Interns explore youth center possibilities


Above from left, Alex Butfilowski (MCLA '15), Hannah Sterrs (MCLA '14), Christi Clarke (Adelphi University '14) and Tess Favini (MCLA '14) engage their audience on Friday, Aug. 15, by performing a skit as they present ideas for a North Adams youth center.

What sort of programming should a North Adams youth center include? This summer's group of Berkshire Hills Internship Program (B-HIP) participants set out to answer that question and many more as MCLA, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC) explore the possibility of creating a teen center in North Adams.

After spending their summer at some of the best cultural venues Berkshire County has to offer - from MASS MoCA in the north down to Tanglewood in the south - these interns had plenty of ideas and suggestions.

Through the Berkshire Blueprint Project, they were given the task of brainstorming, researching and producing a compelling, three-hour-long, conference-style presentation of what programs might be offered, and how one might integrate arts enrichment into a holistic space for teens, according to Katherine DiPierro, B-HIP coordinator.

They began the project by interviewing area teens to find out more about them, how they like to spend their time, and what they would like to see in a youth center.

Hannah Sterrs '14 was part of the "Missions/Needs/Goals and Assessment" group.

"We worked on this for 12 weeks, but only had three hours to present it," Sterrs said. "We had to choose what was important, carefully phrase our wording, and have a professional demeanor. I had never presented to such a large group before. I had also never presented a project before, so this was a new and important experience for me." 

In addition to their group assignment, each intern wrote several pages of the final report, focusing on their assigned area. They also identified activities at the cultural venues where they interned that could be adapted for use at youth center.

"For example," DiPierro said, "Berkshire Creative is about developing the creative economy in the Berkshires. They have SPARK networking events and a website on job and interning opportunities in the Berkshires."

Sterrs, who served her internship at Berkshire Creative, suggested that the youth center hold a SPARK event to help the younger teens find jobs and the older teens to secure internships.

In front of a diverse audience - including MCLA faculty and staff, and representatives from MASS MoCA and NBCC, "The students did a very thorough job of presenting their work," DiPierro said. "In addition to a short video, they covered what their budget would be, and how they would market the organization to different groups, like parents and teachers. They talked about staffing and fundraising,"

"It was really well received and there was a lot of support in the room for their ideas," she added.

Ultimately, the interns envision a program similar to their B-HIP experience, which would include an opportunity for teens to attend cultural talk-backs by visiting visual and performing artists, each of whom would work with the teens over a four-week period.

"It was great to work on a project that could actually come to fruition," Sterrs said. "I had done projects before like Rock the Block, a large-scale event that took place, but this project will make a difference in someone's life."

B-HIP is an intensive arts management internship program that combines hands-on work experience with classes taught by arts administration faculty, TalkBacks with the area's leading arts professionals, and the chance to fully participate in cultural events throughout Berkshire County. 

For more information, Community/bcrc/b-hip.