PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city hopes to spruce up Tyler Street and it is starting by asking an artist to paint a mural.
The city's Office of Cultural Development put out a call for submissions to paint a mural on a Tyler Street building. The effort is in tandem with the Transformative Development Initiative through MassDevelopment. The mural would be the first for Tyler Street, where there is no public art currently and is the first in a process to engage residents in envisioning what the street will look like in the future.
"The goal is to basically get public art and expression on the street," said TDI Fellow Amewusika "Sika" Sedzro.
The Office of Cultural Development is offering an $850 stipend to the artist. Submissions are due by April 21. Those interested are asked to submit a detailed color sketch of their plan, an artist statement, and examples of private work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We are thrilled to collaborate with the Transformative Development Initiative to bring more public art to the Morningside neighborhood while also giving the talented artists in the community a chance to show off their work," said Jen Glockner, director of the Office of Cultural Development.
Right now there isn't a specific building in mind for the mural but Sedzro has particularly eyed the buildings surrounding the former Hess Station. The vacant gas station is owned by Marathon Petroleum Co. and Sedzro has been talking with the owners about the future development of the property, but the company hasn't made a decision on what it wants to do yet.
She is also talking to the owners of abutting properties for the mural as the first step ward sprucing up what has become a blight in the middle of the corridor, which close to Morningside Community School.
"We talked to the property owners but there are still a series of steps we need to take," Sedrzo said. "One of the places we are trying to lift up is the former Hess Station."
The vacant property has become the subject of a number of jokes in the city because of its blighted condition and a former state representative candidate spent a day cleaning it up during his campaign.
The TDI is entering its second year with Sedzro as the point person. A collective of stakeholders has been plotting out the future of the street, which includes a streetscape project and redevelopment of key properties along the corridor.
This summer the group is looking to expand upon those plans and bring in more of the community and the mural project is just one way to kick-start that conversation.
"Right now we have a committee to publicly engage the community," Sedzro said.
More art could be ongoing this summer as well. Sedzro said she is hoping for sponsors to bring in more public art projects. Glockner says the first mural is looking to be done this summer but more could be on the way.
"We hope that this first go-around sparks interest from community members and businesses to help fund more public art initiatives in the Morningside neighborhood, including more murals," Glockner said.
"This is the execution of what we discovered in the community input part of the TDI planning process to improve the Morningside neighborhood. The residents want public art and they want to beautify their surroundings so we want to help. Art brings communities together while also making it desirable for others to visit. This is the first step."
Those involved with the TDI spent most of the first year on planning efforts. This summer the work is expected to roll out. In the end, the focus is to focus redevelopment on a few specific property to encourage private investment down the road.
However, one of those key properties has had a disappointing start. There was a request for proposals to reuse the former Tyler Street Fire House but nobody bid on it.
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BCC Institutes Debt Forgiveness Program
PITTSFIELD, Mass — Berkshire Community College (BCC) announced its plans to use $335,000 in federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) to erase outstanding balances accrued by students enrolled in credit degree or certificate programs from March 13, 2020 through May 31, 2021.
HEERF funds were earmarked as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Students affected by the program have been informed via letter, which states:
"We care about you, and we are committed to doing everything we can to help you continue to meet your educational goals at BCC. We appreciate the challenges of being a college student during the pandemic, and we are here to help you moving forward."
Grady told the Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee on Wednesday that they are reaching the end of the 14-day quarantine period and are confident that the inmates and staff will make a full recovery after testing positive.
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The community is currently in the yellow incidence rate for having 10 or more cases per 100,000 people and is at a 2.4 percent positivity rate with around 75 estimated actively contagious cases.
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