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PRESS RELEASE- Local Cultural Programs Receive 'Gold Star Award': Massachusetts Cultural Council Honors Great Barrington & Ashfield Programs
February 29, 2008

Pittsfield- State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and State Representatives William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D-Lenox) and Denis E. Guyer (D-Dalton) announce two competitive awards to local cultural programs through the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s (MCC) Gold Star Award for excellence in community arts and culture.


Western Massachusetts is known for its world class cultural scene, which is a great driver in our local economy,” said Downing.  “I am thrilled that MCC has singled these deserving cultural programs for Gold Star distinction.”


Teaching Math and Science through Ceramics (Great Barrington) and Short Film Competition (Ashfield) are two of eight programs throughout the state to earn a Gold Star designation from MCC this year.


The Gold Star Program annually recognizes model community arts, humanities and science projects funded by the 329 Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) across the state. These projects celebrate diversity, foster collaboration, showcase artistic excellence and provide learning experiences for people of all ages and backgrounds.


Gold Star awards are nominated by Local Cultural Councils and are evaluated by the Massachusetts Cultural Council based on a variety of criteria including: artistic quality, success in reaching out to underserved constituents, educational value, and ability to engage with the community.


The LCC Program is the largest volunteer-run, grassroots arts funding program in the nation, supporting thousands of community-based projects in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences annually.



Teaching Math and Science through Ceramics

Nominated by the Great Barrington Cultural Council

Jane Burke, a trained chemist and working potter, worked with 80 children (grades 3 to 4) on a unique interdisciplinary project where students were taught about the geology of local clay, and the link between volcanic activity and firing clay in a kiln.  The students also learned about math through studying clay recipes to test their understanding of fractions and quantity.  Burke worked closely with teachers to develop the curriculum, which connected art and science education in a unique way. 


“What a great way to incorporate the Arts into the Math and Science curriculum,” said Pignatelli.  “Teaching this way, you target all learners and I am thankful to the MCC Gold Star Award Program for recognizing this.”


Short Film Competition

Nominated by the Ashfield Cultural Council

The Ashfield Cultural Council’s Short Film Competition featured 5-minute films made by residents of Ashfield that featured different facets of the town and its citizens.  The films were shown free of charge at Town Hall to an audience of more than 200, representing a cross section of the town population. The enthusiastic response has resulted in a second film competition being planned by the Ashfield Cultural Council for 2008.  Funding from the Ashfield Cultural Council helped support the initiative.

"I am very pleased to see that Ashfield's "Short Film Competition" is receiving funding from MCC's Gold Star Award program.  This gives many local artists a chance to promote their work and encourages aspiring film makers to create pieces of their own" said Guyer, "The arts are an important part of our identity and western Mass has been and continues to be the home to many great cultural and artistic traditions."


Gold Stars were awarded to programs in Amherst, Ashfield, Athol, Attleboro, Great Barrington, Lakeville, Lowell and Salem. Details on all of the projects are available online at


About the Massachusetts Cultural Council

The Massachusetts Cultural Council promotes excellence, access, education and diversity in the arts, humanities and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities.


The MCC is committed to building a central place for the arts, sciences and humanities in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. The Council pursues this mission through a combination of grant programs, partnerships, and services for nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and individual artists. The MCC receives an annual appropriation from the state Legislature and funds from the NEA, the Wallace Foundation, and other sources.




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