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State Gives Nearly $1 Million Boost to Berkshire Cultural Projects

May 22, 2021 : The Berkshire Eagle, by Clarence Fanto

Help is on the way from the state — totaling nearly $1 million — for Berkshire County cultural projects in Becket, Lenox, North Adams, Stockbridge, Williamstown and Windsor.

The cultural facilities awards are from MassDevelopment through the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund. Statewide, the agencies approved $9.1 million in grants to nonprofits, colleges and towns that own or operate facilities primarily focused on the arts, humanities and sciences.

The awards are targeted for the acquisition, design, repair, renovation, expansion and construction of nonprofit and municipal cultural facilities. The grants range from a maximum of $200,000 to $2,400 and require one-to-one matches from the private sector or other non-state sources.

The Berkshire County grants include:

— $200,000 to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket for major upgrades to the 1942 Ted Shawn Theatre, and to support the planning for a new building to replace the Doris Duke Theatre destroyed by a fire last November.

— $200,000 to the Williamstown Theatre Festival for the purchase and renovation of the former Price Chopper supermarket on State Road (Route 2) in North Adams as a permanent facility for constructing theatrical sets. WTF bought the 60 year-old, nearly 36,000-square-foot space last year, anticipating the relocation of their set-building operation from the former Blackinton Mill on Massachusetts Avenue. The Price Chopper site has been vacant since 2016, when the market closed.

— $200,000 to the town of Lenox to help complete the structural stabilization project for the historic 1816 building housing the library, with emphasis on preserving the unique Dome Room ceiling. For planning purposes, the preliminary total cost estimate is $1.1 million. Design work is currently underway, said Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen.

— $190,000 to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown for COVID-related improvements, roof replacement and HVAC systems upgrades as well as equipment replacement for sustainability and improved environmental control.

— $110,000 to the Stockbridge Museum for an upgraded HVAC system in the Museum & Archives department.

— $50,000 to Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center in Windsor to construct sustainable indoor and outdoors space.

— $2,400 to the Images Cinema in Williamstown to address concerns about interior air quality, including the installation and upgrade of the existing HVAC system.

The Tamarack Hollow grant allows the nonprofit to begin construction of a nature and cultural center on the nearly six-acre site it owns and manages at 1515 Savoy Hollow Road, said co-founder, director and lead educator Aimee Gelinas, a naturalist, musician and artisan. The area includes 32 acres of a conserved, highland boreal forest.

The “Raise the Roof” project’s architectural plans by Dana Bixby Architects of West Stockbridge can be viewed on the center’s website at www.tamarackhollownatureandculturalcenter.org.

To raise the matching $50,000 grant required by the state agency, the center is seeking donors through its website, by e-mailing Gelinas at aimee@gaiaroots.com or by postal mail at Tamarack Hollow, P.O. Box 115, Windsor, MA 01270.

Tamarack Hollow offers year-round programs for all ages. The organization’s mission is to “inspire environmental and cultural awareness, appreciation and stewardship.”

Upcoming events include a Drum & Dance Festival at the Windsor Town Park on Peru Road (10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 29, rain date May 30); a Boreal Forest Bird Walk at Tamarack Hollow (7 to 10 a.m. May 31) and a Boreal Forest Plant, Tree and Wild Edible hike, also at the Hollow (10 a.m. to noon June 12). Details on the website or Facebook page.

Mass Cultural Council, an independent state agency, promotes excellence, access, education and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences to improve the quality of life and contribute to the economic vitality of communities. The council offers grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth. During the 2020 fiscal year, it financed or managed 341 projects generating investment of $2.7 billion for the state’s economy.

The newly announced grants “will be a shot in the arm for our arts and culture sector as it rebuilds from the impacts of COVID-19,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera.

“As the Commonwealth begins to emerge from the pandemic and cultural organizations prepare to safely reopen to the public, the Cultural Facilities Fund is an important economic revitalization tool and job creator, benefiting our cultural sector and the overall state economy,” said Cultural Council Executive Director Michael Bobbitt.