Berkshire cultural sites to share $5M in state grants

Friday July 6, 2012

Cultural funding grants totaling more than $5 million will assist six sites in Berkshire County and 51 others statewide.

The grants were announced this week by Gov. Deval Patrick and comprise the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, the Images Cinema in Williamstown, the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead (the Herman Melville home) in Pittsfield, the city of North Adams for the Mohawk Theater, the Becket Arts Center of the Hilltowns, and the Sandisfield Arts & Restoration Committee.

The matching grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund are intended to support repairs, improvements and ex pansions for cultural organizations that create jobs and improve the quality of life in their communities, according to Patrick's office.

The groups intend to invest $414 million in their projects; individual grants ranged from $250,000 to $7,000.

The Berkshire Museum is the major beneficiary in the county, gaining $176,750 to replace its 1937 public elevator with a new one that complies with handicapped-accessible codes. The grant also will support installation of an interior accessibility ramp.

"Our physical facilities are always looked at as a priority for improvement," said Executive Director Van W. Shields. "We absolutely need to fulfill the spirit and the letter of the law, and we're looking forward to ushering in a new era of public access that is convenient to the visitor."

"One of my personal priorities that I'm very much supported on by my board is to ensure that the platform that we base all our programming on is the best that it can be."

Shields said he expects the matching funds to be in place soon, with project completion slated for the end of 2013.

"These grants will create new jobs in our nonprofit cultural sector, expanding tourism and helping to revitalize our communities," Patrick said in a prepared statement. "Our investments will support our many cultural organizations across the state and allow them to better serve the public for generations to come."

According to the Massa chusetts Cultural Council, the facilities funding supports a nonprofit creative sector that employs 27,100 people, spends $2.1 billion annually, and generates another $2.5 billion of economic activity across Mas sachusetts, according to a 2011 study by the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Statewide, organizations that received past facilities grants are spending more than $800 million on their building projects and are providing more than 11,000 building jobs to architects, engineers, contractors and carpenters.

The organizations also plan to add more than 1,150 permanent jobs after their capital projects are complete, according to the state agency.

Follow the money

State cultural-facilities grants have been awarded this week to the following organizations in Berkshire County:

  • Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, $176,750. To construct a modern, handicapped-accessible public elevator and interior accessibility ramp.
  • Berkshire Historical Society, Pittsfield, $37,951. To improve access to paths and restrooms at Arrowhead, the Herman Melville home, and to repair the driveway and the exterior of the historic barn. A 37-year-old boiler will be replaced.
  • City of North Adams, Mohawk Theater, $30,000. For operational and financial planning, plus early design development.
  • Images Cinema, Williamstown, $16,162. To acquire fixtures for installation of a digital conversion system and sound upgrade.
  • Becket Arts Center of the Hilltowns, Becket, $15,000. To fund a market analysis and operations plan for expanded programming, as well as architectural design plans.
  • Sandisfield Arts & Restoration Committee, $12,237. For light and sound equipment, plus installation of a handicapped-accessible lift up to the main performance area of the Sandisfield Arts Center.

Sources: Massachusetts Cultural Council, MassDevelopment


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