NORTH ADAMS — Discounted audio production, downtown gallery space and an art vending machine.
Those are among the perks local artists will enjoy because of funding from the National Endowment of the Arts.
The North Adams Artist Impact Coalition has announced eight grants of up to $5,000 that will fund proposals to provide virtual and physical resources to local artists at low or no cost. The coalition is a group of art organizers formed in 2018 by local artists, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the city of North Adams and other stakeholders.
The money comes as part of a $100,000 matching grant from the NEA to Mass MoCA, which is administering the money through its Assets for Artists program, according to fundraising and marketing manager Molly Rideout. Mass MoCA was one of 51 recipients nationwide selected for the “Our Town” grant.
“The grant was meant for resources that artists already have here, to broaden the scope of who they can offer their services to,” Rideout said, “and to offer their services at a more affordable rate than they might otherwise be able to.”
The eight projects, chosen by a committee made up of coalition members, local artists and community organizers, represent a variety of media. They range from subsidized marketing to four free memberships for artists of color to the artist collective Common Folk.
The money also will help fund a series of free summer jazz concerts (COVID-19 permitting), and gallery space in two downtown properties: The Walkaway House on on East Main Street and the Plant Connector on Eagle Street. Walkaway House and Common Folk are among the groups that make up the Artist Impact Coalition.
The original plan for the grant money, Rideout said, included a physical center that could connect artists to resources and to each other, but that idea was derailed by the pandemic. She said some of the money intended for a physical space might end up going toward the virtual database that the coalition is putting together.
“We’re focused on creating a more digital resource center,” she said. “We’re going to build a website to house all these resources, and we’ll also have an artist directory and an artist resource guide.”
Those resources will help artists access physical supplies as well as answers to technical questions, including inquiries about starting a business or opening a gallery space.
The money comes as COVID-19 surges across the state and the country, presenting serious challenges for artists. Massachusetts cultural organizations have lost $484 million in revenue since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to a survey released this month by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Across Western Massachusetts, individual artists reported losing nearly $3.5 million in personal income, or more than $7,000 each, on average.
“We’re really excited to get this money out the door,” Rideout said. “But, when you think about it, it’s also just a drop in the bucket.”
Jeweler and artist Nico Dery, who received one of the grants for her proposal to open an art vending machine stocked by local artists, said that when the money first was announced this year, she tried to think practically about what artists actually need.
“The first two things that popped into my mind were money and health care,” she said. “I’m probably not going to be able to solve the health care problem, but I might be able to help with the money problem.”
She hopes to install the vending machine in a public space, ideally an outdoor location with heavy foot traffic, and offer trinkets including masks, books, CDs and small paintings.
“The idea is that the art will be a little more accessible,” she said, with pieces priced from a few dollars up to $100.
“I want it to be sustainable, so that this can exist for a long time,” she said. “And continue to be a way that artists can generate money in town for years to come.”