Arts Build Community

Arts Build Community Initiative

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has launched the Arts Build Community initiative to increase community engagement through a key regional asset—the arts and creative sector. With support from the Barr Foundation, BTCF is partnering with arts and cultural nonprofit 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.

  • Learning from Research: To learn more about creative expression and barriers to engagement in the arts among underserved populations, BTCF funded a team of resident researchers to conduct community-based participatory research via surveys, interviews and focus groups, with a diverse sample of over 450 Berkshire residents. Read a summary.
  • Launching New Grants: The initiative’s grantmaking component supports new ideas to increase community engagement through the arts and creative process, especially among lower-income residents, communities of color, youth and immigrants. BTCF seeks to spur innovation among Berkshire County arts and cultural nonprofits and community organizations that present significant arts and cultural programming as they launch new projects, expand existing programs and collaborate with other organizations. Grants total $200,000 to date.

       Apply for rapid response small grants

  • Strengthening Nonprofits: A group of seven arts and culture nonprofit organizations in Berkshire County participated in an intensive yearlong training program with a curriculum designed to help them address barriers to participation in the arts, experiment with new approaches and foster resource-sharing. Participating organizations were: Berkshire Museum; Community Access to the Arts (CATA); IS183 Art School of the Berkshires; MASS MoCA; the Mount, Edith Wharton's Home; Shakespeare & Company; and WAM Theatre. Funding was allocated to pilot projects or technical assistance sponsored by the participating nonprofits.
  • Expanding Arts Education: BTCF, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission are joining forces to create a shared vision for arts education that will ensure equitable access to cultural resources for all students, increase the use of arts-based strategies in student learning and create paths to employment at cultural institutions.
  • Engaging Donors: Like-minded donors are coming together regularly to learn about BTCF's work and discuss ways to strengthen the vitality of cultural organizations in Berkshire County. Read a recap of the foundation's gathering at Barrington Stage’s Wolfson Center. Contribute to the Arts Build Community Fund.


In January 2018, BTCF received funding from the Barr Foundation for a two-year program to support the arts and creativity sector as part of Barr’s statewide Creative Commonwealth initiative. 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. In 2019, BTCF announced that its partnership with the Barr Foundation will expand through a new $1 million investment.

For more information on the Arts Build Community initiative, contact Emily Bronson, senior community engagement officer for initiatives and special projects.


Photo by Elliott Hunnewell