Creative path to better economy

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NORTH ADAMS

On May 19 and 20, Berkshire Creative and NEFA (The New England Foundation for the Arts) co-hosted the Creative Communities Exchange at MASS MoCA in North Adams. Over 220 attendees from New England and beyond attended. The exchange was lively and informative, the speakers were passionate, expert and energetic, and the venue was spectacular. It attracted regional and national luminaries who believe that the creative economy movement offers distinctive opportunities for New England, if not the entire country.

Providing the keynote remarks was National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman, who offered a forward-looking agenda oriented around the ways that the arts and culture contribute to place-making and the revitalization of post-industrial communities -- specifically calling attention to MASS MoCA as a trend-setting leader in the concept.

The conference was a collaboration between NEFA and Berkshire Creative's dynamic leader, Director Helena Fruscio. In just a few short years, Berkshire Creative has provided a platform to focus attention on the unique and fruitful intersection between arts, culture, design and industry in the Berkshire region. This focus has brought new energy and definition to how we think about the possibilities for economic development in our region -- a place blessed with great beauty, great creativity and great energy.

Our region is also challenged by significant issues -- energy costs, dwindling populations, the need for good jobs, education and opportunity. Berkshire Creative's mission is to create opportunity by building connections between creative individuals and creative institutions and businesses.

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In an Eagle column of Friday, May 20, former economist Dennis Pastore of Adams is critical about the possibility that creative economy initiatives might have in developing economic opportunity in the county, particularly in North County. We share his concerns about opportunity and the loss of population, but we do believe that developing the creative economy through a grass-roots effort such as Berkshire Creative, offers present results and solid future prospects.

In no way do we believe that the creative economy can be all things to all people -- we are only a portion of the economic development blueprint that Mr. Pastore references. Industry, tourism, technology and other development efforts are also called for in that plan, and other organizations and groups are charged with pursuing those ends. The visibility and success that Berkshire Creative has managed to have in convening and connecting regional artists, creative workers and companies in the past few years has been the result of a dedicated and focused effort by many, many volunteers who participate on our board and the Creative Economy Council, which is comprised of over 70 business and institutional leaders in the region, and the support of the leading businesses and cultural institutions in the county. We have a paid staff of one. We have an unpaid, dedicated and passionate community of thousands.

The Creative Communities Exchange Conference is testament to the fact that Berkshire Creative is leading by doing. Our colleagues from around the country came to the Berkshires to share and participate in our success. They toured MASS MoCA, attended a glorious Third Thursday, and heard from some of the passionate and dedicated members of our community.

Our regional, state and federal leaders have taken notice of these efforts and sent their top representatives to participate and hear about what is taking place in communities like ours throughout New England. I would like to extend my thanks and praise as the co-chair of Berkshire Creative to my colleagues in this effort -- your work has been noticed. It has met the goals of our mission -- to create opportunity for the people of Berkshire County. Our work is not done -- in fact, it has only just begun. We invite you to join us and help in this effort for we truly believe that "Creativity Lives Here."

Kevin Sprague is co-chair, Berkshire Creative.


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