Exhibition Designer Selected for African American Heritage Site and Cultural Center

Proun Design to provide interpretive planning and exhibit design services for the Clinton Church Restoration project in Great Barrington

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA (February 4, 2020) — Clinton Church Restoration has engaged Proun Design, LLC, to provide interpretive planning and exhibit design services for the African American Heritage Site and Cultural Center it is developing at the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in Great Barrington. Proun’s multidisciplinary team will work with the nonprofit and Huff + Gooden Architects to develop a comprehensive interpretive plan for the site, design all exhibits and interpretive elements, and oversee exhibit fabrication and installation.

“We received nine strong proposals from experienced interpretive planning and exhibit design firms around the country,” said Beth Carlson, a Clinton Church Restoration board member who chairs the group’s Programming and Interpretation Committee. “Proun went above and beyond in demonstrating how our vision for this heritage site and cultural center could be brought to life. They have significant experience interpreting African American history and we are excited to have them on board.”

Chris Danemayer

The Proun team, headed by principal and lead designer Chris Danemayer, brings decades of experience designing exhibits for museums and visitor centers. Credits include work at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, James Madison’s Montpelier, the Josiah Henson Park, the Booker T. Washington National Monument, the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, and the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

“From a design standpoint, this project gives us a lot to work with,” Danemayer said. “The site connects with themes that range from faith and resilience to activism and social justice. We embrace the idea that it can be a hybrid—both historic site and active cultural center. It can shed light on the area’s long, varied and often overlooked African American history while also being a hub for contemporary conversations, learning and performances.”

Dr. Kendra Field

Dr. Kendra Field, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, will serve as the team’s scholar/historian. Field is the author of Growing Up with the Country: Family, Race, and Nation after the Civil War, which traces her ancestors’ migratory lives between the Civil War and the Great Migration, and served as assistant editor to David Levering Lewis’ W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography. Her research and teaching areas include race, slavery, freedom, migration and social movements in the nineteenth century; African American family history, memory and public history.

Proun’s core team includes Danemayer; project manager Michelle Jarvis; exhibit designer Neal Mayer; content and AV developer Molly O’Brien; educator, performer and spoken word artist Regie Gibson; and estimator Thomas Gille. Consultants include Dina Bailey (community engagement), Jennifer Doherty of Northern Light Productions (media), Kathy Abernathy of Abernathy Lighting Design (lighting), and Jeff Hayward of People, Places and Design Research (visitor and market analysis.)

Clockwise from top left: Regie Gibson, Molly O’Brien, Michelle Jarvis, Jeff Hayward, Dina Bailey, Neal Mayer

About Clinton Church Restoration

Dedicated in 1887, the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church is distinguished by its connection with Great Barrington native W.E.B. Du Bois, cofounder of the NAACP and one of the country’s most influential scholars and civil rights leaders. The shingle-style church is also significant for its association with the religious and cultural heritage of African Americans in rural New England, and as a distinctive example of 19th-century vernacular church architecture. The church, vacant since 2014, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and part of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail. In 2018, Preservation Massachusetts named it one of Massachusetts Most Endangered Historic Places.

Clinton Church Restoration, which purchased the property in 2017, seeks to create a unique site of national significance that interprets the life and legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, celebrates the Berkshires’ rich African American heritage, and honors the history of the church and the work of its first female pastor, the Rev. Esther Dozier. The project is part of a growing movement to preserve African American historic places around the country.

Funding for the restoration of the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church is being provided by an African American Civil Rights Grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, and the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area; an emergency grant from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund through the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Francis Galvin, Chairman; the Citizens of Great Barrington through the Community Preservation Act. Additional funding is provided by a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund; and the Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick Trust.