We had a very busy and informative day learning about the history of Nashua; the manner in which the community evolved and of the arts- upcoming developments that will likely continue to transform this community. Our day began with an overview of Nashua history given to us by Alan Manoian, who served as the Assistant Director of Economic Development and Downtown Development Manager from 1994-2003. He shared with us the history and evolution of Nashua commerce up until the present, and also his role in organizing the efforts to create a comfortable place to create memories in down town Nashua. His “out of the box” ideas and approaches to the renovation of the Nashua downtown community had a deep and lasting impact. He is a visionary that led the effort to transform the Nashua community into a place that would attract “community, connections and experiences.”
He described what Nashua was like at the turn of the century, when many people men, women and children contributed to the operation of the mills. They all took great risk to participate in this enterprise that was vital at the time to the livelihood of many families living in Nashua. During this time, the bell in town kept the time, and was a vital and haunting prompt to the expectations which they needed to comply every single day. He also discussed in detail what the city of Nashua was like in the 90’s when he came to assist with the revitalization. His vision to create inviting spaces for people and families to commune was not a popular idea at first; however, the development of these led to Nashua being identified as one of the best cities to reside in the US.
Pastor Paul Berube added to this narrative by describing the waves of immigrants that came to Nashua to settle and described their contributions to a community that was continuing to evolve into a richly multicultural and diverse place to live. His own believe that we need to “extend a welcome, an olive branch so that we can be enriched by one another, led him to assist various populations with settling in to the Nashua area and also to assist those with challenges to have an opportunity to “reset.”
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the Director of Community Impact gave us an overview of the demographics and the current diversity within the city. The present-day efforts to assist those who look to transition to our community from other countries and cultures was addressed and described to us by a panel of professionals, whose passion is to assist newcomers with resettlement: Elizabeth Berry, Department Chair, Multicultural Engagement and ESOL at Nashua Community College; Claudia Castano, ELL Coordinator Nashua High School and Samba Halkose, Adult Education Counselor, Adult Learning Center. These individuals are tasked with helping them to navigate the system and resources present, so that they are able to obtain the support needed to settle. The present challenges to these efforts are safe and affordable housing in the Nashua region and a decrease in federal funds to assist because of the previous administration. When asked what we can do to make Nashua more welcoming, they recommended adopting a “welcoming face, smile and to speak slowly” to give those learning English a chance to translate what is being spoken.
Our day continued with an introduction to Cecilia Ulibarri Executive Director and Co-founder of Positive Street Art and Co-founder, Manual Ramirez who also serves as lead artist. They seek to “bring community together through art” by creating colorful and meaningful murals throughout many communities. We had a walking tour to appreciate many of the murals created in our city and also of other works, sculptures by other artists. Our day ended with a visit and tour of another artistic venue which will likely become a treasured asset to the community, Nashua Center for the Arts on 201 Main Street. Glen Dugas, Project Manager, Harvey Construction; Jake Crumb with Spectacle, Manager of the Nashua Center for the Arts and Rich Lannan, board president of the Nashua Community for the Arts gave us a tour of the building which they are hoping to be near finishing in November. They were all on hand to answer any questions from our group and to give us a preview of what to expect of the Nashua Center for the Arts and what the spaces will be utilized for in the future.
Overall, it was a very inspirational and informative day thanks to many professionals, who contribute their passions and areas of expertise. These efforts assist our city to continue to evolve and grow into a valued comfortable place, which the area residents are proud to call home. I am grateful and impressed by the efforts and willingness of all of those who contributed to give us a sense and flavor of the evolution of and development of this community, and we are fortunate to be members of a group that will ultimately lend our own expertise to add to this legacy.
Independent Services Network, Regional Manager