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SPRINGFIELD — The Western Mass Creative Economy Network (CEN) announced it has received a $185,934 grant from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development and its Regional Pilot Project Grant Program. These funds will support the creation of the Western Mass ArtsHub.

The Regional Pilot Project Grant Program was established to support recovery solutions based on the specific economic needs of individual regions of the Commonwealth and was designed to fund projects that uniquely address local concerns. Applicants were asked to define a major issue associated with the economic recovery of a particular region and propose a solution.

The CEN’s Western Mass ArtsHub will be a dynamic, web-based portal to connect artists, residents, visitors, and creative businesses to promote regional commerce, networking opportunities, and collaborative business experiences. The ArtsHub will be a central location to find jobs, locate resources, and make connections for sales of creative goods and services.

There is currently no place to find a list of area artists or other information critical for the success of the creative community. This is an especially important need at a time when the creative sector has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In Western Mass., one in six jobs is directly related to the creative economy, and the percentage of artists and creative businesses is higher than both the state and national averages.

“The Arts Extension Service at UMass Amherst is deeply grateful to the MOBD for this award to serve the arts and creative businesses, especially underserved artists and organizations across Western Massachusetts,” said Dee Boyle-Clapp, director of the Arts Extension Service at UMass Amherst. “In an area as rich with creativity as ours, the ArtsHub has long been needed to centralize services and make it easier to discover the many events, performances, open studios, and opportunities that are taking place virtually now, and soon, in person. The CEN has been poised to launch the ArtsHub, and this timely grant is particularly welcome now, when the region’s artists, venues, and creative businesses most need visibility and support so they can move toward recovery and once again thrive.”

The creative economy is an important economic sector for Western Mass., said Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council (EDC), which is a lead partner in the CEN. “Creative industries, artists, and cultural organizations contribute to the unique character of our region. The EDC looks forward to actively participating in making the ArtsHub a success. We are appreciative of this grant and the collaboration of organizations that will make this project a success.”

Added Lisa Davol, marketing manager of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and project coordinator of the ArtsHub, “having worked in the creative economy in this region for over 15 years, a major obstacle has been the lack of a centralized portal to find the span of creatives working in the field, as well as a comprehensive list of relevant resources. I look forward to maximizing the investment on existing efforts already underway as part of this project, especially partnering with the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Creative Ground database, which will enable us to display regional artists while also providing exposure to audiences and collaborators all over New England.”