My Turn: A vital piece in the community

  • Villani

Thursday, July 05, 2018

In 1974, the Franklin County Arts Council was created. MaryKay Hoffman of Ohio moved with her two children to head up the council. MaryKay was taken under the wing of Ann Hamilton to get settled in Greenfield, as so many others have before and after her. 

Fast forward four years and Artspace is born, with MaryKay as the director and Ann Hamilton on the board of directors. Artspace offered art and music lessons for kids and adults, as well as classes and a gallery to show works of local artists. No one was turned away for lack of funds and arrangements were made for scholarships based on financial need. Fundraising included public events, individual yearly donations and pledges, grants and tuition. The annual Pottery and Seconds Sale was created and many from surrounding areas look forward to the yearly sale. Artists donate 35 percent of their profits to Artspace from this annual sale. Deepest thanks for your ongoing generosity artists.

Fast forward to 1998, and my husband and I have our only child, Jack. Jack is only interested in music right from the get go. Before he turned 1, I saw an ad in the Recorder for parent/caregiver music classes called “Music Together.” We loved it and we continued classes, piano and guitar lessons for eight years. By this time, I am on the board of directors and deeply committed to this wonderful organization.

I soon learn what a challenge it is to fund the arts and during my 14 years on the board, federal and state grants dried up completely. We worked hard to keep Artspace funded with auctions, comedy shows, cocktail parties for donors, etc.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Strings for Kids program in the Greenfield Public schools. Artspace completely funded the program for several years and continues to provide the instructors and instruments in the school setting, as well as offering camps and intensives during school breaks and summer vacations. Children enter the program as third-graders and our beginning students are now seniors in high school. As a direct result of this vital program, the Youth Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra was created and now these young musicians are performing in all types of venues. This program is MaryKay’s dream come true, and we must act quickly to protect it.

Cecilia Berger, our esteemed string teacher and administrator, just left Artspace and is joining her family in Boston for a new adventure. She has been with Artspace since 2000 when MaryKay called her out of the blue and offered her a job. Cecilia turned that job down but MaryKay pursued her and insisted the two of them must meet. The rest is a long 18-year history. Cecilia has made it possible for Artspace to continue its mission since MaryKay’s retirement five years ago. My deepest thanks, Cecilia.

Finally, I ask that you consider a five-year pledge of funds to help keep Artspace up and running. Simply call or email your pledge at 413-772-6811 or info@artspacegreenfield.com. If you would like information about becoming a board member, feel free to let us know as we’d love to have you, your energy, talent and time for an organization we cannot afford to lose.

Ellen Villani lives in Greenfield.