Creative Montco to launch 10-year plan this Thursday

After a year-long effort to gather information, opinions and ideas about arts and culture in Montgomery County, Creative MontCo will unveil its 10-year plan during a launch party on Sept. 13 in the Parkhouse Hall Atrium at Montgomery County Community College’s Central Campus, 340 DeKalb Pike, Blue Bell.

The celebration begins with networking from 4-4:30 p.m., followed by a presentation from 4:30-5:15 p.m. and a reception from 5:15-6 p.m. Artists, creative entrepreneurs, civic leaders, government officials and anyone who lives or works in Montgomery County is welcome to attend. To RSVP, visit http://creativemontco.eventbrite.com or call 610-313-9836.

Supported in part by a major grant from the William Penn Foundation, along with support from the Montgomery County Foundation, Creative MontCo is based on the belief that culture and creativity are among a community’s most powerful assets.  The initiative, chaired by MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout, looks to leverage the County’s cultural and creative resources to enhance economic development through implementation of a 10-year comprehensive plan.

“Creative MontCo reflects the growing trend to integrate cultural and economic development,” said Dr. Stout. “By recognizing the link between non-profit and for-profit creative activity and combining them under the creative sector umbrella, we acknowledge their common interests and often-overlooked role within regional economies.”

To date, more than 1,900 individuals representing all 62 municipalities in Montgomery County have participated in the initiative through a series of town hall meetings, community conversations, survey responses, interviews and discussion groups, and social media and website feedback.

For more information about CreativeMontCo and to learn how to get involved, visit www.creativemontco.org.

MCCC Opens New University Center in Downtown Pottstown

There is plenty of great news coming out of Montgomery County Community College in recent weeks. In the next few posts, I will be passing it along. There are many different reasons to check out what Montco is offering to residents of the region – education, the arts, a leg up in a job search, and major contributions to Pottstown’s revitalization. You name it, Montco is doing it.~Sue Repko

Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) celebrated the opening of its new University Center on Aug. 21, expanding its West Campus to the former AAA East Penn building at 95 South Hanover St., and building on its vision to create a thriving urban campus in downtown Pottstown.

First introduced in 2006, MCCC’s University Center offers an entrepreneurial approach to expanding higher education opportunities for residents of the Tri-County region. Through partnerships with four-year institutions – Albright College, Chestnut Hill College, Temple University and Villanova University – students can choose from eight bachelor’s degrees, two master’s degrees and one graduate certificate.

During the event, MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout addressed the importance of expanding access to higher education opportunities for the region.

“Before we introduced the innovative University Center model, our graduates had to travel to the greater Reading and Philadelphia areas to continue their education in baccalaureate and graduate degree programs. However, for many of our students and community members in the Tri-County region, this commute simply isn’t possible,” she said. “Therefore, the University Center becomes more than a place where our partner institutions lease space to teach their classes on our campus. It becomes part of a much larger pipeline in terms of building student access to higher education.”

Charles Roberts, alumnus of both MCCC and Albright College, shared his personal educational journey through the University Center.

“I cannot begin to tell you where I would be without having the University Center. I was able me to attend class as a working adult and as someone who could not attend class the traditional college way.  I may never have attempted a bachelor’s program unless the University Center existed,” said Roberts, who has since earned a master’s degree from Gwynedd-Mercy College and who works in MCCC’s Enrollment Services department.

Dr. Lex O. McMillan III, president of Albright College in Reading spoke about the longstanding relationship with MCCC, describing it as a “thriving, healthy partnership.”

“Montgomery County Community College has the largest onsite degree completion programs of our satellite campuses,” he told the roomful of attendees. “In the 2011-12 year, 6,135 credits were transferred from MCCC, and 130 Albright students are enrolled in the degree completion program (at the University Center).”

The University Center project is made possible through a public-private partnership and lease agreement with Vesper Property Group, the building’s owner and developer. The new 10,500 square foot facility includes six classrooms with smart and videoconference technology, a student lounge and reception area. The entire facility is secured through electronic card access, and a front desk concierge is available to greet students and answer questions.

In addition to creating a new home and identity for the University Center, the new facility frees up existing classroom space at MCCC’s North and South halls – space that is greatly needed to accommodate an unprecedented 60 percent enrollment growth at the West Campus over the past five years.

For more information about the University Center, visit here.

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Photo above provided by MCCC:  MCCC President Dr. Karen A. Stout (center) cuts the ribbon for the new University Center facility. She is joined by (from left) MCCC and Albright alumnus Charles Roberts; Representative Marcy Toepel; MCCC Board of Trustees Chairman Michael D’Aniello; Albright College President Dr. Lex O. McMillan III; Senator John Rafferty; Representative Tom Quigley; Montgomery County Commissioners Vice Chairman Leslie Richards; and Vice President of MCCC’s West Campus Dr. Steady Moono.

Creative MontCo wants your input!

Are the arts important in your life and the life of your family? Do you spend time and money to learn how to paint or play an instrument or knit a sweater? Do you enjoy going to galleries, performances, or outdoor festivals? Would you like to see a few cafes with open mics in your downtown? Does the perfect nut roll or shoo-fly pie make you want to write poetry? Does a surprising piece of whimsical art in a public place bring a smile to your face?

Car Art!

These are just some of the ways that arts and culture touch our lives, and Montgomery County would like to hear from you about what specific places and activities are important to you in your town and throughout the region. Check out the survey here.Last fall Montgomery County launched a large-scale planning process called Creative MontCo. Their website bills Creative Montco as “a bold partnership of community members and organizations developing a comprehensive cultural and creative economy plan for communities throughout the county. Creative MontCo is dedicated to making Montgomery County a more vibrant place to live, work and play.”

The beautiful thing about the arts – besides just being, well, beautiful – is that arts and culture can be an economic engine for a local economy. All over the country, there are towns, small cities and even neighborhoods within larger cities, that have discovered their identities as centers of art, culture, and history and they have generated jobs and stabilized their tax base by understanding, expanding, and promoting their assets.

The Creative MontCo Steering Committee is being led by Montgomery County Community College president Dr. Karen Stout. The County has hired some really knowledgeable planners – The Cultural Planning Group – who understand how arts and culture can be good for residents and visitors alike and can stimulate economic growth.  They have have been surveying and meeting with artists, organizations, and groups ever since to find out what residents like, what they want more of, and what they envision for their towns in the way of arts, and culture, which I take to include historic and heritage resources as well as the natural environment (i.e., parks). 

To me, the term “culture” gets at the history of a place and how that is reflected today in the people that live there, the work they do, the traditions that live on, and the natural and built environments that are tied to all of that. For me, “the arts” includes any creative endeavor, including, say, beautiful cupcakes or the really old mosaic tiles in many of the entryways of the stores in downtown Pottstown.

So… what arts and cultural activities and events are important to you? Please take a few moments NOW to respond to their survey here.  And feel free to spend some time at Creative MontCo’s website, reading what others have to say and sharing your vision for the creative future of your county. 

 

 

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