Mass Humanities awards $135,000 to Valley cultural organizations

  • The LAVA Center at 324 Main St. in Greenfield is one of many organizations to land a grant from Mass Humanities as part of its Expand Massachusetts Stories (EMS) initiative. Contributed Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2022 12:20:39 PM
Modified: 9/27/2022 12:19:46 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mass Humanities has awarded close to $135,000 in grants to eight cultural organizations in the Valley to support projects designed to tell the stories of underrepresented people and communities, from a formerly enslaved couple who escaped the U.S. South to today’s agricultural workers who help put food on our tables.

The grants are part of what Mass Humanities, the nonprofit group based in the city, calls the Expand Massachusetts Stories (EMS) initiative, which was introduced last year and funded projects from a number of other Valley organizations.

This year the Mass Humanities grants have been made to a number of organizations in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, including in Amherst, Florence, Greenfield, Holyoke, Northampton, and Shelburne Falls.

For instance, Historic Northampton has received $12,250 to record oral histories of lesbian women of color who moved to Northampton in the 1970s-1980s, a time when lesbian culture was forming in the city.

In Greenfield, The LAVA Center has been awarded $20,000 for a program that highlights people involved in agriculture by, as program notes put it, making visible “the too-often overlooked stories of indispensable, essential agricultural workers, primarily through oral history/story and photo documentation.”

Meantime, Self Evident Education, an independent company in Florence that works with different school districts, has received $20,000 for “If You Cross This Boundary, We All Die,” a multimedia film and accompanying curriculum about William and Ellen Craft, an enslaved couple who made an ingenious escape from Georgia in the mid-19thcentury and came to Massachusetts.

“At this critical juncture in the history of our state, we see these projects as the sparks for a much needed reimagining of our past and a new vision for our future,” Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities, said in a statement.

The grants come from a partnership between Mass Humanities and the Mass Cultural Council, the state’s cultural agency, as well as a two-year, $700,000 partnership with the Barr Foundation of Boston.

This latest round of EMS grants from Mass Humanities totals $713,876 and has been distributed to 42 nonprofit organizations in the state. The majority of funded projects include leadership roles for people who identify as BIPOC, according to Mass Humanities, which the group says “is a sign of progress towards one of the central goals for this new grant program.”

Other awards include:

■$10,900 grant to The Wistariahurst Foundation for “Reliquary of Blackness: A Dive into Black Families in Holyoke,” a project that seeks to establish the history of three Black families in Holyoke at the end of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century.

■A nearly $20,000 grant to the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College for “Boundless: Indigenous Art and Stories Across Massachusetts,” an evergreen educational initiative that will expand the access and reach of local Indigenous objects and histories from the “Boundless” exhibition to K-12 classrooms through developing digital teaching resources and curricula.

■$11,500 grant to the Piti Theatre Company for “Night at the Deerfield Museum: Underrepresented Stories from Franklin County,” a short documentary that uses pieces of Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association's collection as a jumping off point to tell stories of underrepresented communities connected to those pieces between 1806 and 1853, the lifetime of citizen scientist and abolitionist Dexter Marsh.

■$19,920 to the Hampshire County Food Policy Council for “Seeding the Story Garden: Building a Community Food Story Archive in Hampshire County,” an effort to establish the Hampshire County Community Food Story Archive, a digital repository of stories about food experiences and culture in Hampshire County, focused on elevating the voices of underrepresented residents.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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