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I’ve been at work with Berkshire Creative for about 18 months now as part of the steering group and various committees. (That’s an illustration of the “Creative Cluster” we did up top.) It’s been a fun process and great for the Berkshires and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. We’ve relaunched the website as a wordpress blog to open up the conversation and get more people involved and I like the way it is going. I made a post there which has got me thinking about the changing landscape of culture, institutions and investment. Here’s the excerpt:

“One argument that we hear is that “there are too many non-profits in the Berkshires, all going to the same funding sources”. I think that is short-sighted. Many of the institutions in our area realize the substantial bulk of their funding from outside sources, include donors from outside of the region, and national-level granting organizations. These funds come into our economy and stay here, paid out in salaries, construction, resources and other ways. I’d like to predict the day that other communities come “shopping” in the Berkshires, seeking to lure our cultural treasures away with promises of new investment, much as happened in professional sports, with cities competing for valuable franchises. We may not be there yet, but it’s interesting to consider.”

What do you think? What if, say, Providence RI came knocking on Shakespeare & Company’s door with an offer they couldn’t refuse? What if the Hamptons became a second home for Jacob’s Pillow II? What is the role of place in creativity and expression? What if an organization decided to “branch out” and create a second or third site? Is the experience transportable? I think of the phenomenal, for-profit explosive growth in something like “Cirque du Soleil” and it makes me wonder. Understand, I’m not advocating either way. The concept just popped into my mind this morning. But it does make you think. Also, I think it might help as an exercise to imagine such scenarios when assessing the relative value and economic impact of the cultural assets of our region.

Thoughts? Post a comment.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Dan Shaw says:

    I think the analogy to pro sports team is brilliant. The Baltimore Ravens. The Indianapolis Colts? What team does the great Johhny Unitas belong to? And yet, I think the cultural institutions here are more like the Green Bay Packers–rooted to place. You sent shivers through my spince my mentioning Jacobs Pillow in the Hamptons. That is too scary but I can imagine a hedge fund billionaire who loves dance offering $25 million to move it….

    To my mind, the most important role of the arts in our region is social–it makes us a society. The economic aspect is essnetial and so is the aesthetic but it is the fact that the arts bring us together and make living in our region special that cannot be forgotten.

  • ksprague says:

    I certainly agree that it is about the place, here. But it is interesting to imagine the possibilities and consequences and helps me understand the nature of the beast a little bit better.

    To your second point, I also agree. But it remains part of the economic landscape. Too often the arts are presented as a kind of luxury item, when, to your point, it is a crucial part of the social fabric. We create ways to propagate the telling of stories, the viewing of self-expression, and the hearing of voices because we need to have these things.

  • Dan Shaw says:

    Exactly. The arts are not a luxury product and should never be thought of that way. One of the things Iove about this region is how accessible the arts are. I think that BSC’s pay what you wish night for under 35s is right on.

  • Thanks Kevin, for enlivening the creative economy conversation and thinking in the Berkshires and especially for enlivening the graphics! I love the new diagram on top!

    As a relative newcomer to the Berkshires (seven and a half years now…) I wasn’t here twenty years ago, but I strongly believe that we are in the position to make a ‘great leap forward’ which I believe has happened over the past twenty years, as the culturals have grown, expanded, matured, professionalized, and of course a number of great new ones have come along, like Barrington Stage, IS183, Mass MoCA, the Colonial, the Mahaiwe, etc. What I am seeing is that there are cultural organizations out there that are interested in relocating and coming HERE, which is a great vote of confidence and interest and adds to our critical mass.

    My favorite quote out of the creative economy initiative comes from you: We want people to associate creativity with the Berkshires the way they associate wine with Napa Valley.