The 2020 summer cultural scene, so critical to the Berkshires, has been shrinking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the forms of curtailments and cancellations. The economic impact will be considerable on the county. The Massachusetts Cultural Council is announcing two programs that should make a positive impact.

The many people whose income depends on these productions will feel this impact directly. The MCC is addressing their plight by creating the COVID-19 relief fund. The MCC will be providing 225 $1,000 grants to Massachusetts artists and teaching artists who have lost income because of cancellations and closures. The MCC says that free-lancers, independent contractors and "gig" workers may also be eligible.

There are limits to the Cultural Council's funds within its current budget but we hope these grants can reach as deep down as possible. While Berkshire audiences see the actors and musicians at summer productions they don't see the many skilled people behind the scenes who make these productions possible. Many work job to job and are dependent on the work they do each summer in the Berkshires to make ends meet.

The deadline to apply for this program is April 22 and more information can be found at ( These are important members of our community and the MCC grants amount to state money well spent in helping them.

The second program is called Safe Harbors COVID-19 Initiative for Cultural Organizations and is designed to help cultural groups access COVID-19 assistance offered through the federal government as well as analyze their current financial challenges and craft a plan to go forward. The MCC's partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) is designed to provide access to webinars and online resources, including coaching services for cultural groups. More information can be found (

The MCC conducted a poll in March of the economic status of cultural organizations in the state and "the results were dire and demanded attention," said Anita Walker, MCC executive director. We hope these two programs will make a difference in situation that is indeed dire and won't be resolved easily..