This weekend I spent a few hours of my Sunday walking around Amherst. With a little time to kill before catching the bus back to my South Hadley campus, I arrived at the steps of the Fiber Arts Center to find it closed. The Fiber Arts Center functioned as a gallery, store, and learning center based around the art of the fiber. Works displayed included books, felting, fine weaving, classic and contemporary knit materials ... the show case window near the #38 shelter was a great way to learn more about crafts while waiting for the bus. Pensively, I turned around to hunt down the closest book store. The Jeffrey Amherst Bookshop was also closed.
Additionally, in googling articles explaining the state of the Fiber Arts Center, I discovered that the Amherst Arts Center also closed its doors after opening recently in 1999. This article in the Amherst Bulletin outlines the circumstances of this past January's closing, and this article published only weeks before describes one man's thoughts on the Jeffrey's empty shelves. The administrators of these three organizations found that the current economy was not active enough to support these enriching businesses. I hope that the teachers, readers, and craftsmen engaged with these local venues continue on with their passions until Amherst can afford a greater public humanities presence.
Living in Boston, it is not always as obvious to me how the economy is affecting smaller organizations. I guess that the city still has enough people vying for opportunities to blur the harsher lines of rural financial cuts. When one business closes, others seem to fill the store front pretty quickly. The scene in Amherst makes me wonder more about the future of arts-related businesses. The bookstore closing makes me wonder how many bookstores one small town should originally have been able to sustain. I wonder if towns need to more carefully consider the sustainability of similar businesses when allowing them permits. I am wondering this, not to point the blame at the town, but to mull over how towns will be pared-down in the next few years. I wonder what kind of control the local populations have over this.