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.
SUCC3SS Idea Jam
The Arts and Culture sector plays a key role in the economy of Berkshire County.
***Envision A Black Owned Multi-Use Art Facility***
A place for artists of the African Diaspora African American artists 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. (This is where the visual of the building will be displayed)
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 the ecology of ownership for African Americans in Berkshire County. Art is the dynamic expression of culture, and 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 community.
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 have a major impact on Black communities’ collaborative development.
What can we as a community do to prevent history from repeating itself? —– (These are thoughts to ponder in your head as we move forward with this session)
In terms of assets, this research reaffirms that Berkshire County has an abundant and robust arts and culture sector. 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 remain a significant resource to year-round residents but more so as a major 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 opportunities for employment and fostering community connections. These economic and social factors hold promise in helping mitigate the out-migration of youth and working-age families.
Investing and Capitalizing on our own creative power and Creative Economy
Current Environmental Context
Arts and Culture in Berkshire County generates approximately 400 million dollars annually and is responsible for 6,000 Jobs in the Berkshires.
There is a gap between goodwill sentiment and 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.
Assets for Artists
Berkshire Art Association
Berkshire Film & Media Collaborative
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
Community Access to the Arts
Guild of Berkshire Artists
IS183 Art School of the Berkshires
MCLA Berkshire Cultural Resource Center
Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development
Barrington Stage Company
Assets for Artists/ https://www.assetsforartists.org/
At The Jam
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, wine-like a country club–to share art
A place for Community idea sharing, socializing, development of our ideas.
The imagery of Black ownership is pivotal to this experience
By night performance and entertainment
Fill walls with imagery of Black entertainers, and poets, and artists
Studio spaces with necessary materials, simplified membership/sign-up to create
Visual artist studio
Arts and Cultural Programming:
Focus on diverse stories about the Black experience, that are funny, that reflect 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 Celebrations
Artistic visuals of scenarios Black people face in America everyday
For example, the environment context of being pulled over by a police officer as a Black person in America
16 hour space
By night performance and entertainment
Speak easy esk
More art creation around our stories as Black people in the Berkshire
Youth Arts Development and Programming
Provide space and materials for artists and community members
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, creativity, and seeing African American people (and the African Diaspora) as role models doing the work in the community, locally, regionally, nationally.
A place to learn and cultivate skills – skill development
Studio spaces with necessary materials, simplified membership/sign-up to create
Visual Artist studio
Media Arts Education; Videography/Photography
Arts and Entrepreneurship Educational Programming
Design and Technology
Design Thinking Workshops
Idea Jam Workshops
3 D Printing
Multicultural Arts Center owned and operated by the Black Community.
Develop a capital campaign around this objective.
We see several identifiable gaps in the Black Community to achieving our stated goals of a truly viable arts community and viable creative economy for the Black community.
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.
We believe the Black Community’s response from the ABC research from BTCF is at the central core in our analysis of why these gaps exist within the community. 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 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 also led to 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 etc. 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. little is known to the community as to where to go to develop these creative skills via a media arts space for the Black community, or programs and education geared towards our community via culturally relevant, media arts, educational programs.
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?
A gap analysis is an examination and assessment of current performance for the purpose of identifying the differences between the current state of business affairs and where you’d like to be. It can be boiled down into a few questions:
Where are we now? Where do we want to go? What do we need to get there?
In need of developing an alternative Creative Economy that is run by and for the Black community in Berkshire County.
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 exclusively geared towards 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 their lack of attendance because the arts economy is essentially not about them therefore, why you see in the ABC report that 67% of Black folks in the Berkshires say they feel that are not included because as we see here the evidence is clear they are not.
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.
Through idea jam feedback, direct on the ground experiences, 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:
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 Blacks 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. (Biiiiggg Problem) Black arts and culture fund!
Black Arts Council
Ownership of our creative capital and creative efforts.
Focus own 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
(Changes from 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.)
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.
“The Negro will have to build his own industry, art, sciences, literature, and culture before the world will stop to consider him.”
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, their creative power.
We need more career track creative skills based training in 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
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 and leveraging the opportunity to
host regional cultural events that tap into the profitable opportunities of Black tourism dollars to the region.
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, 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.
John Lewis, R3SET
Sharron McClain-Frazier, Barrington Stage
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Patrick Danahey, R3SET
Devin Shea, R3SET
Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio
Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET
Segun Idawoo, BECMA
Malia Lazu, MIT
Julie Boyd, Barrington Stage
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.