November 11, 2021
The past two years have presented a series of unimaginable financial, social and health challenges for communities across the globe. A continuing global pandemic forced the closures of businesses, the physical separation of people and all of us to grapple with the idea that outdoors was safer than indoors with a virus spread through the air around us. While none of us had ever lived through something like this before, communities across the country and around the globe got to work, supporting their communities by opening streets, granting permission to replace street parking with dining setups, establishing shared community dining spaces and much more. Creative projects were now embraced by public and private sector in a bid to keep people safe while allowing their communities to find opportunities to stay socially connected and local businesses to remain open and solvent throughout the pandemic.The winter of 2020 presented a unique set of challenges, one that required even more planning and support than the summer and fall of 2020. With the virus still raging cold weather communities had to think quickly to figure out ways to provide their communities a safe, outdoor, inviting space to connect with friends and neighbors while also providing the opportunity to support local businesses through what is already one of the more difficult times of the year. In the fall of 2020 we released a Winter Places Guide with creative concepts and ideas aimed at supporting communities around the world in their efforts to get people outdoors in their towns, supporting local small businesses in the process. The guide was downloaded over 3,000 times by individuals and organizations from across the US, Canada, Europe and Asia and we heard incredible feedback from Mayors, Main Street Directors, Town Planners, residents and artists inspired to get their communities outdoors in the winter months.Thanks to a funding partnership with Boston based Barr Foundation, we were able to support and fund twelve community winter placemaking projects across Massachusetts that were inspired by ideas in the Winter Places guide. These placemaking projects were led by some incredible cross-sector, public/private partnerships within each community and were designed, implemented and programmed alongside area businesses, residents and with the support and guidance of local boards of health. Though many delays were encountered based upon local Covid-19 conditions on the ground in each community, each project drew hundreds, if not thousands of area residents into the local commercial districts, giving residents a space to gather safely and businesses the opportunity to have foot traffic again during a traditionally difficult time of year, made even more difficult by the pandemic related restrictions. Nearly 100 local artists and craftspeople were employed for the implementation of these projects and close to 250 Massachusetts small businesses participated directly in this winter programming experience.The following guide includes detailed project reports on each campaign funded across Massachusetts as part of our program with Barr Foundation, resources produced during last years Winter Places program and information on how you can get support to activate your community during the coming winter. We hope this guide serves not only to inspire you to embrace winter outdoors in your community but provides practical tips to help get you there as we continue to work together to find creative ways to build community, foster new relationships and support our local economies in a changing pandemic environment.