Salsa on the Riverfront
Salsa on the Riverfront is a program that engages community members through dance in an underutilized park in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.
The program was made possible through leadership development training led by NewVue Communities, a regional nonprofit dedicated to resident leadership. NewVue Communities hosts a Leadership Cohort through their community organizing department. Cohort participants receive technical assistance and develop skills needed to write and receive grants along with seed funding to support their own programs. Through this training program a participant learned that Fitchburg parks were underutilized, and that Fitchburg’s residents historically have struggled with obesity. That is how Salsa on the Riverfront was born.
Fitchburg is a community of about 40,000 people and sits just west of Boston. At one point it had a vibrant commercial district with several manufacturing centers where diverse populations could at one point find economic security. But in the 1990s, jobs slowly began to migrate south and then overseas, and the city lost jobs and economic resources.
The decision to organize events in Riverfront Park was strategic and connected to other revitalization efforts. The park is located in the North of Main neighborhood, which has been identified by NewVue and other partners as a center of importance, not only because it is in downtown but also because the neighborhood is home to some of the most vulnerable residents. The one-hour salsa lessons were originally funded through a grant but the program has continued on through volunteer leadership and a small participation fee.
The community development field has been wrestling with how to create and maintain meaningful placemaking and how to devote resources to strengthen the neighborhood. Organizations are often forced to decide on where to focus their resources, by either focusing on those with the most need or broadening their efforts to build up the whole region. NewVue has approached this issue through leadership development of their citizens, as they focus on providing residents with skills and resources so that they can then implement their own community solutions. One of NewVue’s strategies for revitalization is to provide its Leadership Cohort with training on specific focus areas such as art and health. Most of their work is focused on Fitchburg and Leominster which are some of the region’s most racially and economically diverse centers and place with the greatest needs.
Property Type: Open Space
Project Type/ New Use: Performance
Project Purpose: Community engagement; Activation of riverfront; Health and wellness
Duration: Once or single day
Initial Cost: Under $10,000
Funding Source: Individual contributions; Philanthropic; In kind services
Organization Type: Nonprofit – Other
Implementation Partners: Resident Leaders
Community Type: Urban
Contributions by: Daniel Egusquiza
Last updated: October 2021 – Do you have additional information about this project? Please use the share your placemaking project form > to share that information.