MCLA awarded local cultural grants


NORTH ADAMS, MA - DownStreet Art organizers got some welcome help for the 2010 season, thanks to a $2,000 grant from the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire. The funding was awarded in recognition of the work being done on the project by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC).

The award, which represents the largest amount granted by the Council, will be used to hire community members to staff gallery spaces for the upcoming DownStreet Art season.

"One of the major obstacles in planning DownStreet Art was the recruiting and managing a volunteer staff for temporary galleries, five days a week, and for four months out of the year. That was a tremendous amount of work hours, just by volunteer commitment," said BCRC Program Coordinator Jessica Conzo, who wrote the grant. "We now will have a mix of volunteers and paid staff. This is really important for us to be able to do that."

A public art project, DownStreet Art was designed to revitalize downtown North Adams. By harnessing existing arts organizations and events and transforming empty stores into arts destinations, DownStreet Arts works to define North Adams as a cultural haven, driving tourists and community members downtown.

"It is great for DownStreet Art to be recognized for what it's done for the past two years," said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA. "It has brought 15,000 to 20,000 visitors who have spent time and money in North Adams, both in 2008 and 2009. For the local cultural council to recognize the importance of that and to support that, we are truly grateful."

Also this week, MCLA Gallery 51 Manager Ven Voisey was awarded an individual artist grant of $1,000 from the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire. With the funding, Voisey will purchase a computer, which he will use to make and document his art. It will allow him to continue to create art.

"Much of my work - installations and sounds - are a difficult medium for the consumer market. Consequently, this grant allows me some financial wiggle room," Voisey said.

In addition, the Pittsfield Cultural Council awarded the Berkshire Museum a $1,000 grant to host Voisey as an artist-in-residence this spring. That funding will be used for marketing, installation costs and to provide an honorarium.

At the Berkshire Museum, Voisey will focus on creating a combination of drawings and sounds. "I want to use elements of the museum's function to feed the content of the work," he said.