Teen Sculpture Garden at Natural Bridge State Park

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The public is invited to a special event at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 8, at Natural Bridge State Park to celebrate the opening of the Guardian Sculpture Garden.

This striking permanent installation, made up of nine cast concrete sculptures created by local teen artists, is the result of nearly four years of planning, collaboration, and hard work. The celebration will honor the project's artists and its many helpers and partners along the way.

The free event will include refreshments, live music, and the opportunity to meet the Guardians' young artists: Erica Varieur, Christopher Winslow, Jeffrey Filiault, Emily Jaramillo, Sean Carollo, Jordan Pagan, Erin Gerrity, and Anne Hyer.

"This project is exciting because it brings together three of our area's most valuable resources: art, nature, and young people," said Erica Schmitz, who organized the project as part of the UNITY youth program at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. "We hope that locals and visitors of all ages will enjoy the sculpture park. We also hope that this project will inspire more public works of art in our community."

The Guardian Project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The project owes its completion to the generosity of the Department of Environmental Management, Delftree Corp., Grady and Jennings Concrete, Dean Grimes, and H.L. Chesbro Co., the faith and commitment of Deanna Todd at Natural Bridge State Park, and the dedication of professional artists Ron Hyde and Bill Botzow.

For more information, please contact Erica Schmitz at 413-663-7588.

Tags: art installation,   natural bridge,   NBCC,   teenagers,   

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Sticking to Budget Can Boost Your Emergency Fund

Submitted by Edward Jones

During the coronavirus pandemic, our health concerns – for ourselves and our loved ones – have been at the top of our minds. But financial worries have been there, too, both for people whose employment has been affected and for investors anxious about the volatile financial markets. 

And one aspect of every individual's total financial picture has become quite clear – the importance of an emergency fund.

In normal times, it's a good idea for you to keep three to six months' worth of living expenses in a liquid, low-risk account. Having an emergency fund available can help you cope with those large, unexpected costs, such as a major car repair or a costly medical bill.

Furthermore, if you have an adequate emergency fund, you won't have to dip into your long-term investments to pay for short-term needs. These investment vehicles, such as your IRA and 401(k), are designed for your retirement, so the more you can leave them intact, the more assets you are likely to have when you retire. And because they are intended for your retirement, they typically come with disincentives, including taxes and penalties, if you do tap into them early. (However, as part of the economic stimulus legislation known as the CARES Act, individuals can now take up to $100,000 from their 401(k) plans and IRAs without paying the 10 percent penalty that typically applies to investors younger than 59 1/2. If you take this type of withdrawal, you have up to three years to pay the taxes and, if you want, replace the funds, beyond the usual caps on annual contributions.)

Of course, life is expensive, so it's not always easy to put away money in a fund that you aren't going to use for your normal cash flow. That’s why it's so important to establish a budget and stick to it. When developing such a budget, you may find ways to cut down on your spending, freeing up money that could be used to build your emergency fund.

There are different ways to establish a budget, but they all typically involve identifying your income and expenses and separating your needs and wants. You can find various online budgeting tools to help you get started, but, ultimately, it's up to you to make your budget work. Nonetheless, you may be pleasantly surprised at how painless it is to follow a budget. For example, if you have budgeted a certain amount for food each month, you will need to avoid going to the grocery store several times a week, just to pick up "a few things" – because it doesn't really take that many visits for those few things to add up to hundreds of dollars. You will be much better off limiting your trips to the grocery, making a list of the items you need and adhering to these lists. After doing this for a few months, see how much you have saved – it may be much more than you would expect. Besides using these savings to strengthen your emergency fund, you could also deploy them toward longer-term investments designed to help you reach other objectives, such as retirement.

Saving money is always a good idea, and when you use your savings to build an emergency fund, you can help yourself prepare for the unexpected and make progress toward your long-term goals.

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