|Neal Announces CARES Act Grants for Cultural Organizations|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
04:30PM / Friday, July 10, 2020
|Rep. Richard Neal visits the Norman Rockwell Museum galleries with CEO Laurie Norton Moffat on Friday, the first day of the museum's reopening from the COVID-19 pandemic.|
Norman Rockwell Museum CEO Laurie Norton Moffat, Rep. Richard Neal and Mass Humanities Executive Director Brian Boyles pose beneath a banner with Rockwell's depiction of Rosie the Riveter.
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, visited the Norman Rockwell Museum on Friday to announce $72,500 in grants to benefit cultural institutions throughout Berkshire County.
The funds are part of $75 million in grants distributed by the National Endowment for the Humanities from the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.
Neal told his audience about the expedited process that got the CARES Act enacted and predicted success for the next round of federal stimulus, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act.
Neal, who is facing his own primary battle on Sept. 1, dismissed the idea that time was running out to reach a compromise on a new stimulus in an election year.
“[The Republicans] were all in on the CARES Act; they were not all in on the HEROES Act,” said Neal, who is the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which drafted both CARES and HEROES. “[Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell, as you know, described it as a 'wish list.' Well, that's what legislation is. It’s architecture.
“I think that … he has said 'No' every time, only to have the Senate pass these issues unanimously. So when reporters would say to me, 'How are you going to get past [McConnell],' I'd say, 'He always says no to start. Then he says yes to the legislation.' "
Neal said that the country cannot afford to get complacent about the COVID-19 pandemic or to stop finding ways to stimulate the economy. And he said that recent spikes in the novel coronavirus around the country will make it hard for his colleagues on the other side of the aisle to vote against stimulus packages when Congress returns from its July 4 recess.
"I don't know if you're a senator from Texas how you could vote against the next round," he said. "I don’t know if you're a senator from Florida how you can vote against the next round, period.
"My hunch is we're going to find another piece of bipartisan legislation. Everyone is going to agree in the end on unemployment insurance. We're going to agree on more hospital assistance. We’re going to agree on state and local government [assistance]."
The NEH grants were just 2.5 percent of the total CARES package. Locally, the 14 grants range from $10,000 at the Rockwell Museum and Hancock Shaker Village to $2,500 to the Berkshire County Historical Society and Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum. But the funding is important, Neal said.
“The arts and humanities play a vital role in our lives every single day,” he said. “I caught the article in the New York Times on Monday about Barrington State [reaching a deal with Actors Equity], and I thought, 'Isn't this great?' They’re sticking with it."
Mass Humanities Executive Director Brian Boyles said that grants from the NEH help the arts and those employed by the institutions.
"We prioritized small grassroots organizations," said Boyles, whose agency determined the grant recipients. “We believe that the Berkshire County Historical Society is as vital as major institutions like the one we're in today.
"We also noted that in the Berkshires, culture is immensely important to your economy. This economy depends on tourism and people coming here to embrace this cultural heritage. It means jobs. It's paychecks for families. And we treated it as such.”
And Boyles said that the arts have a role to play in the larger national conversation going on about equity and human rights.
"Massachusetts has been a leader since the beginning of this nation in ideas when it comes to equality — whether that’s the revolution, abolition, civil rights, women’s suffrage, the right to gay marriage — all those things,” Boyes said. “This has been the capital of intellect and thought in humanities for quite a long time.
“And if we are going to have a recovery and rebuilding that really looks to reimagine what America is, it will depend on ideas that come out of Massachusetts. That’s why I made a commitment that this money was spread as widely around as we think it needs to be. Because when people do re-emerge from their houses … we want people to come out and say, ‘I want to imagine a better world.’
“And that has to start with the humanities.”
The following are recipients of the Berkshire County recipients of Mass Humanities CARES Act Grants:
• Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, $10,000
• Berkshire Community Radio Alliance, Great Barrington, $2,500
• Berkshire County Historical Society, Pittsfield, $2,500
• Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, $10,000
• Clinton Church Restoration, Great Barrington, $2,500
• Hancock Shaker Village, Pittsfield, $10,000
• Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, $10,000
• Stockbridge Library Association, Stockbridge, $5,000
• Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, Adams, $2,500
• Tamarack Hollow Nature and Cultural Center, Windsor, $2,500
• The Artist Book Foundation, North Adams, $2,500
• Ventfort Hall Association, Lenox, $5,000
• WAM Theatre, Lee, $5,000
• West Stockbridge Historical Society, West Stockbridge, $2,500