The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents
2020 Berkshire County
Report - Arts & Culture
An Assessment & Framework for Inclusive Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires
Table of Contents
How to Read the Report
The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections.
- The Overview
- The Relevant Context
- The Ideas
- The Analysis
- The Recommendations
Overview – I
The Arts and Culture sector plays a vital role in the economy of Berkshire County.
***Envision A Black Owned Multi-Use Art Facility***
A place for artists of the African Diaspora to create, share, and celebrate art. Art can include and is not limited to: animation, architecture, assemblage, calligraphy, ceramics, computer, religious, conceptual, design, dance, drawing, folk, graffiti, graphic, illuminated manuscript, illustration, mosaic, music, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, stained glass, tapestry, and video.
Domain Areas of Focus
Education. Collaboration. Installments. Gallery ownership. Media visibility. Development of an African American ownership ecology in the Arts and Culture sector of Berkshire County.
Narrative Scope: The development and implementation of ecology of ownership for African Americans in Berkshire County: Art is the dynamic expression of culture and society. Berkshire County has a rich historical and contemporary Black culture. Keystone projects coupled with networking and resource sharing, led by the Black community, can spark our untapped creative potential and give our community spaces to create, share and celebrate our artistic expressions of culture and society.
- Create a better ecosystem for Black Arts and Culture in the Berkshires.
- Develop and Implement more Skills-based Arts Education Programs for Black youth and young adults to access the Berkshire Creative Economy.
- Owning and investing in our collective creative assets will allow us to capitalize, leverage, and optimize our creative economy within Berkshire County.
Idea Jam Activities
- What would you WANT to see in this building?
- What do we NEED to make this space a reality?
- What BARRIERS do you foresee in preventing US from acquiring this space in the Berkshires?
Idea Jam Facilitator
Sharron Frazier McClaine- Community Outreach Coordinator at Barrington Stage
Relevant Context – II
How do we own and capitalize on our creativity?
The creative energies of African Americans were unleashed following the end of slavery. Mastery of technological knowledge was evident. As both the Westward expansion and industrial transformation proceeded, the perception of new opportunities to benefit from developing technological innovations spurred creative activity among African Americans.
Unfortunately, Blacks’ subordinate political status and limited access to capital prevented innovators from transforming ideas into enterprises that could significantly impact Black communities’ collaborative development.
What can we as a community do to prevent history from repeating itself?
(A thought to ponder in your head as we move forward with this session)
This research reaffirms that Berkshire County has an abundant and robust arts and culture sector in terms of assets. An estimate by DataArts suggests the county is home to nearly 150 arts and culture organizations.
They are small and large, locally treasured and world-renowned, youth-centered and senior-friendly, and as a whole make up an estimated 10 percent of the jobs in Berkshire County. They are a significant resource to year-round residents and a significant draw for tourists and seasonal residents.
A second asset is the potential of the creative economy. This sector’s vitality presents strong growth possibilities, as cultural activities and investments stimulate tourism and set the Berkshires apart from other rural areas in the Northeast. As part of the broader creative economy, the cultural sector offers employment opportunities and fosters community connections. These economic and social factors hold promise in helping mitigate the out-migration of youth and working-age families.
Investing and Capitalizing of our creative power and Creative Economy
Current Environmental Context
There is a gap between goodwill sentiment and the resources and infrastructure needed to follow through.
Existing Resources within the Berkshire ecosystem
– Non Profit Organizations
• Nonprofit Networks and Outreach: Interviews with members of the arts community highlighted concerns about the reduction of networking opportunities that, in the past, have facilitated collaboration, information sharing, and increased visibility for the sector. A contributing factor in this reduction in networking was the lack of an intermediary responsible for convening and supporting shared activities. More specifically, members of the arts community identified the need for more information sharing on working artists’ resources, such as facilities and technical assistance. Lastly, those interviewed expressed a desire for more shared learning opportunities to understand better what prevents robust participation in the arts among community members.
