AMHERST, Massachusetts – A groundbreaking collaboration between Western Mass arts and culture nonprofits and UMass Amherst Extension units has been awarded a substantial grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) to spearhead a transformative climate action project, entitled Clean Energy in the Cultural Sector. This dynamic partnership aims to address pressing environmental challenges, accelerate clean energy adoption, and water the seeds of a resilient, low-carbon arts and cultural sector in Massachusetts.
The collaboration, which includes Double Edge Theatre (Ashfield), Ohketeau Cultural Center (Plainfield), Paper City Clothing Company (Holyoke), the UMass Clean Energy Extension, and the UMass Arts Extension Service, represents a diverse array of experiences and expertise in the arts and cultural sector, ranging from racial and climate justice advocacy to clean energy and climate action planning. The generous EmPower Massachusetts (EmPower) Innovation and Capacity-Building grant, totaling $50,000, will fuel their joint efforts to develop comprehensive strategies for reducing climate pollution, promoting clean energy adoption, and fostering climate resilience across Western Massachusetts and beyond.
“MassCEC is proud to support organizations in Holyoke and Western Massachusetts helping underserved communities to gain access to clean energy benefits through innovative program models,” said MassCEC CEO Emily Reichert. “By participating in the EmPower program, the UMass Arts Extension Institute sets a great precedent for assisting arts and cultural organizations who primarily serve Environmental Justice populations, enabling diverse groups of Massachusetts citizens to take action against climate change and benefit from the energy transition in the process.”
"We want to bring our organization forward efficiently and sustainably, with as small a footprint as possible," said Rhonda Anderson, Co-Director at Ohketeau. “A stronger connection to other folks doing this work, and expertise to support it, is exciting,” said Adam Bright, Producing Executive Director at Double Edge Theatre. “We love our Earth, and having a hub to make these kinds of things happen [in Holyoke],” said Carlos Peña, Founder and Owner at Paper City Clothing Company.
The project will encompass several key components:
Framework Development: The project aims to develop and refine a framework tailored to the needs of small and medium sized arts and cultural organizations. Many smaller organizations are already embedded in frontline communities and are committed to climate justice, but need additional resources and support to make clean energy adoption and sustained climate action feasible.
Clean Energy Strategy Development: A major focus of the project involves identifying opportunities for the implementation of clean energy projects, such as energy efficiency retrofits, solar, and wind. The goal is to create tailored roadmaps for each partner nonprofit, including strategies for funding and financing, while articulating the needs and potential of the sector as a whole to engage in this work collectively.
Outreach and Engagement: Project partners will convene a public presentation and discussion to share their experiences and lessons learned, reflect on the potential for coalition-building to accelerate a Just Transition, and serve as peer resources for other arts and cultural organizations seeking to get involved in clean energy and climate action.
The grant not only provides financial support but also underscores the state's recognition of the importance of collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts in addressing climate change. The partners are enthusiastic about the opportunity to drive positive change and serve as a model for effective environmental and climate justice initiatives through the power of arts and culture.