Creative Commonwealth

Arts in the Berkshires Gets $500,000 Boost in New Partnership

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has been selected to participate in a new $2.5 million partnership with the Boston-based Barr Foundation and four other community foundations that aims to deepen and grow support for the arts and creativity across Massachusetts.

As part of the Creative Commonwealth initiative, BTCF has been awarded a $500,000 grant over two years to leverage the strength of the region's arts sector to increase community engagement. BTCF will bring diverse groups of local residents and arts institutions closer together through grantmaking, investing in nonprofit capacity and collaboration.

"Strengthening community engagement is a strategic priority for Berkshire Taconic, along with increasing educational attainment and economic opportunity among residents," said Peter Taylor, president of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. "Being a part of the Creative Commonwealth initiative will allow us to partner with cultural organizations and year-round residents to test new approaches to community engagement that use the proven power of the arts to build trust, cooperation and unity, while strengthening the arts as a sector."

Creative Commonwealth brings together the largest private foundation in Massachusetts with five community foundations throughout the state who recognize the power and importance of arts and creativity, and the vital role community foundations can play to bring more strategic and sustainable investments in the sector. Key goals of Creative Commonwealth are to strengthen arts and creativity in communities, to deepen financial support and build local capacities.

Here in Berkshire County, BTCF has used key findings from our recent community assessment — the strength of arts and culture, the changing population and the perceived decline in community cohesion — to develop a plan to boost community engagement through the arts.

Through a planning grant from Barr, a research team helped assess current barriers to arts participation in underserved groups, while capturing the promising efforts and current collaborations underway to increase community engagement. An advisory council of local leaders in the arts and education helped guide our plan of action:

  • Research: We will work with diverse groups of year-round residents to learn more about how they experience art and creative expression in their lives, in and out of cultural institutions. (Spring and summer 2018)
  • Grantmaking: We will launch a new grantmaking program for arts and culture organizations for projects that test new ideas for broadening their audiences and increasing community engagement. (Launching summer 2018)
  • Capacity-Building: We will design a formal program that brings together arts and community-based organizations for technical training, expert consultation and funding for pilot projects. (Launching winter 2018)
  • Network: We will expand on current efforts to bring arts organizations together for learning opportunities, resource-sharing and collaborations. (Ongoing)

For more information on the Creative Commonwealth initiative, read our press release or contact Emily Bronson, community engagement officer for initiatives and special projects.