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Shelburne Falls wins state ‘arts community’ award

SHELBURNE FALLS — Shelburne Falls is an arts community — and it will soon have a medal to prove it.

Shelburne Falls has won a Commonwealth Award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for “Creative Community,” an award bestowed upon only two communities this year — Shelburne Falls and Barnstable.

At an awards ceremony on Feb. 19, at the State House in Boston, the village and other Commonwealth Award winners will receive medals from state government leaders. There are eight awards to be given out at this event.

Every two years, the Commonwealth Awards are given out to highlight “the extraordinary contributions the arts, humanities and sciences make to education, economic growth, vitality and quality of life” in Massachusetts communities, according to a news release from the Council.

“I think this is a great honor,” said Mary Vilbon, executive director of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association. The business association has just added “Greater” to its name this week, to better reflect its mission to serve all 10 West County communities.

“Before our time, this is something the village of Shelburne Falls has been working on for decades. It was very clear that the award is being given for past work, although we are still progressing. It’s been a true community effort to make this happen,” said Vilbon.

The Cultural Council’s website describes the Buckland-Shelburne village as “an internationally recognized New England treasure. Each year, tens of thousands of people visit one of the ‘100 Best Small Art Towns in America’,” it says, referring to the village’s inclusion in a guide book by that name. (Published by Countryman Press).

The website points out that the Shelburne Arts Cooperative and Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom feature the works of at least 150 artists. It also touts the Lamson & Goodnow Factory Outlet, the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum, the Bridge of Flowers and Shelburne Falls Bowling, which began in 1906 and is the “second oldest candlepin bowling alley in North America.”

The past year has been a busy one for this village of roughly 2,000 people. This summer, Shelburne Falls was the primary setting for “Labor Day,” a movie starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, which is to be released this year. In October, the village was the first rural village in western Massachusetts to be designated as a “Cultural District” by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

At the autumn GSFABA breakfast, board member Whit Sanford announced a new initiative called “From The Ground Up Together,” which is an attempt to map and gather data about artists, museums, and other resources from all the West County towns to improve the economy by building a system of networks, partnerships and initiatives. Recently, the business association applied for a two-year, $50,000 grant to make this project possible. Plans include an interactive database that identifies skills and resources in the region.

Vilbon said she hopes the new honor will help the area obtain grant funding for activities promoting the arts and the creative cluster community.

The following Commonwealth Awards will be presented to the following people and organizations:

Achievement: actress/director Olympia Dukakis; Art/Science Collaboration: The Ecotarium Worcester; Community Access to the Arts: Great Barrington; Creative Learning: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst; Cultural Philanthropy: Neil and Jane Pappalardo of Boston; Leadership Marvin Gilmore of Boston; and Media, the Boston Phoenix and Jared Bowen of WGBH.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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