$180,000 state grant caps fundraising campaign for Amherst’s Drake site

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AMHERST — A fundraising campaign for the construction of downtown Amherst’s first performance hall, which opened last spring, is nearing completion after Drake and the Downtown Amherst Foundation received a grant this week $180,000 from the State’s Cultural Facilities Fund.

“This grant and the amount awarded to our foundation shows Mass Cultural’s confidence and enthusiasm in what we have built here in Amherst and our future as a long-standing artistic and cultural entity in this community,” said Gabrielle Gould, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. in a report.

The Drake, located on North Pleasant Street, was awarded one of three Cultural Facilities Fund grants awarded in Western Massachusetts, all in Hampshire County, by MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The other grants went to Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program in Williamsburg and Sevenars Academy in Worthington.

At Snow Farm, the $20,000 prize will be used for various projects at the Clary Road site, including interior and exterior wall renovations, stair relocations, vault work, electrical upgrades and lighting and replacement of windows. Additionally, there will be new heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems in the Flameworking Studio.

The Sevenars Academy is using its $20,000 prize for foundation work and new windows in the concert hall of its historic building on Ireland Street.

“We are very, very grateful,” said Rorianne Schrade, Executive Director of Sevenars Concerts Inc. “It means so much to have support for cultural activities, music and concerts.”

The building Sevenars calls home was built in 1843 by Russell B. Conwell. Schrade said the acoustics inside the historic building are wonderful and his organization is honored to continue hosting concerts there.

State support will ensure that Sevenars does not have to exhaust all of its own resources for necessary ongoing work, Schrade said.

For the Drake, the former space of a downtown bar was renovated with a new stage, PA system, lighting and green room. State money went towards the costs of these renovations.

The announcement of the grants, which total $1.55 million statewide, was made Monday at Battleship Cove in Fall River. Gould was there with Downtown Amherst Foundation President Tony Maroulis.

MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said in a statement that the Cultural Facilities Fund assists capital projects that preserve, enhance and expand much-needed arts and cultural spaces.

“Cultural organizations are the anchors of local economies across Massachusetts,” Rivera said.

“These awards recognize the major economic impacts that these cultural facilities bring to their communities and the Commonwealth and invest in their future sustainability,” said Mass Cultural Council Executive Director Michael J. Bobbitt.

During its period of operation, Gould said The Drake has collaborated with Amherst Regional High School, Amherst College, and the University of Massachusetts, and hosts many artists who have received grants from the Amherst Cultural Council.

“In less than 180 days, more than 1,000 artists from home and around the world have arrived in downtown Amherst and performed on our stages,” said Gould. Acts have included music ranging from rock and jazz to experimental and worldly, poetry and spoken word, and open mic nights.

As the grant completes the $1.3 million fundraising campaign undertaken by the Downtown Amherst Foundation, which was initially supported by a $175,000 regional pilot project grant from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development, the Drake will announce a new program annual membership in November, Gould said.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]

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