6 Berkshire arts groups get $1.06M in grants from state Cultural Council

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The Massachusetts Cultural Council is investing $1,065,000 from its Cultural Facilities Fund into six Berkshire arts organizations. The grant awards were unveiled at the council's quarterly meeting, held Tuesday at Jacob's Pillow in Becket.

The capital and planning grants totaling $9,270,000 statewide were approved by MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development agency that provides support to nonprofits, colleges and towns that own or operate facilities primarily focused on the arts, humanities and sciences.

Community Access to the Arts won a $200,000 capital grant, among the highest-level awards, and also the largest grant that the nonprofit has received.

The award supports CATA's purchase and renovation of a new facility in Great Barrington to establish a fully accessible, permanent home and allows continued expansion of innovative arts programs for people with disabilities.

"To be funded at the highest level possible by the Cultural Facilities Fund is so significant for CATA and an important stamp of approval for us as we launch our first major facilities project and our first-ever capital campaign," said Executive Director Margaret Keller.

"This comes at a pivotal moment in CATA's history, on the heels of our work to dramatically expand the number of artists with disabilities we are serving in our community. Our beautiful and accessible new home will give CATA artists the space they deserve to nurture their creative talents."

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for June 10 at the new site in Jenifer House Commons, 429 Stockbridge Road (Route 7) in Great Barrington.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded 64 capital grants statewide, including five others in Berkshire County:

- Hancock Shaker Village: $200,000 for renovations to the first-floor visitors center, collection storage, and gallery, office, library and study space.

- Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge: $200,000 to preserve the historic Carriage House and Rockwell Studio. The project includes new wiring, HVAC replacements, and improvements to security, access and public restrooms.

- Chesterwood Museum & Estate, Stockbridge: $175,000 to create a live/work space for artists, writers and others to engage one another and the public in the creative process.

- Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams: $150,000 to support roof maintenance and replacements on the historic factory campus.

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- Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown: $140,000 for exterior repairs to the Museum Building and Manton Research Center.

"The Cultural Facilities Fund is a national model capital program that invests in some of our Commonwealth's most treasured assets — our nonprofit arts, humanities and science organizations," said Anita Walker, Mass Cultural Council Executive Director, in a prepared statement. "We thank the Baker-Polito Administration for its continued support of this program."

Among other noteworthy grants approved are $200,000 to Creative Hub Worcester to transform a former Boys Club into a multiuse arts center with classroom, studio, exhibition and performance space, and $150,000 to Marblehead to renovate and restore Fort Sewall, to draw new visitors to one of the oldest coastal fortifications in the U.S.

"Both residents and visitors benefit greatly from all that Massachusetts' cultural institutions have to offer," Gov. Charlie Baker said in a prepared statement. "Investments in the arts will help support tourism efforts across the Commonwealth and give more people the opportunity to experience its rich cultural history."

"The Commonwealth is fortunate to serve as the home for top arts, humanities and science organizations," Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said in a statement. "Our administration will continue to support efforts to boost the creative economy in all corners of Massachusetts."

In a 2006 economic development bill, state lawmakers created the Cultural Facilities Fund to enhance the state's creative economy through financing for acquisition, construction, expansion, renovation and repair of cultural facilities.

Other goals included increasing employment, entrepreneurial efforts and tourism, especially drawing new visitors from outside the state while stimulating further investment in the arts, heritage and sciences by preserving cultural resources.

According to an announcement from MassDevelopment, the Cultural Facilities Fund has awarded over $119 million to more than 960 projects across the state, employing more than 27,000 architects, engineers, contractors and construction workers. The nonprofit organizations engaged in this work plan to add 2,300 new permanent jobs after completing their projects.

"We're proud to co-administer the Cultural Facilities Fund, which supports Massachusetts' vibrant creative economy by enabling these key community assets to grow and maintain their physical infrastructure," stated MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss.

Demand for the money continues to grow. Last November, the Mass Cultural Council surveyed nonprofit organizations to determine the pipeline of construction projects in the planning stages over the next two to three years. In response, 127 organizations reported plans to invest in capital projects worth $335 million.

MassDevelopment and the Mass Cultural Council jointly administer the Cultural Facilities Fund, and an advisory committee appointed by Baker provides supervision. The grants are supported through $10 million from the state's fiscal year 2019 capital plan, approved by the Legislature and allocated by the governor.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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