Chicopee Cultural Council giving away ‘free money’ for arts

Sep 1 2016

The Cultural Council is seeking input from residents to find out what type of arts programs they would like to see in the community.

CHICOPEE — Members of the Cultural Council joke that they plan to put up a sign offering “free money” to grab the attention of artists and art-lovers this fall.

The sign would meet truth in advertising laws. After all, the Cultural Council plans to distribute about $35,000 to musicians, visual artists, writers, teachers and actors who want to bring more arts programs into the community.

Every year lawmakers allocate money to the Massachusetts Cultural Council that is then distributed to cities and towns based on population. This year Gov. Charlie Baker slashed funding by more than half, but legislators restored the original $14 million allocation in a last-minute budget veto.

“The money is in line with what we have been getting in the past,” said Sharon Jacobson-Deragon, chairwoman of the Chicopee Cultural Council.

In total the city received $34,500 last year and awarded 45 grants. But since it received requests for more than $98,000, the 11-member board is taking surveys online and will set up a booth at the city’s Downtown Get Down block party scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10 in part to get more people to fill out surveys. The group also held a public meeting this week to solicit input and answer questions.

“In short, we want you to tell us how you want our money to be spent,” said Barbara Dumont, a member of the council.

Resident Joan Cierpial said she enjoyed a pastel painting class that was funded through a Cultural Council grant for several years and encouraged the group to consider supporting programs like that.

“I would love to keep the concerts, the Pioneer Valley Concert band and the concerts behind the library,” she said.

The grants have helped to fund a series of free Sunday concerts in Szot Park with the Pioneer Valley Concert Band. It also helps pay for outdoor concerts behind the public library.

Sam Hudak, a member of the Pioneer Valley Concert Band also attended the meeting and said his group will be applying for a grant again. “We have been playing concerts in the parks and would like to continue that,” he said.

A member of the Chicopee Friends of the Library, Francine Hayward, said the group is hoping to receive a grant that will allow it to continue an art exhibit it has offered in the past.

Some of the preliminary responses on surveys also show residents like to see school events, including field trips, funded. The outdoor concerts are popular and people also reported they like lectures and events that focus on local history, Jacobson-Deragon said.

While public interest does help the Cultural Council when it selects programs to support, there are other factors as well, including if the program may have other potential funding sources, said Eleanor Gay, a Cultural Council member.

Some of the programs funded in the 2016 grant cycle include the Voices from Inside writing workshops held for inmates at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center, an organic gardening program, a theater program at the Chicopee Public Library, a ukulele program at the library, a cabaret theater show at the Chicopee RiverMills Senior Center, a music program at the Chicopee Boys and Girls Club and a dinosaur program at Fairview Elementary School.

Grant applications will be available online starting Sept. 1 at the Cultural Council’s website, People can also find more information on the Chicopee Cultural Council Facebook page.

“For the first time this council is not accepting applications on paper,” Jacobson-Deragon said.

The Cultural Council will hold several workshops before the Oct. 17 deadline for people who need help with the application process. The dates have not been announced yet.

Grant recipients must first spend the money for their program and then apply for reimbursement.



May 2024