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					Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Launches Columbia Arts and
Humanities Project with $200K Donation

Sheffield, MA— The Columbia Arts and Humanities Project was launched today at a press conference in
Hudson, NY with a $200,000 donation for the Chatham, Germantown, Kinderhook/Ichabod Crane, New
Lebanon, Hudson and Taconic Hills school districts. Since 2000, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
has worked together with The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation to establish Arts and Humanities Funds for all six
public school districts in Columbia County, NY. At the end of March 2011, the education funds had a
combined total of over $1 million for the benefit of their students.


―This is an extraordinary initiative that is having a profound impact on our schools,‖ said Jennifer Dowley,
president of Berkshire Taconic. ―Now, students from the smallest and most isolated of Columbia County’s
school districts, or from the most troubled, have the opportunity to participate in world-class arts and
humanities programs. This can’t help but make a difference. Columbia County is indeed fortunate to have
such a committed and enlightened donor.‖


―In 6th grade I had an art teacher, Dorothy Opsit, who opened up the world for me … both visually and
intellectually. I’ve always been amazed that one special person in your life can change it,‖ said Ellsworth
Kelly. ―As arts programs are being cut across the country, the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation has been able to
touch the lives of thousands of children through programs in arts and humanities programs throughout
Columbia County.‖


Berkshire Taconic is responsible for developing and coordinating regional collaborative opportunities, and is
spearheading the Columbia Arts and Humanities Project. Education consultant Jeffrey Levitsky has been
retained to coordinate the project. The Foundation advises the districts on countywide programming and
building each fund’s connections with area artists and cultural institutions, ensuring that programs have a
strong connection to the curriculum and that they aspire to the highest standards of quality.


The first district collaboration funded by the Columbia Arts and Humanities Project was a multi-school field
trip to see ―American Idiot‖, a much praised musical on Broadway. Other proposed projects include:


        A multi-school field trip to the Clark Museum of Art in Williamstown, MA in the spring and a fall
        visit to MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA. Both outings will involve interactions with curators, arts
        educators and artists
        A staff development day at the Clark for art teachers and English, social studies, math and science
        teachers interested in making interdisciplinary connections to the museum collection


        Career Night in the Arts at Taconic Hills High School in the fall for the students of all schools to
        explore career opportunities with artists, writers, photographers, musicians, and theater professionals


        A Columbia County Arts and Humanities Project website that will allow students to post their
        artwork and ask art related questions of and receive critiques from local professional artists


―Ten years ago, I met with Jack Shear, the Director of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation at a coffee shop in
Chatham,‖ said Dowley. ―He referenced a newspaper article about a nearby school district that offered
enrichment programs that students couldn’t get through the existing curriculum. Jack was inspired by the
idea, and wanted to see something like it not only in Chatham, but throughout the county. We’ve worked
together ever since to build a lasting source of enrichment in the arts and humanities for the students of
Columbia County. It’s really an incredible series of gifts and a very serious investment in the future of our
children. We hope that it inspires others to come forward and invest in causes they care about.‖


This is the tenth year that the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation has made a significant contribution to build these
important education enrichment funds. In most cases, a grant of $100,000 was made—half to be awarded in
increments of $10,000 a year for five years and half as a challenge to the community to raise a matching
$45,000 for an endowment to ensure its permanence and finally $5,000 made available to cover fundraising
expenses. The Hudson City School was awarded $200,000 and has $100,000 to raise to meet its endowment
challenge. Each year, grants are awarded by each school district for projects such as visiting artists, student
publications and technology in the arts.


―We would like to congratulate the hard working volunteer committees who have worked for many years to
raise matching money for endowments through bake sales, craft fairs, cocktail parties, letter writing
campaigns, grant applications, and visits with funders,‖ said Dowley. ―It’s been an intense community effort
in each of our towns and they have risen to the occasion. We salute all our communities for supporting the
arts and humanities for our children.‖


Berkshire Taconic Board Chair Virginia Stanton Smith said, ―Berkshire Taconic has been a leader over the
last 15 years in bringing private philanthropic dollars into the classrooms of students in our public schools for
projects that are not covered by tax dollars. We are here in perpetuity to work in partnership with the
schools, business leaders, individuals and families in our community to further enhance public education.
Berkshire Taconic’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the communities it serves – you can count on
us to maintain our commitment to education, one of the most important benchmarks in any healthy
community.‖


To make a donation to the Arts and Humanities Funds in Columbia County, or to find out how to make a
difference in your community, visit www.berkshiretaconic.org/makeadonation or call 413.229.0370.


Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation builds stronger communities and improves the quality of life for
all residents of northwest Litchfield County, CT; Berkshire County, MA; and Columbia County and northeast
Dutchess County, NY, acting as an agent for positive change in the region. Since 1987, Berkshire Taconic has
managed a growing collection of charitable funds created by individuals, families and businesses. Each year,
the foundation distributes over $7 million through grants and scholarships for programs in the arts and
education, health and human services and environmental protection, helping thousa nds of donors achieve
their philanthropic goals and hundreds of nonprofits carry on their good work. Berkshire Taconic is a
501(c)(3) nonprofit public charity.

				
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