Ready to R3think Everything?
The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents
An Assessment & Framework for Inclusive Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires
The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections.
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.
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.
Sharron Frazier McClaine- Community Outreach Coordinator at Barrington Stage
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
There is a gap between goodwill sentiment and the resources and infrastructure needed to follow through.
– 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.
Sharron Frazier Mcclain
Kristen Van Ginhoven
Tasia (Jacobs Pillow)w
What Idea Jam Participants had to say
The Current Experience for African Americans in the Berkshire Creative Economy
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:
On Arts and Cultural Programming:
On Youth Arts Development and Programming
Arts Education and Entrepreneurial Programming
Multicultural Arts Center owned and operated by the Black Community.
Develop a capital campaign around this objective.
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”)
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:
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.
Within the Berkshire ecosystem, we’ve identified a number of areas for improvement, including:
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
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.
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.
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.
Robust Allocation of Arts resources to invest in the Black Community and Cultural Development
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sharron Frazier McClain
Community Outreach Coordinator at Barrington Stage
Sharron Frazier McClain
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.