This year’s November edition of Pittsfield’s “First Fridays Artswalk”, in addition to featuring a strong lineup of exciting newcomers and returning favorites, also featured very unseasonably warm evening temps that made the usual November overcoat superfluous and uncomfortable; a great evening for arts indie’s own Tammara Leminen to be a part of the “Artswalk” and to be in such great company making her debut solo show in Unusual Wedding Rings and More, 137 North Street!
Because our schedules didn’t allow for heading south at the same time, Tammara drove down earlier to set out her reception, while I drove my truck over to the Whitney Center for the Arts to start the “Artswalk” a bit later; it ended up a pretty nice strategy since we planned on stopping back for the must do, evening closing After Party.
For November, the Whit, in Gallery W, is showing a really special curation, by Whitney Center for the Arts Executive Director Ghazi Kazmi, of John Stritch’s abstract work, much of it never before seen by the public.
Though genres apart from his more well-known commercial work, the museum worthy study here presents the viewer with pieces that just as strongly carry Stritch’s voice, primarily in his eye for composition, his sense of color, and most importantly, movement.
We definitely will need more time to spend with this show, and we will, but more on that below; this evening needed to move along rather quickly to take in even a good chunk of what was to be offered.
The next stop was back to see how things were going at Tammara’s reception; and everything seemed to be going fabulous with a strong and steady stream of well-wishers to see “Caravan of Dreams” open at Unusual Wedding Rings. The entire show here, including two pieces created especially for this opportunity, has never before been shown in a public venue. All in all, a stunning debut for this well and far-traveled artist.
Then across the street and across Palace Park to the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts for the opening of “The Mastheads.” Directed by architects Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson, and supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Housatonic Heritage, the exhibit displays designs for 5 writing studios to be built in various locations around Pittsfield. The designs are based on the works of the mid-19th century writers network that included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, and Henry David Thoreau. The writers-in-residence project is part of the city-wide initiative, “In-Motion: Pittsfield.”
Following the Lichtenstein, I reversed direction and then turned northward for a run up the street. A window display at the Brothership Building was the first exhibit I encountered in this direction. On view here, we see a tasty sampling of some recent work by the enclave of artists collectively known as Nuarts. The group’s location on the second floor of 311 North Street wasn’t open for this particular “Artswalk”, but the window display is carrying several fine examples of their work for November.
After a look at the Nuarts work, I ducked in a few doors down into Steven Valenti’s Clothing for Men to see more new work by Sean McCusker. McCusker has a very distinctive style that folks in our arts community and beyond are very familiar with. The new pieces carry this further with increased vibrancy, and a more refined sense of movement, with some of his figures now pushing trails through their surreal surroundings.
My feet followed up my chat with McCusker by heading north, significantly, to a very special opening at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge. A recent addition to the “Artswalk” trail, the celebrated coffee meeting place, after expanding a room south, now has a great space to show art, as well as host live performances.
Art exhibits run for two months here, giving the artists a nice run, and a chance to have lots of perky caffeinated eyes see their work. Curator for the space is Carrie Wright, a respected and familiar name in regional arts circles. This latest show pairs Ben Evans and Karl Mullen in “Passing Parameters.”
Evans’ work includes some very intriguing approaches to pattern and ceramics technique that easily pass traditional parameters of his medium, while Mullen extrudes his own parameters in a slurry of hands on approaches that bring seemingly disparate materials to a single surface.
Then, after button-hooking southward, the last new stop of the evening was a left and down a ways on Melville to Shire City Sanctuary for live music, and a first look at the collaborative work of Jacinta Bunnell and Cindy Hoose; as a deck of cards in play, 52 pieces in acrylics and vintage game boards.
Hung on the basement bingoed back arch of the below deck level of the former church, the project is a natural to repurposely grace its space; beyond the paint, the games and framing materials find origin to the pair via deft yard sale and thrift store adventures.
The ceilinged strings of miniature lights benevolently turn the head appropriately to indicate and segue the stage area to attention. This night had a nice little dream segment arranged for the lucky passengers that folding chaired in; the show began just a bit after 7. Tongues in Trees, normally a trio, performed an intimate boutique version of their stage set to a discerning and fortunate audience in this latest Fringe Music event brought to the venue via Bazaar Productions.
A super downtown Pittsfield evening had to come to a close relatively early, unfortunately. A long Saturday was not too far away for us; but after saying goodbyes to Tammara’s wonderfully gracious hosts, Herman and Gayle Rotenberg at Unusual Wedding Rings and More, and breaking down the reception, it was very nice to finish the evening with pizza, drinks, music, and hugs at the Whitney Center for the Arts. And, appropriately enough, which brings us to the special announcement previously alluded to.
Beginning with the show that opens during the December “Artswalk”, Tammara Leminen and I will be starting to co-curate at the Whitney Center for the Arts. Below follows a press release formally making the announcement:
Leo Mazzeo and Tammara Leminen Appointed Curators to the Whitney Center for the Arts
[PITTSFIELD, MA] Ghazi Kazmi, Executive Director of the Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield, MA is pleased to announce the appointments of Leo Mazzeo and Tammara Leminen as co-curators for its two art galleries, Gallery W and the Colt Gallery. The pair will kick off this creative undertaking with the “Third Annual Whimsy Art Exhibit”, opening at the Whit on December 4, 5-8PM during Pittsfield’s “First Fridays Artswalk.” The exhibit may also be seen during regular gallery hours weekdays and during the weekend, or by appointment.
A long-time fixture of the Berkshires art scene, Leo Mazzeo‘s oil paintings have been exhibited at galleries and museums throughout Western Massachusetts, and his local cultural review blog arts indie is considered a must-read by area patrons of the arts. As well-known for his stewardship as he is for his distinctive paintings, he has served on the boards of the Berkshire Art Association and the Housatonic Valley Art League; he is also currently serving a two-year term as one of the Town of New Ashford’s representatives to the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire, and in this capacity is involved with the decision making process for cultural grants awarded in the Northern Berkshire branch of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. A recent collection of Mazzeo’s photographs, a series commissioned in 2014 by Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., is on permanent display in the lobby of the Beacon Theater.
His deep knowledge of the local arts scene will be nicely augmented by the extensive global view of the well-travelled Ms. Leminen, who attended the Baseler Kunstgewerbe Schul in Switzerland to study art, and has since worked in galleries in Connecticut and Virginia prior to moving to the Berkshires. Leminen is a current Board member of the Berkshire Art Association and is New Ashford’s second Representative to the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire.
Information for the “Third Annual Whimsy Art Exhibit” (December 4, 5-8PM, with the After Party to follow at the Whitney Center for the Arts, 42 Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield), Mazzeo and Leminen’s first joint endeavor at curating a major art exhibit, will be following shortly.
Tammara and I are very, very excited about this wonderful opportunity to serve the regional arts community and to bring to the public art shows that we feel will be truly inspiring and a source of great joy.
We look forward to seeing everyone in the Galleries!
Article and photographs by Leo Mazzeo.