- Assets for Artists
- Berkshire Art Association
- Berkshire Film & Media Collaborative
- Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
- Community Access to the Arts
- DownStreet Art
- Guild of Berkshire Artists
- IS183 Art School of the Berkshires
- MCLA Berkshire Cultural Resource Center
- Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development
- Barrington Stage Company
- Jacobs Pillow
- Mass Moca
- Assets for Artists/ https://www.assetsforartists.org/
Sharron Frazier Mcclain
Kristen Van Ginhoven
Tasia (Jacobs Pillow)w
Findings – III
What Idea Jam Participants had to say
The Current Experience for African Americans in the Berkshire Creative Economy
- Diverse programming has improved but is it the programming that Black folks want to see?
- Black Artists who come to the Berkshires are not from here, are not connected to the Black community. Thus, Arts and Culture economic activity is not transferred into earnings for the local Black economy, such as Black restaurants, shops, etc.
- Little to no input from the Black community on what programming they want to see as a community.
- After events, Black participation is usually requested to promote ticket sales or conversations on race as a panelist, often without pay.
- No clear, comprehensive marketing strategy on how to build a Black audience to support cultural arts programming.
- No ownership, investment, or input, in our creative capital and contribution to the area.
- No profit-sharing or revenue from said arts organizations or institutions within the local Black arts community and Black Economy.
- A lack of access to Media Arts and Technology, education and skills, limits involvement in the creative economy. Black county residents are not being employed for jobs, or securing contracts for; Graphic Design, Videography, Photography, Media Marketing, Film Making, Production and Stage experts, or sound engineering.
- There are a lot of creative artistic people here in the Berkshires.
- The Berkshires are small enough that we can make significant progress.
- Low cost of living in the Berkshires.
- Berkshire transplants usually do well.
- The entrepreneurial spirit is healthy in the community.
- The Berkshires is widely known for the arts and creative economy.
- Blacks have a rich history here in the Berkshires.
- More research and resources grants around establishing an inclusive Creative Economy.
- Development of an arts/creative economy education initiative via an apprenticeship program.
- A very talented pool of Black creatives in the Berkshires ready for an opportunity.
- An available offering of grants for Regional Black Arts programming.
- Rich endemic Black History and Cultural Arts,(WEB Dubois, James Weldon Johnson, Nat King Cole, Rev Samuel Harrison, Elizabeth Freeman, etc.), buttressed by a history of attracting Black artists.
- Robust supply and diversity program, and minority contracts with “arts organizations.”
- Institutional racism blocking access to capital.
- Lack of robust diversity, equity and inclusion policies for arts and cultural boards, committees, and top-line nonprofit executive leadership in nonprofit organizations.
- Hoarding of arts resources and unequal distribution of resources.
What Idea Jam Participants had to say
On Space and Place-Based Arts Experiences
A space, a place, and programming that caters to the whole individual:
- Outdoor dance space
- Community get-togethers over coffee or wine-like a country club–to share and enjoy art
- A place for Community idea sharing, socializing, and developing our ideas collaboratively
- The imagery of Black ownership is pivotal to this experience
- 16-hour space
- By day
- Music Art
- By night performance and entertainment
- By day
- Fill walls with imagery of Black entertainers, and poets, and artists
- Studio spaces with necessary materials and simplified membership/sign-up to create
- Podcast studio
- Visual artist studio
- Shared creative work spaces
On Arts and Cultural Programming:
- Focus on diverse stories about the Black experience, that are funny. That reflects our culture and our experience.
- Theater for us is a refuge from everyday reality and provides a space for celebration and connection.
- Festivities and Celebrations – Connecting –
- Regional Cultural Festivals and Celebrations
- Artistic visuals of scenarios Black people face in America everyday
- For example, the environmental context of being pulled over by a police officer as a Black person in America
- 16 hour space
- By day
- Music Art
- By night performance and entertainment
- By day
- More art creation around our stories as Black people in the Berkshire
On Youth Arts Development and Programming
- Provide space and materials for artists and community members
- Utilize fabrics
- Parade floats
- Sport uniforms design competitions
- We have amazing young talent in this community who we can spotlight and provide a platform for and to.
- Example – “a play was done by community members, those who never acted, and it was a huge morale booster for our community.”
