In the news: Mosaic Lowell is putting pieces together

From the Lowell Sun:

By SCOTT SHURTLEFF | Correspondent

October 20, 2022 at 7:34 p.m.

LOWELL — Mosaic Lowell is an upstart nonprofit organization that helps fund and promote both the city’s vast artistic community as well as the individual artists within that scene. But for the past two weeks, the organization, known for its trumpeting voice of advocacy, had been tight-lipped.

The silence had created a measurable level of suspense among the group’s members and followers. For Steering Committee Co-Chair Howard Amidon, that was an effective strategy to entice dozens of curious stakeholders to go to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium for Thursday’s spilling of the beans.

“We’re so excited to celebrate the launch of this Arts, Cultural and Creative Economy Plan with you,” Amidon wrote in his tease earlier this week.

Amidon, through Mosaic’s website and social media platforms, hinted at a significant bit of information to be revealed soon. He jiggled the bait for weeks about something “never before seen on this scale in Lowell.”

At the Mosaic Lowell “Roll Out Lunch and Special Announcement” was the “Perry Mason” moment that folks had been waiting for.

The afternoon affair from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the auditorium’s Hall of Flags drew more than 100 city officials, business owners, artists and civic leaders, and was livestreamed on Facebook to countless more.

Along with the official launch of Mosaic Lowell came the announcement that it would be funded in large part for the next three years by the Barr Foundation.

“I particularly love the Lowell Mosaic principle of ‘dream big,’” said San San Wong, director of arts and creativity for the Barr Foundation.

“Artists, artisans, culture bearers, makers, creative entrepreneurs are all people who dream and facilitate the dreams of others,” Wong said. “So to support this effort I am very pleased to announce a grant from the Barr Foundation of $1 million to support the initial three years of making Mosaic Lowell a reality.”

Wong alluded to the litany of partnerships in Lowell, including civic groups, political and city officials, the schools, residents, business owners and the many cultural entities. To diagram all those partnerships would be an exhausting effort of putting strings on push pins or a spreadsheet so confusing that Excel would melt down. Instead, think of Mosaic as the nexus to which most of these things are connected, the intersection of dozens of entities.

As the hub, the newly-formed, now-funded Mosaic can plant seeds all over the city, fertilizing an already robust artistic community. Amidon explained how the money will be used. “Hiring some staff,” he said. “And use it for programs to advance arts and culture, marketing, youth program and development.”

State Sen. Ed Kennedy spoke of the importance of this funding from a macroeconomic perspective.

“The work of Mosaic Lowell builds upon these previous and ongoing efforts,” Kennedy said, referring to the city’s cultural events and festivals. “Tourism, arts and culture is the third largest industry in Massachusetts.”

City Manager Tom Golden expanded on the economic advantages laid out by Kennedy, but from a micro angle. He put the funding as the third leg in Lowell’s master plan for economic development, along with partnerships and passion.

“I think the creative economy is about to be woken back up,” Golden said. “You’ve always been here and you’ve struggled lately. But with the partnerships and passion, we are about to reawaken a giant.”

The collective message and mission is to elevate Lowell to the pantheon of artistic communities nationwide. With Mosaic’s added muscle, that target is closer. Mosaic operates under the umbrella of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.

Its launch party introduced the gathered dignitaries and business owners to other arts, including culinary, with a catered lunch provided by six local restaurants — another partnership — as well as performing arts, dance and music.

Outside, The Party Band, a jazz ensemble, welcomed visitors. Inside, the program began with a demonstration of traditional Cambodian dance by Angkor Dance Troupe. The mood was still festive after the dining and giving, so when the Lowell Community Charter Public School’s Afro-Latin Percussion Ensemble closed the gala with sound, a palpable gasp of joy was felt in the room.

Kennedy summarized the day and the history in his closing remarks.

“A mosaic is a picture made up of tiny pieces to create a work of art,” he said. “I can think of no better metaphor for the city of Lowell.”