Thursday August 16, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Though it's technically just one event, today's Third Thursday will roll several cultural activities and celebrations into one.

The celebration will shine a light on the $400,000 worth of grant money that will be pumped into nine arts, history and science organizations throughout Western Massa chusetts, funding courtesy of the Cultural Facilities Fund.

The funds, provided through a joint venture between the Massachusetts Cultural Council and MassDevelopment, is used to help the growth of culture throughout the state by supporting building projects for the arts, humanities and sciences.

Of the nine Western Massachusetts areas receiving the grant money, the Berkshire Historical Society and the Berkshire Museum are the only two located in Pittsfield. The establishments received $37,951 and $176,750 for structural repair and accessibility improvements, respectively.

Other regional recipients that make up the $400,000 of funds are the Amherst Cinema Arts Center; Images Cinema in Williamstown; Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley; Sandsfield Arts and Restoration Committee; Becket Arts Center of the Hilltowns in Becket; and the city of North Adams.

"They stood out in terms of the goal of the program," Massachusetts Cultural Council spokesman Gregory Liakos said.

Recipients go through an application process reviewd by a panel of experts, then ultimately a Cultural Facilities Fund committee appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick.

The funds are integrated into the same budget that works to repair roads and bridges, Liakos said.

"These aren't particularly glamorous projects," he said. "The grants are for the nuts and bolts needed for the facilities to be fully functional."

MassDevelopment is in charge of making sure the funding is handled and distributed correctly, according to spokeswoman Kelsey Abbruzzese.

"A lot of places are in need of an upgrade to show off their facilities," she said. "The Cultural Facilities Fund gives these organizations a place to help them."

A separate entity amid today's festivities is the Upstreet Cultural District kickoff, which will officially launch Pittsfield's newly established Upstreet Cultural District, the city's first and one of five in the state.

Long referred to as "upstreet" by residents, the area spanning from East and West Housatonic streets, Linden Street, and First and Center streets, is one of five areas in the state designated as a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council with the intention of promoting cities as an arts and business tourist destination.

It's a timely Third Thursday, as the festivities interweave with the WordxWord and Call Me Mellville celebrations in downtown Pittsfield. Distinguished guests at today's event include Senate President Pro Tempore Stan Rosenberg, state representatives Stephen Kulik and Paul Mark, and executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Anita Walker.

"It's the best possible time for this to happen," said Megan Whilden, the director of cultural development for the city of Pittsfield. "We'll get to show them first-hand what a vibrant cultural district looks like. It epitomizes what the Massachusetts Cultural Council was looking for when they started recognizing cultural areas."

Whilden said attendees can look forward to about a half-dozen musical performances throughout downtown, including a few suprise acts that she wouldn't reveal.