- Youth Driven, Youth Lead Programming
- Structure and programming for youth to have an opportunity to learn about the arts
- Exercises and programming where our youth begin to explore themselves and exercise those skills
Arts Education and Entrepreneurial Programming
- Education and programs on all the ways you can participate in Art professionally, or cultivate personal artistry.
- Seeing African American people (and the African Diaspora) as role models creating Art in the community–locally, regionally, and nationally.
- A place to learn and cultivate skills.
- Studio spaces with necessary materials, simplified membership/sign-up to create
- Podcast studio
- Visual Artist studio
- Media Arts Education; Videography/Photography
- Arts and Entrepreneurship Educational Programming
- Design and Technology
- Design Thinking Workshops
- Idea Jam Workshops
- Coding/Game Creation
- 3 D Printing
Multicultural Arts Center owned and operated by the Black Community.
Develop a capital campaign around this objective.
Analysis – IV
Arts and Culture in Berkshire County generates approximately 400 million dollars annually, and 6,000 Jobs in the Berkshires. How many of those jobs employee Black Berkshire County Residents?
The Black community has identified several gaps to achieving the stated goal of a thriving arts community and viable creative economy.
In the ABC survey by BTCF 67% of respondents say they felt they were “not included” in the arts scene in the Berkshires at all.
At the central core of our analysis examining why these gaps exist are the responses of Black community members in the ABC research published by BTCF. Furthermore there is a historical memory of public works projects that, for members of the Black community, erased their gathering places. A need–gathering places–recognized by many participants across all of the Idea Jam Sessions.
Our idea Jam session on “Arts and Culture” yielded the same perceptions and results as the ABC study, as we asked them;
“What [they perceived] are the barriers to inclusive participation in the arts, culture and creative economy here in the Berkshires?”
( Please refer the the Section Current Environmental Context “What the jammers had to say”)
Where we are (narrative summation)
The lack of inclusion in the Berkshires has had the side effect of underdevelopment of skills based career paths for Blacks, limiting access to the creative economy, and leaving much untapped creative potential. Especially in the areas of media technology arts, such as graphic design, videography, studio recording, photography. Moreover, there is a lack of knowledge of how to access resources for creative skill development, in the specified areas, for the Black Community; a lack of access to media arts spaces to develop those skills; and few culturally relevant, media arts educational programs for the Black community.
So the question is why do they feel this way?
What is the core of the reason this perception/experience exists within the Black Community and the Berkshire Community at large? This is the guiding question of our Gap Analysis.
Where are we now?
Overview of the challenges, opportunities, risks, insights.
Arts and Culture in the Berkshires has been, in the application and implementation of its programming, nearly exclusively white. That is, Arts and Culture in the Berkshires has existed with virtually no input from the Black Community of the Berkshires. In addition, in its power of privilege dynamic the Arts and Creative Economy has been executed over the years from one dimensional methodology (no ownership or robust financial participation in the creative economy in the Berkshires).
This has manifested in 4 parts:
- Cultural programming executed with very little input from the Black community.
- Programming depicting Black culture has been exclusively geared towards the white community as cultural education.
- Arts programming that is not cultural or monetarily accessible to the community
- Lack of ownership in the creative economy/arts supply chain
Thus the reason for the lack of attendance at Arts and Culture events in the Berkshires stems from the lack of inclusion in the creative economy Black Berkshire County residents feel. As evidenced by the ABC report and confirmed through Idea Jam session feedback, direct on the ground experience, and continuous work interfacing with community stakeholders and leaders over the past year.
What’s Happening Now
Challenges & Needs
Within the Berkshire ecosystem, we’ve identified a number of areas for improvement, including:
- A need for robust Black representation in local arts organizations (both executive staff & board leadership).
- A need for more personal and professional connections between arts resources, resource decision makers and allocators, of the arts and Black community members.
- There is no ecosystem or framework specifically customized to inspire the Black arts community to go into business and build wealth.
- There’s a need for robust policies to address racialized barriers and attitudes towards Black folk in the Berkshires within the Arts and Creative Economy
- No creative incubator space to inspire, guide and support budding Black artists to develop their craft and creative skills.
