Clark Art, Mass MoCA each get $140K federal grants


Two of North County's leading arts institutions have been named as recipients of federal grants worth more than $140,000 each, and will apply matching dollars to fund enhancements to existing educational services.

The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown was awarded $144,170 through the Museums for American grant program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which will partially fund development and implementation of an innovative mobile interpretation system. The Clark will apply an additional amount of $169,695.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Foundation in North Adams was named a recipient of $148,050 over two years, also through the Museums for America program. The grant will help fund a series of programs to expand the museum's educational offerings for students in pre-K through Grade 8. Mass MoCA will invest an additional $448,170.

"The Clark is delighted to be recognized," said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. "We are grateful to IMLS for supporting this exciting new method of interpretation."

The Clark will replace its existing audio guide with a dynamic new interpretation system, which will include a mobile, touch-screen multimedia guide, available as an application on museum-provided tablets and via visitors' own devices on- and off-site. The content provided will be carefully developed around the content of the museum's exhibits.

In 2012, the museum began integrating iPads, tablets, interactive digital programs, touchscreens and digital kiosks throughout its galleries as part of its "Clark Remix," exhibition, and "uCurate" initiative.

A new mobile interpretation system is a significant component of the Clark's plan for the reinstallation of its collections in its original 1955 museum building and in the Manton Research Center, both currently under renovation and scheduled to open in summer 2014.

MASS MoCA's plan for the grant funding is to expand opportunities to local students by making it more affordable to attend school time performances through a new subsidized transportation program.

Partnerships will be established with C.T. Plunkett Elementary School in Adams, and Capeless Elementary and Conte Community schools in Pittsfield, as well as with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Pittsfield Boys and Girls clubs, and the Pittsfield Family YMCA, and targeting students in pre-kindergarten through Grade 5.

MASS MoCA already participates in a 13-year Kidspace partnership with the North Adams Public Schools and the North Berkshire School Union, through which every pre-K through eighth-grade pupil can participate in multiple field trips to the museum and the Kidspace gallery. Artists conduct residencies in the schools, and educators are directly involved in comprehensive teacher development programs and workshops.

"The IMLS award is a great boost of rocket fuel to our newly formed education department," said Joseph Thompson, director of MASS MoCA. "Over the past year, the museum has completely reconceived our gallery tour program, doubled adult education programs, and continued to grow our hugely popular Kidspace activities."

Thompson said the IMLS award comes at a pivotal moment, just as Mass MoCA is gearing up to increase offerings to its longtime partners in North Adams and the towns of Florida, Clarksburg and Savoy, while also bringing in new audiences and school partners.

"We are thrilled to now be able to extend the reach of our art education programs to more people throughout our home region," he said.

The grants to the Clark and Mass MoCA are two of 244 awards, totaling $30 million, made through the IMLS grant programs.

"IMLS recognizes three valuable roles museums have in their communities: Putting the learner at the center, serving as community anchors, and serving as stewards of cultural and scientific collections," said IMLS Director Susan Hildreth. "I congratulate the slate of 2013 museum grant recipients for planning projects that advance innovation in museum practice, lifelong learning, and community engagement."

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