Mass Humanities awards $160K to Valley cultural organizations

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 07-26-2023 4:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mass Humanities has awarded over $160,000 to five cultural organizations in the Valley to help them sustain or increase their staffing, the larger goal being to help those groups “create, restore and grow humanities programs.”

The grants are part of what Mass Humanities, the nonprofit group based in the city, calls its 2023 Staffing Recovery Grants Awards, which have been provided to organizations with budgets of $500,000 or less and five or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

All told, Mass Humanities, the state’s leading funder of humanities programs, has awarded over $1.2 million to 35 cultural organizations in the commonwealth. The organization says the $1.2 million figure marks the largest single grant line in its history. The grants range between $16,000 and $40,000 for each recipient.

In the Valley, funding has been provided to the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation in Hadley ($40,000); The LAVA Center in Greenfield ($40,000); Nueva Esperanza in Holyoke ($40,000); the Cummington Cultural District ($24,960); and KlezCummington ($16,000).

The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation, which runs the historical museum of the same name, will use the grant money to fill two new part-time positions, one to oversee educational programs and work with interns, and the other to coordinate preservation work on historical structures on the property.

Susan Lisk, director of the PPH Foundation, says those new positions will help enhance ongoing efforts at the museum to expand the scope of research and interpretation at the historic property, which dates to the 1750s.

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The LAVA Center (Local Access to Valley Arts) is a community arts center and incubator; Nueva Esperanza is a community development organization serving the Puerto Rican/Afro-Carribean Community; the Cummington Cultural District represents art and community projects in the town; and KlezCummington is a festival celebrating Yiddish diasporic cultures.

Funding of these and other organizations came initially from the Mass Cultural Council, which earlier this year provided a $2.5 million grant to Mass Humanities as part of the state agency’s Cultural Sector Pandemic Recovery Grants.

“Grassroots humanities organizations drive positive change and a sense of belonging in Massachusetts communities,” Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities, said in a statement. “This funding provides an influx of support for jobs and programs at a crucial point in our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

These new Mass Humanities grants come on the heels of grants made in 2021 and 2022 that distributed about $275,000 to Valley cultural organizations for programming designed to tell the stories of underrepresented people and communities.

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

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