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Grant could encourage tourism

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE A coalition of the city's historical and cultural organizations have received a $44,900 grant that could ultimately lead to increased tourism to the Paper City.

Last week, Mayor Michael Sullivan and Wistariahust Museum Director Carol Constant announced the city and the museum have received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund a planning grant to develop citywide exhibits about immigration to Holyoke.

"The final project entitled 'Creating Holyoke: Migrants and Immigrants' Search for Community,' will utilize the themes of opportunity, families and children, and leisure and cultural life to tell the story of the people who came to Holyoke and created a new life and community, will draw audiences to Holyoke from across the region," Sullivan said.

Constant explained the plan is to make Holyoke and its attractions a destination for a half-day or day trip.

"Our goal is to explore the historical complexity of the American Dream particularly as conditions changed over time and to emphasize that while immigrants and migrants were being shaped by their new lives in Holyoke, they were active agents in changing the opportunities and cultural life of the city," Constant added.

The project includes the Holyoke Heritage State Park, the Enchanted Circle Theater, Holyoke Community College, Holyoke History Room of the Holyoke Public Library and the Children's Museum at Holyoke.

Under the initial plan, the state park would have an introductory exhibit on industry, while the Children's Museum would provide hand-on activities for children. Wistariahurst would continue and grow its exhibits on the recreational, cultural and religious life of the city. Enchanted Theater would stage theatrical productions about the history of the city.

The grant will be used to conduct market research, to finalize exhibit planning documents and programming concepts, to develop fund-raising plans, and to formalize partner relationships for final project implementation.

Besides the $44,900 grant, the group has a fund of $15,000 in cash and $25,000 in in-kind donations at this time.

Constant said the planning grant is "really important."

"It will help us move forward," she added.

The group must complete its planning by December in order to apply for the next level of funding from the National Endowment for Humanities: a $300,000 implementation grant.

A separate fund-raising effort will also be undertaken for the restoration of the carriage house at Wistariahurst where the permanent displays on Holyoke's history would be located. Constant said the goal is $900,000 for the restoration and renovation of the building with the museum and the city each obtaining $450,000.

Constant said that despite the fact the group received a planning grant does not insure that it will receive the implementation grant. She explained, though, the project does not end if the grant is not awarded.

"The dream is not going away if we don't get that funding," she said.