Well, February will do that to you and well it should, or at least before the modern climate change era, it would more often than not. However, with many wonderful and engaging art displays featuring a host of talented local and regional artists in more than twenty venues throughout Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District, a little seasonally normal wind-chill holds small deterrent for the hardy arts enthusiast.
Such is as it was during 2013’s second “First Friday Artswalk” of the year this past Friday, February 1st.
After securing a spot for my vehicle in the Berkshire Medical Center parking deck, I made my way to the main lobby to see Kevin O’Hara’s “Travels with Missie: The Photographs”. O’Hara is the celebrated author of “Last of the Donkey Pilgrims”, an inspirational tale of his journey on foot around the coast of Ireland alongside a donkey, Missie, and a cart. The display features photographs from his journey, as well as a carved replica of Missie via Berkshire Carousel.
Of his participation in the “Artswalk” O’Hara says, “I’m thrilled to be part of ‘First Fridays Artswalk’, as well as having my favorite Irish photos hanging in the BMC Lobby, where I worked for so many good years. Furthermore, during the opening, I was able to hook up with many of my old hospital colleagues!”
Though we only had an opportunity to meet briefly during his opening, it was a pleasure and honor to make O’Hara’s acquaintance, as well as correspond via e-mail before and after the event.
Now if this was a nice, balmy mid-summer eve, my course of action and method of commuting from venue to venue beyond the hospital might have been different, but back to the parking garage and a quick trip to another handy lot it was. Fortunately, downtown Pittsfield has a goodly amount of free parking.
From the Mckay Street lot, I made my way to the Marketplace Café to visit with Lisa Merullo. Merullo has a fascinating mixed-media, found objects, and photography show up on the Marketplace exhibit wall for February. The show, entitled “I Love Pittsfield”, prominently features engaging portraits of Merullo’s friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, all photographed on locale and holding an artist-crafted sign reading “I Love Pittsfield”.
Further north, Michael Vincent Bushy was featuring recent examples of his print work in the hallway of Crawford Square, 137 North Street. Bushy is a printmaker, by training, and creates etchings, monoprints, monotypes, engravings, and block prints in his Pittsfield studio. Recently, Bushy accepted an appointment to the Pittsfield Cultural Development Board.
Following this appearance at Crawford Square, Bushy, Merullo, and many other “Artswalk” artists will be submitting work for the “10×10 RAP” exhibit at the Berkshire Museum, a benefit for Berkshire County art students organized by the Berkshire Art Association and the Storefront Artist Project. The event will preview beginning February 14th, as part of the upcoming “10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival” in Pittsfield, and culminate with the exciting “10×10 RAP” party on February 20th.
Bushy was also previewing a suite of minarets as architectural etchings, part of a show he is currently putting together for a March appearance at Y Bar, 391 North Street.
Twelve-year old guitar prodigy, Nico Wohl provided exquisite jazz and blues stylings for visitors to the Crawford Square venues.
Meanwhile, across the thoroughfare, at new “Artswalk” venue Maria’s European Delights, 146 North Street, Sophie Lee has “Heritage: B&W Photography of Poland”, a beautiful black and white photography display, in the exhibition space. Lee eschews the use of lighting and flash, preferring natural light to photograph her subjects. The photographs in the exhibit were taken during the latter part of the ’90’s and represent a nice retrospective of Lee’s earlier work during time spent in the south of Poland.
Lee, as does Merullo, rents space in the 19 member artists’ collaborative located at 311 North Street and recently renamed Nuarts gallery + studios.
Co-owners Chris and the eponymous Maria Sekowski graciously stood for a photograph with the artist.
I made several more stops while heading northward. Noteworthy exhibits along the way included the delightfully ever-changing group show at Bagels Too, Crispina ffrench’s Valentine upcycled blanket in the Brothership Building, Paul H. Hergenrother’s “Historic Doors of the Berkshires” photography display at TREEHOUSE, and Amy Cohen Banker’s recent paintings based on metaphors drawn from nature. The later was displayed in a section of Wild Sage that has been set-aside for Sherry Steiner’s Le Petit Musee’.
Always a wonderful side trip down Melville Street, I then came to Crispina ffrench’s Shire City Sanctuary, located in the former Notre Dame Church. The BINGO! Gallery is housed in the basement and this particular “Artswalk” marked and featured the first appearance of printmaker Bill Clements to the space. Clements is a new studio resident of the venue and in keeping with the spirit of the season, was offering a Valentine’s card silkscreen printing demonstration, instruction, and participation event.
After the BINGO! stop, I retraced my steps back down Melville Street and ducked in for a visit with Heather Cachat. This February is Cachat’s first appearance in the “Artswalk” and the first month of participation for brand new venue Mad Jack’s Barbecue, 295 North Street. Cachat was showing a wonderful collection of black and white wedding photographs selected from her professional portfolio.
My final stop of the evening was to the offices of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. to attend a special prayer and healing meditation for the community at large and the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The 7PM ceremony was facilitated by Fidel Moreno and the Red Road Drumming Meditation Circle. Moreno is the founder of Healing Winds, a non-profit Native American cultural educational resource network. More information may be found at www.healingwinds.net.
Ron Mercier, a former priest, teacher, and psychotherapist, is showing a collection of his mandala/prayer wheel paintings, including a piece entitled “Angel Hearts of Sandy Hook” in the space for the month of February.
Overall, though a brisk and somewhat seasonally correct, face-stiffening evening, February’s “First Fridays Artswalk” offered a great look at some fabulous work by returning “Artswalk” artists and some very interesting debuts from newcomers, both artists and venues. With the “10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival”, more “Artswalks”, the “WordxWord Festival”, “3rd Thursdays”, and other major events happening, 2013 looks to be a fine year indeed in the Upstreet Cultural District of Pittsfield.