A view of Hancock Shaker Village, one of six western Mass. cultural institutions taking part in THE OFFICE's Artists at Work program. Photo courtesy Hancock Shaker Village

Business Briefs: Artists at Work program; Spoon in Williamstown; Berkshire Agricultural Ventures grant; painting fellowship for Bradley

Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure farms remain viable and sustainable and can continue to meet demand for healthy local food.

Artists at Work pilot program launches

Western Mass. — in an effort to provide artists across the U.S. a living wage and foster healthy communities in the wake of the financially catastrophic COVID-19 pandemic, T​HE OFFICE Performing Arts+Film​ has launched Artists at Work, a program inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era Works Progress Administration and its Federal Project Number One, which, at its peak employed more than 40,000 writers, musicians, artists and actors nationwide. Designed to be scaled to regions in every U.S. state, AAW will begin with a pilot in western Massachusetts that includes six cultural institutions: Hancock Shaker Village, Images Cinema, Institute for the Musical Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, MASS MoCA and the Mount; six artists; and six local social-impact initiatives that address issues such as substance abuse and poverty, mental health, and food justice.

“Artists are the messengers who will lead us into the future ​— their work will help us to understand our new world; their creativity and inspirations will both express and allow us to maintain our humanity through trials that feel inconceivable. But right now, our musicians, fine artists, craftmakers, designers, filmmakers, storytellers, theater makers, writers, and dancers are suffering grave financial circumstances; their incomes are being decimated, and many can’t pay rent, let alone make art,” said Rachel Chanoff, director of THE OFFICE. “Artists at Work directly impacts artists: supporting them with financial and other resources so they can continue to work, and in doing so honoring the dignity of that work and facilitating the positive role art plays in society, both economically and as spiritual, emotional, and intellectual sustenance. But AAW’s outcomes will also reach beyond artists to institutions and to culture workers of all stripes, and beyond the culture sector itself into communities through civic engagement and community health initiatives, with wide-ranging impacts.”

AAW aims to both help individuals and boost the overall cultural sector, which employs millions of Americans and contributes to the economic and social resilience of every community in the country. A 2017 report by the American Alliance of Museums found that museums alone contribute more than $50 billion to the gross domestic product, generate $12 billion in tax revenue, and produce over 725,000 jobs — twice that of the professional sports industry. When art flourishes, diverse categories of workers and business benefit, from theaters and concert halls and cinemas and the ticket takers, sound engineers, custodians, bartenders and electricians they employ, to the restaurants and other local businesses that are positively impacted by cultural events.

AAW is anchored in a series of direct living-wage salaries for artists working across all artistic disciplines, who will be put on payroll with health care benefits for a six-month period that could renew for an additional six months. This gives participating artists the opportunity to extend healthcare coverage via COBRA and file for unemployment at the end of the period should they choose to do so. Artists will in turn create a new work to be presented in a free public program; participate in a community outreach initiative suitable to their work; and participate in online open dialogues and conversations with other artists and advisors across Culture Hubs.

Along with the FreshGrass Foundation, THE OFFICE’s national partners on AAW include the ​Sundance Institute, ​the International Storytelling Center​, and Theater of War Productions​.

–E.E.

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Spoon frozen yogurt cafe to open in Williamstown

Spoon proprietors Dave and Colleen Little with granddaughter Tesla. Photo courtesy Spoon

Williamstown — Williamstown is now home to a new frozen yogurt café on Spring Street called Spoon, which will open Saturday, July 4. Spoon offers four flavors of artisan-crafted frozen yogurt or sorbetto, including changing variations of nondairy, vegan and lowfat along with a variety of toppings.

Dave Little, a licensed pharmacist who has been practicing in the area for 25 years, and his wife, Colleen, an administrator at Williams College who worked for many years in the health care/spa industry, did their homework when it came to researching how to produce high-end frozen yogurt. “We learned from the masters,” Dave said, sharing that he and Colleen participated in a training program with an Italian corporation that specializes in the dessert.

Community is an important component to Spoon, according to Colleen: “To us, it was just as vital to establish a business that offers a healthy dessert alternative as it was to offer a space to bring the community together.” The pandemic may have altered life for cafes and restaurants, but Spoon also features an outdoor gathering space as well as an online app for curbside ordering. The café is located inside the Williams College Bookstore at the south end of Spring Street, where outdoor tables and parking are available.

Spoon frozen yogurt is locally produced using milk and yogurt from grass-fed cows grazing in the Berkshire Hills. Toppings were selected to compliment the rotating flavors and to please a variety of palates, with healthy options of fresh fruit, nuts, granola and homemade baked goods as well as customer favorites of chocolate fudge, caramel sauce, brownie bits, sprinkles, bobas and more.

–E.E.

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Berkshire Agricultural Ventures receives grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank

Great Barrington — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to support its Resilience Fund for Farmers.

The goal of the fund is to support those who are experiencing business challenges as a result of COVID-19. Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure farms remain viable and sustainable and can continue to meet demand for healthy local food.

In addition to working with individual farmers, BAV also hopes to support strategies that avoid costly duplication of effort among farmers, such as developing coordinated delivery services. The first grant from the fund helped Roots Rising to establish the county-wide Virtual Farmers Market, which, in its first eight weeks, served 1,400 households, gave $18,000 to neighbors in need, and generated $50,000 in sales to support the local food system.

The grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank represents the first corporate support to the fund, which was established with a grant from a local family foundation.

–E.E.

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Artist Bradley awarded painting fellowship for Yellowstone Series

‘Yellowstone 9’ by Virginia Bradley

Great Barrington — Artist Virginia Bradley has been awarded a 2020 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in painting for her Yellowstone Series, which addresses the effects of climate change. The series is inspired by the Fountain Paint Pot in the Gibbon Geyser Basin at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. An independent jury recognized Bradley’s work in a field of 559 Massachusetts painters. Bradley was one of 13 Massachusetts painters honored with the bi-annual fellowship and a monetary grant.

Bradley previously received painting fellowships from the McKnight Foundation; Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York; ACME Studios in London, UK; and Sanskriti Kendra in New Dehli, India. Her paintings have been widely exhibited nationally and internationally. Prior to moving to the Berkshires, she served as a professor of art at the University of Delaware.

–E.E.