Gov. Patrick Lauds State's Investments In Cultural Attractions
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was in Pittsfield this morning to laud the state’s investments in cultural attractions.
Governor Patrick joined state lawmakers and local cultural leaders at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center. The two-story building is part of the Barrington Stage Company. The organization received one of more than 80 grants totaling $14 million that supported building projects and improvements at cultural institutions across the state this year.
“An awful lot of your good work is done in facilities that are not quite up to the task, indeed in some cases not quite up to code,” said Patrick.
Barrington Stage Company used an $180,000 grant to install a sprinkler system and a new roof at the Blatt Center as well as expand seating capacity. The nonprofit’s founding artistic director Julianne Boyd says an earlier investment at its main stage in Pittsfield is benefitting the surrounding area by bringing in a larger audience.
“We had an orchestra of 300 and we had a mezzanine that was possible for 220 seats, but it was sinking when we bought the building,” Boyd said. “Literally you could not put anyone in that space. Our first grant of $300,000 put horizontal steel beams under that balcony and today we can seat 520 seats.”
The grants are administered by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and MassDevelopment. Having worked in Iowa before coming to Massachusetts, the Council’s executive director Anita Walker thanked Governor Patrick, who is not seeking a third term in November, for his continued investment in the state’s cultural attractions.
“I have never ever had the experience of seeing the kind of legacy that you have given Massachusetts through this investment in the Cultural Facilities Fund,” said Walker.
Since 2007 the state has invested nearly $70 million in similar improvement projects in more than 115 cities and towns through the Cultural Facilities Fund. The grants must be matched by private money or other public funding. Patrick says the state’s funding has leveraged $1.6 billion in private money, created nearly 16,500 construction jobs and more than 1,500 permanent jobs.
“Because of the impact and the power of this program you know about it,” Patrick said. “I hope you will tell that story not for my sake, but for your own. And mostly for the sake of the people who know about our cultural facilities and the folks who are waiting to find out.”
Democratic State Senator Ben Downing of Pittsfield says the area’s cultural attractions are helping people re-imagine their city.
“I’ve seen people in this community hold their head higher than they have for far too long,” Downing said. “I think that’s something that investment in our cultural economy and organizations reminds a community not only that they have assets and not just challenges, but that they have something to offer the wider world.”
Democratic State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield expressed the difficulty lawmakers face when deciding to fund infrastructure projects versus providing money to hire another social worker at the state’s Department of Children and Families. She urged the area’s cultural leaders to use the state’s commitment to continue educational outreach programs.
“When we get this investment money back, we are going to spend it on those children who really need it,” Farley-Bouvier said. “So please do not stop your advocacy just at arts.”
The state also funded projects this year at The Hitchcock Center in Amherst, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox and the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts in Holyoke. Governor Patrick also announced another $15 million investment in the Cultural Facilities Fund through the fiscal 2015 capital plan. It maintains the current level of funding after the governor announced a tripling of the state’s contribution at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge in November for fiscal 2014. That’s up from the previous $5 million annual contribution.
After stops in Springfield this afternoon, Governor Patrick will return to Pittsfield tonight for a celebration of the Barrington Stage Company’s 20th season.