Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Part One: Dynamic Partnerships and Pittsfield, Mass.

Last Thursday, I attended a workshop presented by the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations.  Entitled Dynamic Partnerships: the Arts and Community Development, this workshop began with a Keynote speaker who shared her experience in a partnership between city government and the arts.   Why are partnerships so important? In this three part Dynamic Partnership series, I will talk more about partnerships, and why they are important. To start, I will share the example given by keynote speaker, Megan Whilden.

Megan Whilden is from the community of Pittsfield, Mass.  Pittsfield is the largest city in Berkshire County and in the past, a center of thriving industry.  Like so many East Coast cities, the decline of industrial business brought about general city decline.  General Electric housed a large factory in town that employed about 10,000 residents.  When it closed in 1977, the population decreased by approximately 20,000 people (General Electric / Housatonic River RCRA Site NRD Settlement,  Decreases in population were accompanied by the closure of many downtown businesses, which left downtown deserted.  However, where residents saw failure, one artist, Maggie Mailer, saw potential.  Maggie decided to initiate a movement that came to be known as the Storefront Artist Project (

As their website states, “Following in the footsteps of its nomadic tradition, the Storefront Artist Project continues to find vacant commercial spaces in Pittsfield for artists to use for temporary projects” (  For a period of 6 months, artists from around the local area began to occupy empty storefronts and display their artwork.  The agreement between property owners and these artists consisted of: temporary use of the storefront, artists holding their own liability insurance, and artists paying utility costs, while there (Megan Whilden). 

Eventually, due to the success of the Storefront Artist Project, they partnered with the City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development to promote economic development.  One project they began was 3rd Thursdays, a monthly event that provides evening access to downtown businesses and artists.  As a result of the work by the City and artists, 50 new restaurants and businesses have opened (Megan Whilden).


"General Electric / Housatonic River RCRA Site NRD Settlement." Mass.Gov. Energy and Environmental Affairs. Web. 14 Sept. 2011. <>.

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