NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Wednesday was a celebration of investment in cultural spots across western Massachusetts.

Grant recipients came together at Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity along with leaders of the Mass Cultural Council and MassDevelopment.

“Western Mass has really been one of the region’s that has been the most applications received throughout the course of the program” said Sean Calman, the SVP of Community Investment for MassDevelopment. “It’s always very well represented with the cultural facilities out here and it’s important for us to distribute these funds to the entire Commonwealth.”

More than $160 thousand is going towards the Bombyx Center for Arts and Equity in Florence, helping them expand a spiritual hub that now also includes the arts.

“During the Covid Pandemic, if businesses had a hard time you can imagine culture facilities have a hard time,” said Dan Rivera, the President and CEO of MassDevelopment. “And not only were they having a hard time getting people in their spaces but deferred maintenance. Deferred maintenance is just a fancy way of saying the roof’s still leaking.”

Called the Cultural Facilities Fund, organizations received money to make those updates: from replacing windows to making places more accessible.

Investing in spaces like this can be an economic driver according to Michael Bobbitt, the Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council but it’s so much more than that.

“Most of the problems in this world can be solved through creativity,” he said. “And there’s nothing like artists and cultural people that can help you to learn how to expand your mind to the creative process to help you solve problems.”

Wednesday’s celebration of funding was over funding last fiscal year, but applications will be out soon.

“I am so excited to welcome Executive Director Bobbitt and President and CEO Rivera for a tour of Florence this week to showcase the amazing cultural and economic development activity happening in this key part of Northampton,” said Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra. “We’re grateful for their interest and support as we promote Northampton as an important cultural center of western Massachusetts.”

“A vibrant arts community makes Northampton a place where people want to live, study, and visit,” said State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa. “With rising housing costs, however, supporting artists with affordable creative spaces has never been more important. I’m grateful that Michael Bobbitt and Dan Rivera have made time in their schedules to hear directly from local artists and cultural leaders so we can work together to best support them.”