SVOG Spotlight: Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts

Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts

Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts is a nonprofit arts organization based in Holyoke MA.  Started in 1994 – MIFA produces, presents and sponsors performing arts programs in collaboration with communities in Western Massachusetts.

Executive Artistic Director Don Sanders leads MIFA, which has been a catalyst in providing an outlet to young people interested getting involved in the arts.

MIFA’s Education Program introduces students to major arts events and disciplines. Students participate in performances, workshops, masterclasses; and are given an opportunity to interact with major international artists and arts companies.

MIFA’s Vocational Program is a collaboration with Holyoke regional schools and the International Association of Technical and Stage Employees (IATSE Local 53) with the goal to train secondary and college-age students for highly skilled jobs in the Entertainment and Media Industries.

All MIFA programming supports the economic revitalization of Holyoke and a goal of the organization is the preservation and reopening of the century-old, 1,600 seat Broadway-style landmark, Victory Theatre located in the downtown area of Holyoke.

In March of 2020, MIFA ceased operations and had to lay off all four employees due to COVID restrictions on live performances and gatherings mandated by the state.  

The first lifeline came from an SBA EIDL loan of $150,000 in August of 2020 which provided the support to pivot programming from in-person to virtual with the help of volunteers and part-time staff.  For example, through a relationship with New England Public Media, MIFA was able to present the Latinx theater festival with "Torched and The Red Rose" from Pregonnes, Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre. 

Deprived of box office income, MIFA continued to fundraise through private supporters, foundations and other state programs.  Additionally, after meeting Rosa Taormina, Advisor at the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center at Salem State University – MIFA learned about the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, which was awarded in July of 2021.  The SVOG funds assured that MIFA could continue with recovery plans and replace the loss of income from the Covid shutdown.

The injection of SVOG funding enabled MIFA to stay on course with their mission, rehiring dedicated staff focused on transforming Victory Theater to be a cultural institution on a par with the likes of Tanglewood, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and the Lincoln Center International Festival of the Arts.

On December 31, 2020, the Victory Theatre turned 100!  MIFA celebrated by hosting a special virtual event, “Victory Theatre’s 100th Birthday Celebration” featuring the work of one of Latin America’s most promising composers, Iván E. Rodríguez.  

This article does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the SBA of any opinions, products, or services of any private individual or entity.