Artisans Revival – A Plea for Art

He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” 
~ Francis of Assisi

Dear Friends of the Artisans Revival,

We are making a difference. Things are changing. Can you see it? Can you feel it? I know I can. The past couple years I have been slowly seeing the change. Subtly at first, but increasing in its vibrancy. From the walkway of Inn Street to the Arts Association, people are gravitating to the message.
But we are not there,….yet. There needs to be a real ‘revival of the arts’ in Newburyport.
It has come to the attention of those that are most responsible for this to happen, that ever since Newburyport became the latest designated ‘Massachusetts Cultural and Historic District’,..that something was amiss. Something didn’t seem quite right.
The Arts in Newburyport have been in decline.
There are those that may disagree with that statement. You may not have seen this as much over at the Firehouse. Maybe you have. You may not have seen this as much over at the NAA. Maybe you have. But I can tell you this. There was a time in Newburyport that the ‘art’s didn’t just flourish in two or three places. Art was the fundamental basis of its Culture.
Whether you were a painter of oils, watercolor, whatever….there were many. If you were a photographer it didn’t matter. If you wrote, played music, sang, it didn’t matter. It was plentiful. From Middle Street Cafe to Inn Street, there were galleries galore. Art was the fundamental driving force of what made Newburyport what it was. What it is.
I had a conversation the other day with a business owner in Newburyport. We talked about how a business will open, spend a couple years, four or five at most, then gone. This is how it works now. He told me this is what is now the ‘norm’, what is expected. They will come in, invest, make their money and before they lose it all, move on. They cannot sustain due to many elements including the business model, high rents, profitability, etc etc.  The norm now is make your cash while you can, then get out.
My questions are, what kind of business model is this for Newburyport? What does this do for Newburyport’s sustainability? Is it even sustainable in the first place? Is there any other interest amongst business owners other than making a quick buck then moving on? Where is the long term interest in the city, its history and culture? What is the city actually doing to incorporate into its business model the latest designation of historic and cultural ‘district’?
Im sure there are some that care. I’m sure there are some that see the need for something more than a restaurant or another womens boutique. There’s nothing wrong with restaurants, or womens boutiques. My question is, how many can you have in such a small centralized location?
We got to talking about other avenues for sustainability in Newburyport. Ways to build off of what Newburyport was, and what it needs to get back to its roots. We talked about where he lives in Boston and how he visits Sowa. How it serves him and his wife for most the art and trinkets they purchase for themselves. For those that are not familiar with Sowa. Check it out. ( This is what you will read in big letters if you click on the link.

The SoWa Art + Design District is a vibrant community of artist studios, contemporary art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiquesdesign showrooms, and restaurants unified by a passion for creating and curating exceptional artworks, products and experiences. Once known as a region of neglected warehouses in Boston’s South End, the SoWa Art + Design District has experienced a dramatic renaissance, blossoming into a world-renowned arts, retail, and lifestyle destination. Developed to support and preserve Boston’s talented artists and entrepreneurs, SoWa connects visitors with a dynamic group of makers and thinkers, and offers a platform to showcase their work at now-famous events such as the SoWa Open MarketSoWa First Fridays and the SoWa Art Walk. 

For years now other cities like Salem and Beverly have been leading the way in designing their Master City Plans around the arts. While Newburyport, and those that now dictate who comes and goes, has been terminating small business owners leases and pricing them out of the market to make way for the more ‘upscaled commercial chains’. Now, even those commercial chains cant make it more than a couple years because business is just not there anymore. Look up Newburyports Master Plan and let me know if you see anything in it that remotely relates to developement of the ‘arts’. I try talking to people and just like my experiences of late dealing with the licensing commissions and the likes it almost as if I am speaking a foreign language. Art they say? As if its a four letter word. Yes,…ART. There was some talk about turning the Brown school into a loft for living artist and studios. That lasted how long? Even though I knew at the time it was just throwing a bone to the wolves because it by no means was a sufficient enough space for doing what it may have envisioned at one time for artist.

I remember when I first brought up the idea for replacing the corporate sponsors of Yankee Homecoming on Inn Street with artisans. Even though they had no choice but let me give it a try, they really thought it was going to fall on its face and not even come close to pulling what the commercial and corporate sponsors did. Some people still cant believe we booted McDonalds out of town or even understand why.

We may not yet have topped out on what they brought in, but let me tell you something. Sometimes…money is not everything. When you can bring more business, more enjoyment, restore intent and vision to what it was suppose to be……then sometimes you just have to give something a chance to be successful and sometimes you have to measure that success in ways beyond the all mighty dollar.

