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MCC grants worth $950k headed to Berkshires

May 16, 2020 : The Berkshire Eagle, by Jeffrey Borak


BOSTON — Nearly $950,000 in capital grants have been awarded to 10 nonprofit Berkshires cultural, historic, and education venues from the Mass Cultural Council's Cultural Facilities Fund.

The largest grants in the total $947,000 package have been awarded to Jacob's Pillow, $200,000; Edith Wharton Restoration, $180,000; Barrington Stage Company, $170,000; and the Clark Art Institute, $130,000.

The Wharton Restoration received a second grant for $7,000. Grants also went to West Stockbridge Historical Society, $80,000; Greenagers, $60,000; Berkshire Theatre Group, $50,000; Berkshire Scenic Railway and Museum, $40,000; and Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative, $30,000.

Administered through MCC and MassDevelopment, the grants "invest in the acquisition, design, repair, renovation, expansion, and construction of nonprofit and municipal cultural facilities," MCC and MassDevelopment officials said in a joint prepared statement Friday.

"We are thrilled by the support from the MCC," Jacob's Pillow executive and artistic director Pamela Tatge said Friday in an email to The Eagle. "Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that has a dedicated program to support the facilities' needs of arts organizations."

The Pillow grant will be used to make long-delayed improvements and upgrades to the historic Ted Shawn Theatre.

"As the first theater built specifically for dance, the commitment to improving the space for artists and audiences is a strong statement for the future of dance in the Berkshires," Tatge said.

The Edith Wharton Restoration's $180,000 grant — the largest Edith Wharton Restoration ever has received from the Cultural Facilities Fund, according to Executive Director Susan Wissler — will be used for exterior improvements at the Gatehouse, the organization's year-round administrative building at The Mount in Lenox.

"It is a significant building dating back to 1902," Wissler said in an email to the Eagle, "and is part of Edith Wharton's original estate."

Expressing gratitude to MCC and MassDevelopment, Wissler said the funding "will bring the Gatehouse in line with recent upgrades to the exteriors of both the Main House and the Stable, both of which also received Cultural Facilities Fund grants."

Barrington Stage Company founding artistic director Julianne Boyd said by phone that the MCC money will be used to renovate and redesign a 22,000-square-foot warehouse on Laurel Street in Pittsfield for use as a set production shop.

"It's big enough," Boyd said, "that we will be able to construct full sets there and see what they look like before we move them into our theaters. The design will allow our people to work more quickly, efficiently and safely."

"We are pleased to once again partner with Mass Cultural Council to award more than $9 million in grants to build, repair, or expand cultural facilities across the Commonwealth," MassDevelopment president and CEO Lauren Liss said Friday. "These museums, performance venues, and other cultural institutions represent an important piece of Massachusetts' economy."

"These grants will boost jobs in the construction industry at a critical time of increased unemployment, while investing in the cultural sector which is critical to the vitality of Main Street businesses," said Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker.