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'Creating Holyoke' plans move forward with grant application

Wistariahurst, the former home of the Skinner family, is decorated for the holidays and will be open for guided tours noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It will be closed on Dec. 31. Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs
By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE With the selection of a logo for the "Creating Holyoke: Immigrants' and Migrants' Search for Community," work is moving forward in preparing a grant for implementation funds, Melissa Boisselle, the director of the Wistariahurst Museum told Reminder Publications last week.

"Creating Holyoke" is a citywide effort to create new exhibits and programs that capitalize on the city's unique industrial history and diverse population to draw additional tourism to the city. The collaboration between Wistariahurst, Enchanted Circle Theater, Holyoke Heritage State Park and the Children's Museum of Holyoke, among others, has already been awarded a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Boisselle explained.

The recent logo contest drew over 50 submissions with over 250 people voting online to determine the winner. Brendan Ciecko of Ten Minute Media won the contest and the logo will be seen on brochures, letterheads and signage throughout the city.

The implementation grant is due Jan. 23 and the group is finishing its final budget, she explained. If the grant is awarded it will be a 60 percent-40 percent matching grant with local funds necessary.

The group would not know until next September if it had received the funding.

So far, the group has undertaken an intensive marketing analysis involving focus groups and telephone surveys on the city's assets, challenges and perceptions funded by the planning grant it has received from the NEH. Part of the marketing research effort has been to find out what would attract people to the city, which Boisselle noted, is "an excellent corridor" in the Northeast.

The implementation plan includes a curriculum for educators about the city's past, a plan for city-wide art projects, a theatrical production on the city's history and historical exhibits. Boisselle had on exhibit a model of one of the proposed exhibits for the Holyoke Heritage State Park that would update the exhibits first created when the park opened over 20 years ago.

Boisselle said the local audience is just as important as a tourism audience out of the area.

Boisselle said that new signs around the city and a map that would be available at each of the attractions would be tools to have visitors spend more time in the city.

If the group does not get the implementation grant, Boisselle said the plans would continue, although at a slower progress. The group would then seek smaller grants from other sources to fund specific parts of the project.

The group has already enlisted the support of two corporate sponsors, Holyoke Medical Center and Holyoke Gas and Electric, to help pay for new signage.