Topia Arts Center has been given an extension in its fundraising for a matching Massachusetts Cultural Council grant.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Topia Arts Center is getting a second chance at raising funds for a $44,000 match grant.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council gave a yearlong extension to the grant after William Kolis, chairman of the Topia Arts Center's board wrote a letter describing the tremendous support for the project even with the financial difficulties in Adams.
"The extension was granted because of how difficult it is to raise funds in western Massachusetts; the Northern Berkshires in particular," Kolis said. "The funds we did raise show that the support is here though."
Kolis said his letter explained that Adams is a postindustrial town that has lost its economic base. He wrote Adams is struggling to create a more tourist-based economy; the Topia Arts Center being a main piece of this puzzle.
He said he wrote that Adams has near 8,000 people in the community, and the average income is $24,000. This makes it hard for people to donate money and Adams must depend on outside help for cultural fundraising.
"We need to have the eastern part of the state, where there is a concentration of wealth, recognize that the Berkshires, from a tourism and cultural standpoint, are big players," he said. "If people want the summer home where they can listen to the Boston Symphony Orchestra … when they visit there needs to be support."
This is the second grant from the MCC the local group has received for the purpose of restoring the old Adams Theater on Park Street. The theater is a large project that would need near $450,000 to be completely operational.
The theater must raise $22,000 for the grant to be matched. The original deadline was in early June and the group was $6,000 short. With the new extension, Kolis plans to approach the fund raising differently.
"If you aren't established in the people's minds and can't show the benefits of the project and show what you have done then you are less likely to get people to step up and support it," he said.
Kolis said he wants to take a more grassroots approach and have open meetings where the public can see the arts center plans. He added he would like to have performances around town so people can see the type of entertainment the theater could offer.
"This is a lot different now; this is a defined issue that needs direct attention with a recognition of the obstacles that need to be overcome," Kolis said. "There is a plan to do that and now there is an implementation of that plan."
He said it is more difficult to receive grants and funding now because most of the money is being put toward service grants instead of cultural outlets. He said he thinks this is why many of the business who once supported the theater switched their priorities to helping people directly through supporting services.
"Because of the downturn in the economy generally the focus on giving grants are towards services, especially in Berkshire County," he said. "The money goes towards services that help people in their everyday lives, and that was exacerbated by the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital; you could feel the chill go through the air.
Kolis said the Arts Center is critical in bringing more cultural resources to Adams. He said it is a part of a larger effort to makes Adams better known in Berkshire County and establish a tourism economy.
"There are quite a few people, some in town and some out of town, who see Adams as a vibrant place to live and work," he said. "We need to try to incubate that and working with those people provides almost the economic scaffolding g around Topia that will be needed."
Kolis said he plans to start working on raising the remaining funds in early August, and he said anyone interested in donating can do so by visiting the Topia website. He urges that anyone who wants to be involved is welcomed to join the board.