This is what the Artisans Revival is doing for Newburyport. This is what Salem and Beverly is doing for their cities. Just this past month Mayor Holaday was a guest at the Creative County Initiative Arts and Culture Summit at Monteserat College, sponsored by the Essex County Creative organization. ( While the Chamber of Commerce and New England Developement have been levying their complaints against me and my art cart on Inn Street these are the types of things these cities have been doing for their communities and I have been touting here in Newburyport for years now. If you were to read far enough into my year round proposal for an artisan market on Inn Street,( you would see that I have been touting these movements by the likes of Mayor Karen Driscoll of Salem for years now, at very least since 2012,…but even long before then.

Enough. Its time to bring these initiatives to Newburyport. This city used to be the wayfarers of such initiatives. Now this city acts more like the deterent of such. Why? Because of whom? There IS Movement. Isee it. I see it in people like Paul Swindlejurst and Elena Bachrach with their work in The Newburyport Arts Association. I see it in the work being done by gallery owners Paula Esty and Studio Eight. But,..the working artist of Newburyport go much deeper than just the Firehouse and Art Association. You will find many of them down on Inn Street this summer because we have pushed back. We stood up and held our ground and drew a line in the brick. We said this is where it ends and begins anew…again, for ALL.

This just isnt about crafts. Its not just about the metal smiths or the leather makers. Its not just about the photographers or the painters or even just the musicians.

Its about Artist. Its about Newburyport.

Monday night at this months City Council meeting I have submitted a formal request and special event application for expanded Artisan Revival shows on Inn Street. My co-chair Sandra Turner of PlumIslander Art and myself will be their to lend our public input prior to the meeting. If you have a burning desire to speak your mind regarding the ‘state of the arts’ in Newburyport, this would be an ideal time to do so. We are NOT there to be negative or to speak out on what the city of Newburyport has NOT done for the arts lately. We are there to be a positive force in what more can be done for the state of the arts in Newburyport. We are not there to complain. We are there to offer solutions.

When I made my submittal for the first independent art show to be done on Inn Street outside of Yankee Homecoming in years last September, I remember City Council member Robert Cronin stand up and ask,..but, what about the brick and mortar business’? With all due respect to the question, allow me to answer that.

Last Spring a petition was brought forward to City Council led by retail owner on Inn Street, the Elephants Trunk, Claudia Harris to ban festivals from downtown and move them elsewhere. By the time we were done demonstrating how the city needs to bring the ART back into festivals and what a little bit of management could do,…Claudia Harris was writing me a letter of recommendation for more art shows on Inn Street. Not only that but one of the most heart warming experiences I have encountered so far with the Artisans Revival was seeing the community collaboration between the people of the Save the Pink House set up next to the Elephant Trunk, while Claudia promoted her new line of dresses and ties incorporating the artwork of local artist Rod Emmerling during last years Yankee Homecoming Inn Street Artisans Revival.

Jack Frost was smiling down from the heavens. This my friends, is what it is all about.

If you can be at city hall on Monday night, be there. You dont need to speak. Just raise your hand in support if I have a chance to ask if anyone else is here in support of the expanded Artisans Revival shows on Inn Street. Better that way actually instead of taking up more of the city councils time then necessary. Better yet, you dont even have to be there. Just send me a short email in support and I will be happy to print it out and take with me as demonstrations of voices beyond the city hall council chambers.

This is a plea for Art to be incorporated into the Master City Plan for the City of Newburyport, the lastest city to be designated as a historic and cultural district in the State of Massachusetts.

Lets help make us worthy of it.


Best Regards,

John William Brown
Spirit of Newburyport
42 Federal Street
Newburyport, MA 01950

Artisans Revival Coordinator

Yankee Homecoming Inn Street Artisans Revival

Inn Street Artisans Revival – Facebook
Spirit of Newburyport Blog – Revival Updates
Merchants, Business Leaders High on Yankee Homecoming
Newburyport Daily News;Dyke Hendrickson Staff Writer Aug 8, 2017
Artisans Bring Lively Revival to Inn Street
By Jim Sullivan Staff writer Aug 1, 2017
As I See It: Jack Garvey – ‘No No Nantucket’
Newburyport Daily News Editorial 2017;
As I See It: Jack Garvey – ‘No No Nantucket’
A Call to Inn Street Artists
Worth The Price of Admission
Home Grown Festival; Newburyport Daily News Aug 2016 
Yankee Homecoming 2016 Chairman Plans New Events
Newburyport Daily News – July 2016
Artisan Revival Library Presentation 2016
Inn Street Blues; McDonalds Effect of Corporate Sponsorship
Tribute to Jack Frost; 2013 Yankee Homecoming Yearbook Inn Street Artisans Market
Peddle Meddling 2010; Newburyport Current
Prolific Artist Has More In Store
Newburyport Current; March 3, 2006
Newburyport; An American Perspective 2006
A Contemporary Art Exhibit – Where the Old Meets the New
Reflections on Ten Years of the Spirit of Newburyport #1 on Ten Years of the Spirit of Newburyport #2

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