies, but the state wants to see the artists in a region work together, she explained. "We felt very strongly if the region can come together we can have more [political] push in Boston," Creighton said. Creighton and Anne Burke, Vice President & Director of HomeField Advantage program of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC), will be representing the Pioneer Valley at meetings across the state on building the creative economy. Creative Circle is being supported by the EDC, which is sponsoring its first two meetings. Lori Tanner of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) said the organization completed an inventory of the creative economy of Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties and said there are a "significant amount" of artists in the region that is comparable to other parts of the state. The report noted the total employment in the creative economy here is the "same or greater in the Pioneer Valley than in either Massachusetts or the U.S. as a whole." "Overall, parts of the Pioneer Valley have significantly higher concentrations of creative workers than the state of Massachusetts or the nation as a whole, and these sub-regions tend to be in Hampshire and Franklin counties. However, the proportion of total employment made up by cultural enterprise employment appears to have decreased between 2000 and 2005, which may be related to recent socioeconomic trends affecting the Pioneer Valley, including increased levels of out-migration and unemployment," it continued. Tanner said the Pioneer Valley has a "very diverse" art community. Creighton said a Web site for the group is being developed and there is a contest to design the group's logo. Entries should be sent to Michael Graney, senior vice president of business development at the EDC at m.graney@westernmassedc.com.

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