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Williamstown Chamber Of Commerce And Film Festival Under New Leadership

Facebook: Williamstown Chamber of Commerce

The Williamstown Chamber of Commerce is now being led by a person heavily involved in the region’s creative economy.Emily Watts wears many different hats and has her hands in various projects and organizations throughout the northern Berkshires. Recently added to the list is executive director of the 100-plus member Williamstown Chamber of Commerce. She’s called the town home for the past three years.

“I’ve have the opportunity all the time to find out more things about what’s going on here that make me fall more and more in love with the town in different ways over and over again,” Watts said. “As part of the chamber I get to be in conversation with that all of the time. And not only help to strengthen all of the businesses that make it the amazing place that it is, but also help spread the word to other people about what an interesting, dynamic and diverse town Williamstown really is.”

Watts is a founding board member of the new collaborative workspace in North Adams called the Makers' Mill. She is behind Frog Pond Creative, a presenting organization, which brought the international electronic caroling event Unsilent Night to North Adams in 2014. Watts says she can offer a different outlook for a chamber of commerce, typically seen as more traditional actors in the business world.

“I think that what one has to do is to think creatively around what a chamber can do,” Watts said. “In all of this other work that I’ve specifically been doing recently it’s about very much respecting the old while at the same time embracing the new.” 

Watts takes over for Sandra Thomas, who had only been executive director for six months. Earlier this year Thomas was named managing director of the Williamstown Film Festival, an organization Watts also works with. Now in its 17th year, the four-day event draws some 2,500 people. Working with new artistic director Paul Sturtz, Thomas says this year’s festival, which runs from October 15 to 18, embarks on a new programming strategy.

“Primarily the festival is moving into the nonfiction arena,” Thomas said. “So nonfiction in many forms…documentary film being the backbone, but interspersed with other forms including radio podcasts, long-form journalism, photography and social practice art. Exploring the world of nonfiction with documentary film being the jumping off point.”

The festival’s executive director Steve Lawson retired in July after 15 seasons. Prior to joining the festival, Thomas spent 12 years as executive director of Images Cinema in Williamstown. Much like Watts, Thomas also wears many hats. She is the site curator and manager for the tourism website Destination Williamstown, which launched in 2014. With similar arts and community connections, Thomas says Watts will bring energy to the town’s chamber of commerce and a dedication to the region.

“I think what we do naturally, both Emily and myself, is we’re community builders,” Thomas said. “Whether that be in the arts or with businesses. It’s about building community at various levels so that everyone is heard and everyone has an opportunity to participate and grow.”

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