Becket Arts Center kicks off the new season

The Becket Center for the Arts, located at 7 Brooker Hill Rd. in the seminary hall of 1855. The Center recently launched its new season of programs. Photo from the Center’s Facebook page.

Beckett — The Becket Center for the Arts kicks off its new season of programs this month, well ahead of its usual summer opening date.

The center, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is located at 7 Brooker Hill Rd. and has been located in the Seminary Hall since 1855. The organization that runs the Center was founded in 1968, then registered as a non-profit organization in 1970.

In an interview with The Berkshire Edge, the organization’s executive director, Jennifer Beatty, said the building had no working heating system until this winter. “Every year around the end of our season in October, we shut down our entire building,” Beatty said. “We really started keeping our gift shop open through the holidays using heaters.”

As early as 2020, Beatty said the Center began a process to prepare the more than 168-year-old building for a modern heating and cooling system. She said early in the process, the Center went through the Ecotechnology Center’s Mass Save program, which offers energy assessments of buildings.

The center also received Community Preservation Act funds to add insulation to the building’s walls and ceiling and interior storm windows. According to the Community Preservation Act project database, the Center received $218,870 in historic CPA funds for the insulation project in May 2021. The Center also received $21,887 in historic CPA funds and $4,480 in Eversource incentive for separate insulation and window treatment project in May 2021. In May 2022, the Center received $21,887 in historic CPA funds and $4,480 in private funds for a third window insulation and insert project.

As for the heating system itself, Beatty said the organization has applied for a state Cultural Facilities Grant, which funds 50 percent of the cost of the $80,000 heating system. Beatty said the city gave the organization $18,500, and the rest of the funds for the system were paid for by donors and members of the Center. “A new heating system, insulation and new windows for the building are very important to us,” she said. “It’s a very old building and one of our goals was to start the season early. Something we’ve found difficult is having a summer season, spending a few months getting people acclimated to being here, then closing when the season is over. After people leave for a while, they forget about you. Although we have a large summer population, we don’t want to forget that we have many full-time residents. We think we can serve them better if we’re open year-round instead of just in the summer.”

The Center’s new season began earlier in the month with a series of yoga classes led by Rima Sala, who teaches at the Center every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. “Rima is a very popular yoga instructor in the area and has taught in various cities in Berkshires,” Beatty said. “Last year, before the heating system was installed, we tried to keep the yoga classes going as long as possible. But we couldn’t anymore because it got very cold. All the people are very excited to have this back in the Centre.”

The Center’s annual speaker series will begin on Sunday, March 19 at 4:00 pm with a panel discussion featuring State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D) and State Senator Paul Mark (D). Pignatelli and Mark will talk about the impact of redistricting and their legislative agendas for this year. “The speaker series was formerly known as the ‘Marty Lasker Lecture Series’ and for the past several years has been called ‘Research,'” Beatty said. “We’ve decided to call this our ‘speaker series’ to make it clear that we’ll be bringing speakers to the Center each month on different topics. Topics can range from politics to the environment. We want to bring speakers who can engage with both the members of the Center and the members of our community.”

The Center’s first live concert of the year will be held on Saturday, March 25 at 7 p.m. The concert will be performed by the band Hill 78, which includes musicians John Nalepa, Johnny Culpo, Pete Prieto and Amy Attias.

The center already has performers and additional speaker series events lined up in April and May. “The Becket Center for the Arts was founded more than 50 years ago by people who wanted people in rural areas to have cultural opportunities to participate in,” Beatty said. “We want to keep that original mission alive. We feel that all these years later, we need to continue to provide these wonderful cultural experiences to the community to make it better.”

For more information about The Becket Arts Center, visit its website.

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