MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center receives $32,000 grant from MCC


NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has received a $32,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) for its Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC).

The funding will serve to boost the creative economy in the Berkshires as it supports innovation BCRC projects and programs that benefit artists and local businesses, according to Jess Conzo, BCRC program coordinator.

BCRC programs include MCLA Gallery 51, the Berkshire Hills Internship Program (B-HIP), the Tricks of the Trade professional development series, MCLA Presents! and Berkshire Art Start.

The lead organizer of DownStreet Art, BCRC also provides resources, training and support that bring a creative class of people to the Berkshires. In addition, the Center provides work opportunities in the creative sector for young adults currently living in the region and supports the creative class of artists and arts organizations in Berkshire County.

"It's really critical for us, especially during these difficult economic times," Conzo said. "The $32,000 will definitely be crucial for the programming that we do."

Conzo said the BCRC is moving forward with plans for the 2010 season of DownStreet Art, the organization's major economic development program. In 2009, DownStreet Art sales increased by 25 percent overall as a wide variety of events drew some 20,000 to the downtown - about 5,000 more than the inaugural DownStreet Art season in 2008.

Through DownStreet Art, MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) joined forces with other arts organizations, including the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), Kidspace, the North Adams Artists Co-Operative Gallery, Berkshire Artist Colony and Main Street Stage.

Gallery openings and performances were listed on a DownStreet Art events calendar to fully showcase the many arts activities happening in downtown North Adams. The effort served to increase foot traffic in the downtown, benefitting local businesses. In addition, empty storefronts were filled with art exhibitions, which contributed to the vitality of the downtown.

The oldest and most far-reaching program of its kind in the nation, MCC's Adams Arts Program for the Creative Economy invests in every region of Massachusetts. It supports projects that harness the unique assets of the Commonwealth and the creativity of its residents. Adams grants fuel a creative sector that has a $4.2 billion total impact on the state's economy and provides more than 109,000 jobs.