Adams' Topia Arts Center & Mill Children Back On Track

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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William Kolis, chairman of the Topia Arts Center Board, said Topia is setting a $1 million goal to become a center for arts and culture in Adams.

ADAMS, Mass. — The town's arts and cultural front is picking up steam with a" possible new location for the Mill Children" exhibit and the reinvigoration of projects such as the Topia Arts Center and the Adams Anthony Center.

Native William Kolis, who has been a champion for arts, culture and economic development in Adams, said many projects have begun to coalesce in the past few months, with the Adams Anthony Center for Political Economic and Social discourse at the helm.

"Everything is starting to click a little bit and starting to mix," Kolis said. "Every once and a while you get up and think this is just too much and then something happens."

Last year, the Topia Arts Center was struggling to raise $22,000 for a Massachusetts Cultural Council match grant. The center was unable to raise the funds in time but Kolis was able to secure an extension because of the difficulties of raising such funds in Adams.

Kolis, chairman of the its board, said they were able to "blow past" the amount needed with a $5,000 grant from Greylock Federal Credit Union and a $10,000 grant from The Feigenbaum Foundation.

Although the money is important, the exciting aspect of the funding is the outside interest in the project, he said. He thinks people realize the importance and viability of the center — now he just has to get residents to warm up to the project.

"There is a lot of negativity in town towards this project, and I just want to say people from outside look at this project and see its potential and value," Kolis said last week. "I just have to get people locally on board."

He sees the 100-year-old theater as not only a venue to host arts, cultural and community events, but also a driver of economic development that will make Adams' mark on the map a little bigger.

The building needs a lot of work and is far from being up to the building code, but there are plans to begin a serious fundraising initiative in August for $1 million. Kolis said he would like to start a local board to help with this.

"This is a major developmental project that needs a lot of money," he said. "The number chokes me a little bit, but if we can get a $1 million, we can start to put into that facility the things required by code to make it so we can get the public in the theater."

The "Mill Children," an exhibit of William Lewis Hynes photographs dating from the early years of the last century, may have found a new home at Berkshire Mill, where some of the photos were taken. The display had been at 5 Hoosac St.

Although there are still complications with the funding, Kolis believes the space will be perfect.

"It is right across form the Visitors Center," he said. "We have the public parking at the Visitors Center, and we have a crosswalk. It would be on the concourse on the first level. We will have a nice space. It could be wonderful."

The space is smaller but is furnished with air conditioning and heating. It could turn into a permanent home.

Kolis said the next big step is to find more funding and volunteers. He said he is aiming to open sometime this year if possible.

"What comes first the chicken or the egg?" he said. "I need the space but I don't have any money to put anything in there. But if I don't have the space now I won't have it for the future, and I can't ask for money."

The gallery will be expansive and find new ways to connect to Adams. The Historical Society, for instance, is working on a collection of St. Stanislaus Kostka School class photos from the past 100 years.

"That would be great to put in there. You have the 'Mill Children' and you have pictures of the kids who were 14, 15, and 16 during that time in the community who would have been working in those mills," Kolis said. "I have to believe that will draw people in like crazy looking for their relatives."

Kolis said exhibits like that are starting to fit in more in Adams and that there is an influx of artist who have been making Adams their home and open up galleries.

The 'Mill Children' exhibit may be moving into the Berkshire Mill, where many of the children in the photographs worked during its textiles period.

One of the main drivers of these two projects is the Adams Anthony Center for Political, Economic, and Social Discourse, a group created by Kolis years ago that is starting to gain momentum.

The center will hold presentations on current issues and interests and will serve as an open forum for conversation.

"We don't have those forums like we used to ... where people can come speak about the major issues of the day," Kolis said. "It's done in an orderly fashion and there is no shouting. It's to educate the public on some of the critical issues."

The center will hold a presentations every month starting Aug. 11 with a session on economic development at the library.

Other presentation take on themes such as promoting the arts, regionalizing, civic volunteering and more which can be seen on the Downtown Adams website.

Kolis said he hopes to broadcast these presentations on community television to reach people who may not go to the meetings. He hopes these meetings will draw a lot of people and get people interested in being involved and promoting the town, which is critical for the town's survival.

"If we don't do this you may as well just shut the lights off," he said. "Everything I read about small towns like this surviving we have the things they talk about we have access to a significant natural resources, institutions of higher education right around the corner, and art museums. We just have to find out how to tap into that."

Beyond promoting Adams, he hopes the group can offer a $2,000 scholarships to Hoosac Valley High School graduates interested in a future in advocacy.

"I want to begin to use this entity as a way to promote education, scholarliness, thoughtfulness and a lifetime of learning," Kolis said. "It doesn't strike you until you get very very old what it is that high school is all about. It's about learning how to teach yourself."

Tags: arts center,   community development,   exhibit,   Mill Children,   Topia Arts Center,   

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