Funds to be Split Evenly Between the Jones Library and The Drake, A New Arts and Cultural Hub Being Developed in Downtown Amherst

Aerial view of downtown Amherst, Massachusetts
(AMHERST, Mass., Jan. 5, 2022) — Amherst College will make a special $200,000 donation–to mark the occasion of its Bicentennial–to two of the town of Amherst’s important institutions, one historic and another one new. The funds will be split evenly between the 93-year-old Jones Library, which is slated to undergo a major restoration and renovation that was overwhelmingly approved by voters last month, and The Drake, a new arts and cultural performance venue for the downtown district.

 “Amherst College and the Town of Amherst have had a 200-plus-year relationship, beginning with the establishment of a charity fund in 1818 by the citizens of the town to give free instruction to ‘indigent young men of promising talents and hopeful piety,’” said Biddy Martin, president of the College. “As we mark the College’s Bicentennial, our ties to the town remain strong. We are especially pleased to be providing support for two projects that will benefit the town and are also aligned with our mission.”

The donation, made to the Friends of the Jones Library, will support a $36.3 million restoration, renovation and expansion funded by a combination of public and private resources, of both the original 1928 structure and 1993 addition, adding 15,000 square feet of space. The project is designed to modernize the interior, repair building systems, increase the facility’s accessibility, add space for children’s and teen rooms, create a climate-controlled area for special collections, and improve space for the library’s English as a Second Language program. The project will also significantly reduce the town’s overall use of fossil fuels, increase energy efficiencies and allow the library to reach net-zero in terms of energy usage. The work is slated to begin sometime in 2022 and to be completed by fall 2023.

“Amherst College has been important to the Jones Library from the Library’s inception,” said Sharon Sharry, director of the Library, “recognizing both its centrality in the life of the Town, of which the College is an integral part, and the many ideals they share. We are excited—and grateful—for the College’s help in providing a facility that will allow us to preserve that role.” 

The Drake will be the Town of Amherst’s first purpose-designed and dedicated live performance and music venue and a transformative and revitalizing hub for its downtown. In addition to hosting live music of all genres, comedy and improv, spoken word, and other types of performances, The Drake will provide a welcoming off-campus space for area students, a vital resource for cultural community groups, and an attractive destination for visitors. Funding for the project will also come from public and private sources, and its operation will be overseen by the Downtown Amherst Foundation.

“The Downtown Amherst Foundation is blown away by the generous support to both The Drake, our new arts and culture venue, and the Jones Library capital campaign,” said Gabrielle Gould, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. “We see these two ventures as the most remarkable economic development opportunities, community and diversity builders, and destination creators for the Amherst area. We are so very excited to work with the Amherst College music department on the many opportunities to collaborate with its students, faculty, visitors, and alumni. Together we will create experiences through music and performances for generations to come.”

“The Drake will provide opportunities to students to present their work outside their campuses with higher stakes and more diverse audiences than they can experience with on-campus performances,” said Darryl Harper, Amherst College associate professor of music, chair of the music department and director of the College’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry. “This kind of engagement fits squarely with our mission at the College. It will bring more artists to the area and will deepen the College’s collaboration with the local community.”

Amherst College prepares students to use ideas to make a difference in the world. Since its founding, in 1821, in Western Massachusetts, Amherst has demonstrated steadfast confidence in the value of the liberal arts and the importance of critical thinking. Today, its financial aid program is among the most substantial in the nation, and its student body is among the most diverse. Small classes, an open curriculum and a singular focus on undergraduate education ensure that leading scholars engage daily with talented, curious students, equipping them for leadership in an increasingly global and complex world.