Western Mass ArtsHub portal will provide info in one place


Staff Writer
Published: 5/2/2021 3:54:24 PM

Franklin County towns, along with others throughout Western Massachusetts, have received a $185,934 grant from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development and its Regional Pilot Project Grant Program to support the creation of the Western Mass ArtsHub, an online portal with information about local artists and creative businesses.

Lisa Davol, who manages the ArtsHub project through the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce where she manages economic development, place-making and tourism, said the Western Massachusetts Creative Economy Network, a collaboration of 21 organizations that support the creative economy, includes cities and towns throughout Western Massachusetts.

The Regional Pilot Project Grant Program was established to support COVID-19 recovery solutions based on the specific economic needs of individual regions of the state and was designed to fund projects that uniquely address local concerns. Applicants were asked to define a major issue associated with the economic recovery of a particular region and propose a solution.

The Creative Economy Network’s Western Mass ArtsHub will create a “dynamic, web-based portal to connect artists, residents, visitors and creative businesses to promote regional commerce, networking opportunities and collaborative business experiences,” according to Davol.

The ArtsHub will be a central location to find jobs, resources and make connections for the sales of creative goods and services.

“There is currently no place to find a list of area artists or other information critical for the success of the creative community,” Davol said. “This is an especially important need at this time as the creative sector has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

According to state data, one in six jobs in Western Massachusetts is directly related to the creative economy, and the percentage of artists/creative businesses is higher than both the state and national averages.

“The Arts Extension Service at UMass Amherst is deeply grateful for this award to serve the arts and creative businesses, especially underserved artists and organizations across Western Massachusetts,” UMass Arts Extension Service Director Dee Boyle-Clapp said. “In an area as rich with creativity as ours, the ArtsHub has long been needed to centralize services and make it easier to discover the many events, performances, open studios and opportunities that are taking place virtually now, and soon, in person.”

Davol said she has been working in the local creative economy for more than 15 years.

“A major obstacle has been the lack of a centralized portal to find the span of creatives working in the field, as well as a comprehensive list of relevant resources,” she said. “I’m looking forward to maximizing the investment on existing efforts already underway as part of this project, especially partnering with the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Creative Ground database, which will enable us to display regional artists while also providing exposure to audiences and collaborators all over New England.”

The Creative Economy Network plans to put on a summit and other events as it moves forward. Davol said the events will be virtual until it is safe to meet in person again.

“This is a perfect opportunity to foster the arts in our community and beyond,” she said. “We need a hub, a central place, where people can go for information, to find an artist, to get links to tickets, to network, to advertise and more.”

Davol said the portal will help people find, for instance, artists who do paintings, if that’s what the consumer is looking for — and they can be found in one place with examples of their art. She said the portal will be announced when it is complete.

For more information, call Davol at 413-230-9910 or email her at lisa@franklincc.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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