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Throughout high school, Sapphire Holland ’20 of Adams, Mass., participated in many arts-based programs throughout the Berkshires, where she met a number of MCLA students and alumni, and which led to her decision to enter the College's arts management program this fall.

Region’s Cultural Programs Introduce Youth to MCLA


Our students and young alumni are a big reason why many of our undergraduates – like Sapphire Holland ’20 of Adams, Mass. – choose MCLA. Our campus, located in the culturally rich Berkshires, which provides the perfect setting for our unique programs, is ideal for students who desire a future in the arts.

When MASS MoCA’s doors opened in 1999, the hope was that the arts would drive a new creative economy to replace the large manufacturing base that had disappeared from the Northern Berkshires.

The idea was, as the arts and culture continue to grow and flourish in the Berkshires, the region’s young people would develop creative skills so that they might participate in and support this expanding economic sector.

Jessica Sweeney ’11 (right), who earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from MCLA in fine and performing arts with a minor in arts management, met Holland three years ago through her work with the Playwright Mentoring Project, a theatre-based program for youth run by Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.

“She started joining other programs that I help coordinate through the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (NBCC),” Sweeney explained, “so I built a strong relationship with her.”

Last year, Holland joined the Youth Leadership Program, a service learning, community-based program where young people identify needs in their community and design service projects based on those needs.

Seeing herself in Holland, Sweeney began to talk to her about MCLA.

“I shared my experiences, particularly those I had in the arts management department,” Sweeney said. “Throughout the year, she talked a lot about creativity, and how she feels that the arts are a very big part of her life. I asked her if she wanted to focus on the arts for her future.”

At the time, Holland – then a high school senior – wasn’t sure what her next step should be.

Sweeney saw in Holland something of herself, and felt that MCLA’s arts management program would be a perfect vehicle for the younger woman to learn, to grow, and to discover her passion.

Holland’s relationships with MCLA alumni who work with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition – like Sweeney, Adam Tobin ’14, and others – were an important part of Holland’s decision. Without those relationships, she said, “I wouldn’t have even gotten the idea to try out MCLA.”

Knowing that all the MCLA alumni she spoke with were happy with their programs, “I got the idea that it would be cool to see what they were doing – to try it out and see if I liked it,” Holland said.

So, she attended an orientation, and liked what she saw. Now, Holland is a member of the Class of 2020, and will enter the arts management program this fall.

“She was really inspired,” Sweeney said. “She felt like the arts management program is a good opportunity for her to not only explore herself as an artist, but also to explore herself as an art manager, opening more doors for her future.”

In addition to being “incredibly affordable,” MCLA provides a great education, Sweeney said. “It helped us to make connections to find very meaningful jobs in our community. These jobs were really in line with what we want to do with our lives.

“We’re constantly introducing our young people to MCLA students, professors and professionals so they start to build this network,” Sweeney added. “If they want to stick around, they end up choosing MCLA because it makes sense for them.”

Jessica Sweeney image: NBCC.