Gov. eyes additional $5M for cultural funding

Posted

Thursday January 19, 2012

As the state prepares to formally release $853,000 in matching grants to support restoration, repairs and upgrades at a half-dozen Berkshire cultural organizations, the Gov. Deval Patrick administration has revealed plans to release an additional $5 million statewide in Cultural Facilities Fund awards for the coming year.

The funds are viewed as a critical boost for economic development in Berkshire County since they help fuel the hospitality industry, said Dr. Ira Lapidus of Williamstown, state chairman of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Tourism is the No. 3 industry in Massachusetts, according to state statistics. In Berkshire County, it ranks second on some measures and third on others.

"We're fortunate to have a governor and lawmakers who are supportive in a big way," said Lapidus. He pointed out that Berkshire County has seen a solid share of available funds since the program began in 2007.

The cultural-facilities matching grant program is "multi-pronged economic development" that spurs employment and revenue for the region, he said.

"For each dollar spent on the arts, we bring back $5 in tourism employment, lodging and dining revenue, and other spending," Lapidus said.

The most recent grants, to be celebrated on Friday at an 11 a.m. event at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, were part of the $7 million in statewide spending approved last November by Gov. Deval Patrick for arts, history and science organizations.

About $50.5 million has been invested in what the Patrick administration considers a model program for the nation, according to an announcement from MassDevelopment, the agency that administers the grants recommended by the Cultural Council.

The program has "provided work for more than 10,335 architects, engineers, contractors and construction workers -- all professions hard hit by the recession," said Greg Liakos of the Cultural Council.

The grants also "paved the way for more than 1,500 permanent jobs when all the projects are completed," he added.

The guest list for the Friday event includes key Beacon Hill supporters of the program -- state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, the vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts; and Cultural Development and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, who chairs the Massachusetts Cultural Caucus on Beacon Hill.

In Pittsfield, the Samuel Harrison Society is using its $63,000 grant to restore the birthplace of the Rev. Samuel Harrison, an officer and chaplain for the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the all-black volunteer unit that fought for the Union in the Civil War. A house museum and archive will be created when the overall $370,000 project is finished, with an April 15 target date for a ceremony.

Among the largest grants is a $250,000 award for repairs at the Chesterwood Museum and Estate in Stockbridge, including comprehensive restoration of the interior, exterior, and structural supports of famed sculptor Daniel Chester French's Studio.

The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown also is getting $250,000 for design, construction and equipment at its new visitor, exhibition and conference center.

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The Edith Wharton Restoration at The Mount in Lenox gained $137,000 for exterior restoration at the Stables, which will allow for year-round programming.

At the Mahaiwe, $100,000 will fund additional improvements to the restored theater.

"It's very significant," said Executive Director Beryl Jolly. Enhanced acoustics, new lighting equipment, chimney and painting work and safety upgrades will result from the funding.

For the Williamstown Theatre Festival, a $53,000 award will renovate and outfit a new scene-shop facility.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247.

By the numbers ...

The statewide impact of the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund:

n $45.5 million invested since 2007; another $5 million slated this year.

n More than 10,335 architects, engineers, contractors and construction workers employed on projects.

n More than 1,500 new permanent jobs expected after projects are completed.

n Support of tourism, the state's third largest industry.

n Sustaining a payroll of more than $385 million.

n About 15 million visitors statewide in 2010.

n $150 million in admission and ticket revenues.

n $199 million in related revenue from gift shops and concessions.

Sources: MassDevelopment; Massachusetts Cultural Council.


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