This year, Leslie Appleget will work with schools, cultural institutions, youth development organizations, and many other groups to advance the goals of the Creative Compact for Collective Impact, also known as the C4 Initiative.
Led by MCLA Professor of Arts Management Lisa Donovan, the C4 Initiative aims to create a countywide blueprint for arts integration that builds on existing efforts and ensures equitable access to arts education in the Berkshires. As C4 coordinator, Appleget will build on the work she’s already been doing as project grant coordinator for BRAINworks, a related, grant-funded project that creates professional development opportunities meant to help educators integrate the arts into their classrooms.
C4 has many goals, from helping Berkshire County schools find new opportunities to engage with the county’s wide variety of cultural resources to showing how participating in the arts can develop workforce readiness skills. Though Appleget is doing this work as an MCLA employee, “it involves a lot of different angles merging into one nice vector,” she said.
Another angle: Advancing the goals of the Berkshire Blueprint for Arts Education, which lays out a vision for what all Berkshire County students should have access to when it comes to the arts. The Blueprint was developed with input from educators, arts and culture leaders, workforce readiness organizations, and other members of the Berkshire Cultural Asset Network (BCAN), a professional learning network for the staff of Berkshire County cultural organizations working in education and community engagement.
Appleget’s C4 role also places her as an administrator for BCAN. “We’re getting clear about what the folks in that network want and how we can provide them opportunities to learn and connect with each other, and help facilitate that for them,” she said. “We have a great shared vision. Now, we’re working with these stakeholders to push these goals forward in their own organizations.”
Originally from Vermont, Appleget found herself in the Berkshires after college by way of Jacob’s Pillow, where she interned and worked in various positions. She ended up traveling to Scotland to earn a master’s degree in cultural and festival management from Queen Margaret University, then returned to the area to work with BRAINworks.
“I had a very vibrant arts experience where I grew up,” she said. Her mother is an early elementary educator and used a lot of music in her classroom; Appleget has memories of attending school board meetings to protest cuts to music and arts programs. “I grew up with the understanding that arts education was important,” she said.
In her role as C4 coordinator, she’ll get to help Berkshire County students grow up with the same understanding. “We’ve done a lot of really excellent groundwork,” she said. “I think we’re building something scalable here. That’s the beauty of starting anything in the Berkshires. There’s such a strong sense of community, and people are excited to do things in an effective, collaborative way.”