READING, PA (March 9, 2016) – The board of Berks County Community Foundation has approved $59,717 in grants from the Berks County Arts Fund’s Rural Arts Grant Program to seven organizations that are bringing the arts to under-served areas of the community.

The Community Foundation created the Berks County Arts Fund to encourage local residents to support the arts in Berks County through their donations. In 2014, the Community Foundation’s board of directors approved a grant of $50,000 a year for five years from the Hawley and Myrtle Quier Fund to the Berks County Arts Fund to support arts programming in outlying areas of Berks County where residents do not have ready access to the offerings provided by the established arts community. The total grants are greater than $50,000 this year because fewer grants were awarded in the previous round, leaving more money for this round.

Programs may include performances, exhibits, interactive activities or other creative ideas that bring art “out of the establishment” and to the residents of our community. Preference is given to programs that occur in townships and boroughs where the Vital Signs 2013 Report noted that people were least likely to have experienced an art event in the previous year.

This round of grants includes:

  • $16,000 to the Our Town Foundation in Hamburg to expand the spring Arts Fest and Car Show on May 14. Our Town Foundation has proved its ability to manage large-scale events with its annual Taste of Hamburg-er Festival, which drew 50,000 people in 2015. Since the Arts Fest has drawn far fewer people, the Our Town Foundation plans to add venues, interactive art activities such as a community mural, and more live entertainment to draw more local residents.
  • $12,625 to the Yocum Institute for Arts Education, Wyomissing, to bring a live performance of the jazz story “Balloonacy” to rural elementary schools. A “Balloonacy” performance will run at the institute as part of Jazz Fest for Kids from March 30 to April 5. For weeks after that opening run, the grant will bring the performance to 4,000 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at Tilden Elementary Center and Perry Elementary School in the Hamburg Area School District; Oley Valley Elementary School in the Oley Valley School District; Bethel Elementary School and Penn-Bernville Elementary School in the Tulpehocken Area School District; and Honey Brook Elementary Center, Robeson Elementary Center, and Twin Valley Elementary Center in the Twin Valley School District. In addition to the performances, Yocum Institute will provide pre-show study guides for teachers to use with their students and Yocum-led post-show workshops with the children.
  • $10,450 to Art in the Fields to develop an interactive, community-led art history project for Alsace Township, including the collection of oral histories to turn into performances. The project has already brought artist Pepon Osorio from Philadelphia to lead workshops where residents worked in a variety of mediums. Upcoming off-shoot projects will be happening in coming months.
  • $7,842 to Clay on Main, a nonprofit co-op art studio in Oley, to continue its program of setting up booths at local festivals where people can create and decorate their own clay tiles. In addition, Clay on Main will work with Berks Encore to bring fused glass workshops to senior centers in several communities.
  • $4,500 to the Reading Pops for a free “side-by-side” concert with Hamburg Area School District students at the band shell at Hamburg Community Park on Sunday, July 24, in an effort to repeat the successful side-by-side concert held at Tulpehocken Junior-Senior High School in 2015. A side-by-side concert allows students to practice, play, and perform with the Reading Pops musicians.

The Reading Pops play in a “side-by-side” concert with students.

  • $3,300 to the Ringgold Band for a free, traditional Americana concert at the band shell at Hamburg Community Park on August 20.
  • $3,000 to Reading Choral Society to bring its “Summer Sing!” program to three additional communities. The Choral Society invites local residents to be part of a day of music when they learn the pieces early in the morning, practice and perfect them mid-day, and perform in the evening. The concerts traditionally draw 50 to 60 singers ranging in age from 18 to 80. The three outreach concerts will be held over the summer at Friedens Evangelical Lutheran Church, Oley; St. Thomas Church, Bernville; and Robeson Evangelical Lutheran Church, Plowville.
  • $2,000 to Reading Theater Project to provide a three-actor stage presentation of Forrest Pritchard’s book “Gaining Ground” as part of the One Book, One Community initiative. Reading Theater Project successfully launched this program at five libraries in 2014 and is using this grant to expand the performances to Bernville, Hamburg, Kutztown, Morgantown and Muhlenberg Township.

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Berks County Community Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that serves as a civic leader for our region by developing, managing and distributing charitable funds aimed at improving the quality of life in Berks County. More information is available at www.bccf.org.