Above, students create art in a Bowman Hall art lab on campus. Below, members of the community enjoy a “DownStreet Art” Thursday event, put on by MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), in downtown North Adams.

Mellon Grant Provides ‘Signature Opportunity’


One thing that makes the Berkshires so special is the region’s dedication to the humanities. Indeed, the National Center for Arts Research recently identified Pittsfield and the surrounding area for its top “Arts Vibrant Communities.”

Now, thanks to a $50,000 planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, MCLA will continue to be on the forefront of the arts and education through the creation of the Berkshire Humanities Council.

According to MCLA President James F. Birge, the campus’s faculty and students – along with researchers, and faculty and students from other institutions – will benefit from the work that the Berkshire Humanities Council will undertake.

“This is yet another wonderful opportunity for MCLA to lead the region’s humanities and cultural organizations,” Birge said. “Once formed, the Council will create regional collaborations and extend best and emerging humanities practices in teaching, learning and community engagement by utilizing new and deeper ways to connect the resources in our region.”

The Berkshire Humanities Council will focus on three main things: creating the model for a digital asset map; defining experiential-based learning and formalizing undergraduate research opportunities; and outlining a humanities fellowship program, which MCLA will host.

According to Dr. Cynthia F. Brown, MCLA’s vice president of academic affairs, “The grant represents a signature opportunity for MCLA to lead the region’s humanities and cultural organizations to synergize existing and new projects, and provide expanded opportunities to our students, as well as to our faculty and other faculty, researchers and students who will make use of the Berkshire Humanities Council’s work.”

Dr. Lisa Donovan, MCLA professor of fine and performing arts, will serve as the principal investigator for the grant.

“Across Berkshire County, we have assets in the humanities that are without compare in other rural regions,” Donovan said. “This grant provides an incredible opportunity to move towards identifying, aligning and activating a regional network that will increase access and deepen possibilities for engagement for the entire Berkshire community.”

“Once in place,” Birge said, “the Humanities Council will pay particular attention to diversity and inclusion, the professional development of educators at all levels, and the connection between formal and informal humanities education opportunities within and beyond MCLA. Through this Council, we will develop a plan for our culturally rich region to make the most of its many assets.”

After the planning concludes on June 30, 2018, MCLA will apply for a direct grant from the Mellon Foundation so that the plans for the Berkshire Humanities Council may be implemented.