Around Amherst: Cultural Council awards $46,000 in grants

Staff Writer
Monday, March 29, 2021

AMHERST — Visual artists, music and theater events, and programs featuring the natural environment are among 40 recipients selected by the Amherst Cultural Council to get a combined $45,755 in grants.

Council Chairwoman Georgia Barnhill this week announced the winning applicants who, during the pandemic, have had to plan for both virtual and in-person activities.

The recipients include Amherst Ballet for a virtual performance featuring young artists, Amherst Cinema for virtual cinema programming, Gallery A3 for an annual juried exhibition, Isabella Dellolio for a photographic mural at the Amherst Senior Center, Shoshona King for the Juneteenth celebration, and the town’s Public Art Commission for the restoration of “Poetic Dialogue,” the sculpture depicting Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost in conversation.

Programs for schoolchildren will include a series of presentations on African music by Youssooupha Sidibe of Leverett, while residents can see a swing band concert by Jeff Gavioli and his Bad News Jazz and Blues Orchestra, and drumming on the Town Common led by Timothy Kane.

In addition to awarding the grants, the council is providing funds to improve accessibility through services such as American Sign Language interpreting, musical interpreting, and real-time closed captioning.   

State Rep. Mindy Domb complimented the council on its work to enrich and sustain the community through arts.

“Bravo for their wonderful selections for the coming year which include celebrating the inaugural state holiday of Juneteenth and creating a photo mural for the Amherst Senior Center, as well as funding grantees to ensure their programs are accessible to individuals with disabilities,” Domb said in a statement.

The council will raise money for projects and accessibility through GoFundMe at gofundme.com/f/amherst-cultural-council-arts-and-humanities-fund

A new grant cycle will begin in early September. 

Amherst officer on state commission

An Amherst police officer will serve as the Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement’s representative to a special state commission exploring establishing a police cadet program.

Rita Contardo-Curley has been nominated by the association as its representative on the commission. The cadet program, to create a professional and diversified pool of applicants for law enforcement agencies, was established by Chapter 253 of the Acts of 2020 in the Massachusetts Police Reform bill.

Contardo-Curley sent an application containing a letter of intent and then had her resume reviewed and an interview conducted by executive members of the law enforcement association.

“There is no officer more deserving of this appointment,” said Police Chief Scott Livingstone. “Her strong work ethic and dedication exemplifies her commitment to the town of Amherst and this agency.”

I-NET development

Amherst Media Executive Director Jim Lescault is expressing concern that 6,500 Amherst households could lose access to Amherst Media programming and shows such as “Democracy Now,” as the Institutional Network, or I-NET, is being installed by the town.

Lescault said government transparency and emergency broadcasts are also at risk as the town strings the municipal broadband.

The I-NET, which previously was the responsibility of Comcast, became the town’s jurisdiction during 2016 renegotiations of the cable contract. That contract called for the switch to town ownership to be completed no later than Oct. 15, 2020.

Lescault is asking the Town Council to call a special meeting or to refer this matter to another town committee.

New professorship

A new professorship in psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts is being established through a $1.23 million donation from husband and wife Robert S. Feldman and Katherine E. Vorwerk.

The professorship will be awarded to an outstanding faculty member who specializes in social psychology.

Feldman is the senior adviser to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and a former deputy chancellor of the university and dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, while Vorwerk is a retired instructor in the department of psychological and brain sciences.

Subbaswamy thanked the couple for their longstanding generosity. “From their professional lives to their volunteer work, and now with this professorship, they have demonstrated their strong belief in the potential of UMass to continue to grow as a world-class university,” Subbaswamy said.


TUESDAY: Amherst School Committee and Amherst Muncipal Affordable Housing Trust, both at 6:30 p.m., virtual via Zoom.