- Grants for Black arts programming and resources lie exclusively in the control of white organizations, non profits, and top line leadership. We need a Black arts and culture fund! To regain control of how our stories are told.
Ownership of our creative capital and creative efforts.
Focus on developing and producing stories, and collaboration from local artists
Focus on supply chain side of the creative economy
Supplier Diversity programming and policies in the arts community
How are we going to close the gap?
We need a context change to Creative Economy “ Ownership Ecology”
With changes from the existing context of no ownership and self determination to an environment of true creative empowerment through ownership, self determination and capitalization of our creative resources.
Recommendations – V
Recommended collaborative structures, partnerships, changes to existing context ( social, economic, cultural, etc.)
“The Negro will have to build his own industry, art, sciences, literature, and culture before the world will stop to consider him.” Marcus Garvey.
Black Arts Ecosystem Development
The aim of the Black Arts and Culture domain is to continue to foster, design, and build a supportive ownership ecosystem for Black/African-American Arts initiatives and investments in the Berkshires.
There is a rich and diverse grouping of Black and African American talent in the Berkshires that can be tapped into, cultivated, and supported to help the Black community and the Berkshires as a whole prosper. Integral to a resilient and robust Black Creative economy is education on capitalization, and ownership of, our creative power.
Investment In Creative Skills Based Education
We need more career track, creative skills based training in the areas of photography, videography, media arts, animation and coding, sound engineering, light engineering, carpentry, playwriting and screenplay writing. Again, foundational to this recommendation is Black ownership.
Impact Funds Allocation and Investment in Black Creativity
Robust Allocation of Arts resources to invest in the Black Community and Cultural Development
Black Artist Collective and Cultural Council
A group of organizations whose mandate is to develop an agenda around the optimization and development of Black arts and culture in the Berkshires and to monitor participation.
Regional Black Cultural Arts Events and Programming
Optimize our rich Black history here in the Berkshires. Leverage the opportunity to
host regional cultural events that tap into the profitable opportunities of Black tourism dollars.
Arts and Creative Skills Based Arts Education:
Arts education, and skills based and place based education in media arts, media technology, videography, sound engineering, lighting, stage production, producing and directing, script and screenplay wrong workshops, etc.
Arts/Creative Economy and Supplier Diversity:
We need more robust supplier diversity programs and policies from the arts and cultural organizations, especially the larger ones, to do business with local Black business’ and skill based black creatives. Such as; Marketing, Video production, Merchandising, and Catering for events, etc.
Regional Black Arts Events and Cultural Heritage Tourism:
The Berkshire region possesses rich and amazing Black culture, history and famous historical and current figures from WEB Dubois, James Weldone Johnson, Nat King Cole, Elizabeth Freeman, Stephanie Diana Wilson, Rev. Samuel Harrison, et al. Black Cultural Heritage generated over $60 Billion in 2019.
Black/African Multicultural Arts Center for the Black and Brown Community
Additional Research and Data Collection
We need more funding to collect data on Black participation in the creative economy. We cannot fix what we cannot see. Moreover, we recommend surveying Black artists to identify what they desire, what skills they need to support their creative capital, and lastly what funding and assets they need to grow as an artist and brand.
- MacBride, Elizabeth, and Seth Levine. “To Save the US Economy, Policymakers Need to Understand Small Business 101.” CNBC, CNBC, 14 Apr. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/04/14/to-save-the-economy-policymakers-need-to-know-small-business-101.html?utm_content=bufferb799a.
- BEC Succ3ss Virtual Idea Jam
Idea Jam Facilitators
Sharron Frazier McClain
Community Outreach Coordinator at Barrington Stage
Sharron Frazier McClain
Arts & Culture Table of Contents
About the SUCC3SS Idea jam
The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea Jam was a community event series designed to create a holistic, collaborative framework for a successful ecosystem for Berkshire Black businesses, community members, and the Berkshire County community at large.
The community came together using an Idea Jam methodology to est a vision of establishing the Berkshires as a model for Black Economic empowerment for counties across the North East.
The jams were held at the beginning of COVID-19, after transitioning the series from an in-person experience.