Amherst Center Cultural District Board

What cultural events have you attended recently?

Due to COVID-19, most of the cultural events I have attended recently have been virtual, primarily musical and dramatic performances on PBS and steaming services. Locally, I have attended some recent outdoor events including the September 10 inauguration of the Portal Gallery on Boltwood Plaza and the September 23 Puerto Rican Heritage event on the North Common. I also attended the September 24 75th Anniversary of Independence for India and Pakistan including music, dance, and dress related to both cultures.

What arts organizations do you support or are you a part of?

I am an Emeritus member of the Friends of the Fine Arts Center having served on that board for 8 years. And, my family continues to supports the UMass Fine Arts Center with annual donations.  We have supported the Amherst Cinema since its opening by sponsoring a seat, and just renewed that this past year when they refurbished the seats. Our son is a musician and plays with The Troupe at Berkshire Hills Music Academy.  We support BHMA and attend its events either in person (recently on the South Hadley Common) or virtually (see above).

As of today, the Town of Amherst only directly funds the arts in one way, through its Percent for Art Bylaw. Most of the funding for arts and culture projects comes from state grants or private organizations. What role could the Town Council have in recommending financial support for the arts in Amherst? 

The creative economy of Town of Amherst is important to our Community, and as stated in the question, the presently seated Town Council passed the  revised Percent for Art Bylaw so that it is consistent with state fiscal requirements.  Most importantly is the relationship of that Bylaw to the upcoming capital projects — the elementary school, DPW, and the Fire/EMS Station south of downtown.  Each of these will require that a percentage of the Town’s portion of the funds to construct these facilities be devoted to the arts.  Looking for other opportunities like these is important and the Town Council should engage in those efforts.

What three specific things will you do that will deepen Amherst’s investment in its creative economy?

The three specific things that I support that will deepen Amherst’s investment in the creative economy are:

1. Ensuring that the Percent for Art Bylaw is applied to the major building projects;

2. Continued development and renewal of outdoor art such as the Portal Gallery on Boltwood Plaza;

3. Encourage the Town to seek additional grants to increase our outdoor art including matching funds as required.

How would you modify the Town’s current budget process to include funding for the arts?

I would like to see the creation of a public fund for the arts that allows the Town to contribute funds and seeks private donations and grants.

Amherst is already a cultural destination and a leader in the arts for our region. How can the Town of Amherst promote cultural tourism and better partner with existing cultural institutions? How can it help foster new ones?

The BID, Senator Comerford and Representative Domb recently hosted a meeting of the cultural/arts organizations of Amherst with the Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council.  I participated in this event and applaud the work of our many cultural organizations for how they have managed throughout the Pandemic.  It is my understanding that they are now talking about formalizing a regular meeting of the various arts and cultural organizations in Amherst so that there is a place for ongoing conversation about collaboration among the arts organizations.  I have been following this development and am encouraged by the possibilities.  It is my hope that this group will grow and welcome new members. 

In addition, the creation of a vibrant downtown with a renovated plaza on the North Common, the potential performance shell on the South Common, and the development of the former High Horse space as a performance venue creates an opportunity for multiple indoor and outdoor venues for performances in the downtown.  These are all supported by the Town with both grant and Town funds as well as private donations.

How can it help foster new ones?

Please see the answer above — The Town Council has already voted to significantly renovate the North Common; they will be engaging in the process for hopeful approval of the performance shell on the South Common; and work regularly with the BID and Chamber as they promote Amherst as a destination for arts and culture.