BTCF Blog | Stronger Communities through the Arts

BTCF Blog

Stronger Communities through the Arts

By Justin Burke / September 26, 2019 / Community Engagement
Stronger Communities through the Arts
Staff of ABC grantee the Berkshire Museum are bringing a mobile museum to schools and communities.
 


We are thrilled to announce that our partnership with the Barr Foundation will expand through a new $1 million investment in our resident-led initiative to increase community engagement through the arts in Berkshire County. 

With this award from Barr, BTCF will advance the successful work of the Arts Build Community initiative, a broad-based partnership of arts and culture nonprofits, schools and students, donors, and residents of diverse incomes, ethnicities and ages. Over the next three years, the initiative will deploy over $600,000 in flexible grant support. The funding will also be used to provide group trainings and leadership development, as well as build cross-sector coalitions to more actively involve changing communities in making and experiencing art in their neighborhoods, in their schools, and through Berkshire County’s celebrated arts and culture institutions. 

This work began in 2017, when a $500,000 grant over two years launched a resident-led investigation into the barriers that low-income, immigrant and minority communities face in experiencing and accessing the arts here in a region with a reputation for world-class cultural offerings.

Respondents reported feeling little connection to the arts and named social discomfort—not feeling welcome or reflected in cultural content, language access, and scarce family-friendly programs and audience diversity—as a major barrier. [Read a summary of the research.] Despite barriers and the lack of feeling strong connectedness to the arts, nearly 80% of respondents expressed a desire to have the arts or creative expression be more a part of their lives.

These findings fueled the design of a yearlong learning program for arts and culture nonprofits, a new community-led vision for arts education in schools, and a robust grants program that by year's end will have awarded nearly $320,000 to arts- and community-based nonprofits so they can test new ideas and collaborate on projects that involve diverse residents in the arts. 

[Local media have covered the work of Arts Build Community grantees including WAM Theatre and Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.]

IS183 Ceramics Studio Manager Justin Trapp is working to attract artists of color, including immigrants and teens, to the school’s open studio programs through an ABC grant.

 

Berkshire Taconic is one of five community foundations across Massachusetts selected by Barr, the state's largest private foundation, to pursue local solutions for building stronger arts ecosystems and broader engagement that will help their communities thrive. We are also committed to driving new philanthropy from generous area donors who are learning along with us and helping to sustain our progress. 

This partnership to increase community engagement reflects our strategic focus on a set of impact areas where generosity and opportunity meet to create lasting impact. By addressing our region’s highest priority issues, and addressing their root causes, we are working to expand the role of philanthropy as a force for change.

 

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