1Berkshire's outgoing creative economy specialist leaves legacy of connecting art, entrepreneurship

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PITTSFIELD - Julia Dixon has spent the better part of the past four years helping artists and other creatives understand how to excel as entrepreneurs.

Now, the creative economy specialist intends to make use of her own advice.

"I help entrepreneurs on a daily basis and there's been this nagging voice that says, 'You have a business too,'" she told The Eagle on Thursday.

Dixon will step down next week as 1Berkshire's creative economy specialist, a position on its economic development team, to work on a range of projects. Her last day is Dec. 9.

The decision was difficult given her passion for the post.

"I love my job and I care very, very, very deeply about the creative community and the community in general," she said.

Formed by the merger of Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshires Visitors Bureau, and Berkshire Creative, 1Berkshire is a countywide organization focused on economic development and promoting the region.

Dixon, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts, came to the Berkshires in 2009 from Westchester County in New York to participate in the Berkshire Hills Internship Program at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"Julia Dixon is a poster child for the importance, and success, of programs like B-HIP and MCLA's Arts Management major," said Jonathan Secor, founder and former director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. "It is truly a wonderful thing to see folks like Julia find ways to stay in the Northern Berkshires, giving back to our community as they carve out their own places in it." Dixon said it was the community of artists in North Adams that hooked her. She worked to grow her network - a move that paid off. She was named managing director of the former Berkshire Creative Economy Council in 2012

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and became 1Berkshire's creative economy specialist when the two entities merged in April 2015.

A champion of creative people and the impact they have on the economy, Dixon worked on the Berkshire Initiative for Growth, Berkshire Audience Initiative, Berkshire Starts and BerkChique! among others. Last year she successfully launched 1Berkshire's Creative Resources Conference.

Set for Jan. 24, 2017, the upcoming event was moved to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to accommodate more guests.

1Berkshire President and CEO Jonathan Butler said her departure is an amicable one and that her talents will be missed.

"Julia has been a really unique part of our team and she really understood a lot of the work we did as an organization," Butler said. "I am excited to work with her in other capacities and hope that she stays engaged with the Berkshire community."

Her resignation, which she announced via email and on Facebook, was met with well wishes and excitement.

Rachel Louchen, a writer and editorial assistant with the online publication Rural Intelligence, credited Dixon with kick-starting her networking here after she relocated to the Berkshires four years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Julia connected me with so many people in the Berkshires," Louchen said. "And not just people making the big strides in the Berkshires. But the true heart of the creative community - writers, artists, PR people, those who are passionate to live and work here, such as myself."

Connecting people is something Dixon said she intends to continue to do by fixing her focus on Berkshire Flirt. Launched two years ago, the business uses events and social networking to help singles meet.

She said she will also focus on her role as art gallery manager at the Eclipse Mill Artist Lofts and host of "Creative City," a weekly radio show on WMNB-LP.

Butler said Dixon's duties will be shared by current 1Berkshire employees until a replacement is hired sometime in the spring. The organization hopes to draw a candidate from the Berkshires.

"It needs to be someone with a working understanding of the creative economy, what economic challenges are in the Berkshires, and they need to be a strong ambassador of the Berkshires," Butler said.

While Dixon is leaving 1Berkshire, she is not going far.

"I don't want to step away from this network and this community that I myself am a part of," she said. "I'm staying in North Adams, baby. North Adams is my home. I love it here."


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