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Common Folk co-founder and creative director Jessica Sweeney and member Misa Chappell stand next to some 'found art' for sale.
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Common Folk Open Up Pop-Up Shop

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Some of the odds and endds that can be found at Common Folk's shop.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Common Folk Pop Up Shop is now open at the former Makers Mill space at 73 Main St.
Common Folk co-founder and creative director Jessica Sweeney said the artists' collective opened Phase 1 of their new headquarters on Small Business Saturday but have so much more planned for the new space.
"Phase 1 is complete and we are ready to open with retail, but we are really looking to do a lot more," she said. 
Common Folk has been jumping around from location to location throughout its existence, which Sweeney said really did fit their nomadic nature. However, when members of the 3-year-old Makers Mill decided to dissolve, they asked if Common Folk wanted to move in.  
"They reached out to me … so we did an assessment and did a sound test to make sure this space was what we wanted, and it was," Sweeney said. "They told us when we take over the lease whatever was left in the space was ours and they left a significant amount of art supplies, tables, and tools."
Currently, the shop sells curated second-hand clothing, art supplies, member art, and other odds and ends.
"If it does not go directly to the artists it goes right to Common Folk and we are trying more and more to find ways to stipend our leadership team," she said. "We want to build jobs here. That is our long-term goal and hopefully, that will become a shorter-term goal."
She said some of the art proceeds go to Puerto Rico hurricane relief. 
This 10-member leadership team currently takes turns running the shop and Sweeney said eventually members will be able to work or trade for membership fees. She said the long-term goal would be to hire someone to run the shop.
Phase 2 will be to open a shared studio space and Phase 3 will hopefully be to allow performances and exhibitions. 
Sweeney said Common Folk has changed a lot over the years since its inception in 2013. She said the group is now 60 strong and organized.
"In the beginning, we were very casual and word of mouth — I like to use the term loosey-goosey," she said. "But we didn't have a way for people to go online and register to become a member. Now we do and there is a little more structure."
Recent graduates from the Arts Management Program at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts have been able to help professionalize Common Folk's own processes as well as support artists in the collective.
Sweeney added that one of Common Folk's goals is to help prepare artists for the professional world as well as help attract young people to the area.
"A lot of our members say the reason they decided they wanted to live in North Adams was because of Common Folk," she said. "I hear people in the city say young people don't want to stay here but I see a different side of that."
Sweeney said these goals seem more attainable than ever with the new location and joked they were just as important as a "slop sink."
"Honestly, this really does feel like home and the other spaces were only almost as good and none of them had a slop sink and that is a valuable thing because we are artists and we make messes," she said. "I think this will be our home for the next five to 10 years and the next step after this would be to buy our own building.
"We are figuring out how to build it bigger because I think what we do is really important." 

Tags: new business,   common folk,   opening,   

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North Adams School Committee Votes for Remote Learning

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday rejected a hybrid school reopening model to vote 3-2 to go full remote. 
The decision to start school with the remote option was apparently influenced by a letter the School Committee members received from the North Adams Teachers Association expressing concern over re-entering the schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Committee member Tara Jacobs said she was not comfortable potentially exposing staff to the novel coronavirus in motioning to go with the remote option to start and later transition to a hybrid model. 
"There's no good scenario but the decision to open the school and have someone dying or having health conditions for the rest of their life ... ," she said, motioning to start the school year remotely.
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