Project Art Launches Grant-funded Virtual Studio

Project Art launches a new virtual workshop platform as a result of a $8500 Hilltown CDC grant; hosts virtual events throughout 2021.

The Hilltown CDC (Community Development Corporation) awarded Project Art a $8500 Micro-Enterprise Program grant for the development and launch of a new virtual education platform. The grant, in combination with the recent advent of broadband internet service in the Hilltowns, will enable Project Art to continue its internationally known workshop series.

For its inaugural workshop, Project Art presented a 90-minute live workshop, The Narrative Cup, taught by permanent resident artist, Sergei Isupov, who demonstrated techniques for building and painting ceramic cups, followed by a Q&A conversation. A recorded version is available on the Project Art Virtual Studio site.

“I love it that artists based in Cummington and other hilltowns will be able to teach ceramics and their specialties to people across the country, and around the world, from this new, virtual teaching studio. Little travel, wider reach.” —State Senator Adam G. Hinds (D- Pittsfield)

Throughout 2021, Project Art plans to add to its virtual teaching platform, offering a diverse menu of artists workshops and courses, both pre-recorded and live streaming. Courses with local Hilltown artists, Mark Shapiro and Beckie Kravetz are scheduled for this spring.

“Once COVID restrictions are lifted, the program can continue as a hybrid model, and will have developed an international student alumnus, who are likely to come to this region for the studio tours, stay at local Inns and B&Bs, purchase works by artists, and participate in educational experiences provided by the full-time residents. Developing the business practices during the pandemic will prevent future disruptions such as restrictions on travel to or from the area.” —Leslie Ferrin, Owner/Director, Project Art

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions and the lack of broadband internet in the Hilltowns, Project Art faced logistical and economic challenges that threatened its dynamic in-person workshop programming and support of local, national, and international artists. Resident and visiting artists are unable to travel to teach workshops or attend their exhibitions, and tours that brought visitors to the area periodically through programs organized around these artists are not taking place in 2020 and may not in 2021.

Recently, Massachusetts’ Last Mile Infrastructure Grant allowed Whip City Fiber to provide high speed internet access to Cummington—the 21st century technology that Project Art’s 19th century mill building sorely needed. With new infrastructure in place, the Hilltown CDC grant provides new business opportunities to community artists by connecting them to students, educators, and collectors.

“Because of rural economic challenges, creative placemaking has been a valuable tool to bring economic activity while staying true to the spirit of the Hilltowns. […] Huge congratulations to Project Art in Cummington for being able to capture the newly available broadband so quickly, leveraging the new infrastructure with this micro-enterprise grant to create a digital studio to reconnect with their national and international students and clients in the contemporary ceramics world.” —Kate Bavelock, Director of Community Programs, Hilltown CDC