Walking, Hiking, Playing

October already.  Really?  Wow.  But just because the growing season is coming to a close, and the harvest moon took a turn at bloody red, doesn’t mean its time to roll up the canvases/sidewalks and call it the end of art season.  This past Friday saw arts indie heading down to the Upstreet Cultural District of Pittsfield for the big monthly arts event in town.  “First Fridays Artswalk” was in splendid autumnal spirit with some very fine choice offerings of new shows on the walls along the circuit.

Whitney Center for the Arts

For several months in a row now, I have had work involved in an opening somewhere and this time it is for a wonderful charitable cause.  Our first stop of the evening brought us to “Soft Shoe Boom!”, now on display at the Whitney Center for the Arts on Wendell Avenue.  This exhibit, and the happenings surrounding it, comprise a fundraiser project to support “They Dance for Rain’s” programs in Nairobi, Kenya.  The “Artswalk” reception kicked off the auction segment in outstanding fashion with visitors getting first looks and bids on the work being shown in the Whit’s Gallery W; I’m very happy to be in such magnificent company here.

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

The artists donating visual art include:  Keith Emerling, Diane Firtell, Ogden Gigli, B.p. LeGault, Leo Mazzeo, Robin O’Herin, Monika Pizzichemi, Scott Taylor, Nick Thabit, and Vicki True.

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

Beyond the opening reception, a very special evening is on tap at the Whit on October 24th.  “Soft Shoe Boom!” continues with the final auction of the artwork kicking off the night’s events, followed by an Afro-pop, dance and projection party.  Refreshments include Kenyan foods, as well as a cash bar.  To reserve tickets e-mail td4rkenya@gmail.com.  To purchase online click >>>HERE<<<.  Hope to see you there!

"Soft Shoe Boom!"

Following the Whit, we crossed back ways to the Berkshire Museum to catch up with the latest exhibit in the BerkshireNow gallery space.  Two bodies of work by ceramicist Michael Boroniec are currently on view for an extended period of time in the cozy area set up to showcase, by invitation, some of the finest work done by Berkshire creatives.  Boroniec is showing a selection of his gravity-defying spirals as well as some of a series that is cast and embellished from human skulls.

Michael Boroneic

Michael Boroneic

Michael Boroneic

Crossing past the town square and heading north, we stopped in next to the offices of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. for a look at Mark Mellinger’s show.  Here, Mellinger is exhibiting a nice selection of his latest work that includes abstracts on canvas as well as a sculptural piece that we thoroughly enjoyed and had fun imagining it finding a home in an optometry establishment…

Mark Mellinger

Mark Mellinger

Mark Mellinger

Beyond Fenn Street and a short walk down Renne Avenue to the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, was the path to head “South” to view Clemens Kalischer’s iconic work from the 1940’s and ’50’s.  The images were photographed while Kalischer was traveling through the region at the time.  A Stockbridge resident, his work has been exhibited and published worldwide.

"South"

"South"

From “South” we headed further north to Hotel on North to stop in for the soft opening of a new exhibit of work in the establishment’s gallery space.  Good friend and all around great guy Scott Taylor has been invited to show a choice selection of some of his most vibrant pieces.  We thoroughly enjoy seeing his new work as he posts it on Facebook, but our jaws dropped when we saw the new pieces in person.  Congrats, Mr. Taylor!

Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor

After the hotel, came a visit to another good friend’s space in the delightful warren of creatives collectively known as Nu arts gallery+studios.  Located upstairs at 311 North Street, the group consists of 17 artists all under one roof.  The October “Artswalk” was an open studio event for them showcasing the work they’ve recently been creating.  My friend Lisa Merullo, a mixed-media/photography/performance artist just recently moved from a smaller space to a larger here and was on hand to say hey to friends and supporters.

Lisa Merullo

Lisa Merullo

Following the Nu arts stop, time was running short, so we decided our last venue appropriately should be to stop in to Shire City Sanctuary for a listen and look at what was going on there.  When we arrived, The Hands Free, a hyper funky ensemble featuring Nathan Koci (accordion), James Moore (guitar/banjo), Eleonore Oppenheim (bass), and Caroline Shaw (violin) was in full swing.  Bazaar Productions founding member Peter Wise later joined in on plastic bag and saw.  This is the second in a monthly series that Bazaar Production’s Fringe Music is partnering with Shire City to produce.  The performances will take place in the former church located at 40 Melville Street during the “Artswalk.”  For October in the Bingo Gallery space, also located in the basement of the church, a wonderful selection of Carri Skoczek’s work may be seen.

The Hands Free

The Hands Free

The Hands Free

The Hands Free

Carri Skoczek

Carri Skoczek

And to wind up the evening, we headed back to the Whitney Center for the Arts for the “Artswalk After Party” to enjoy refreshments, pizza, and spirited arts conversation.  A thoroughly wonderful evening in downtown Pittsfield!

Whitney Center for the Arts

The following day featured a walk of a different nature, literally. It’s been some time since I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the woods, outside of walking on my own property. And what better way than to catch up with what’s happening at the Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center?

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Saturday’s weather seemed a bit iffy going in, but the weather cooperated well enough for the Tamarack Hollow Housatonic Heritage Hike to go off in fine form.  Led by naturalist and TH Founder Aimee Gelinas, the group enjoyed a superbly informative look at this unique boreal forest property located in Windsor, MA.

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

As a Board Member of this wonderful non-profit, I’d like to take the opportunity here to invite you to the upcoming fundraising event on Friday, October 16 at Berkshire Community College.  The “6th Annual Berkshire Drum & Dance Fest” will be a great evening of live entertainment happening in the Boland Theater of the Koussevitsky Arts Center.  This great all volunteer show for the “Raise the Roof” fund is to support the building of a sustainable nature and education center and to conserve 32 acres of amazing forest lands at Tamarack Hollow.  Hope you can make it!

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Tamarack Hollow Nature & Cultural Center

Here’s a flyer for the event designed by arts indie’s own Tammara Leminen:

"6th Annual Berkshire Drum & Dance Fest"

Image by Tammara Leminen.

And then it was Sunday and time for a return to Barrington Stage for the big fall offering on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage.  Tammara Leminen writes here about “Veils”:

"Veils"

“Playwright Tom Coash spent four years teaching his craft at The American University in the Egyptian city of Cairo, and he returned to the USA with his first-hand observations of the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics and thought-provoking insights into the even thornier complexities of East-meets-West, religious freedoms, and gender equality (or the lack thereof) to produce the truly outstanding theatrical experience that is “Veils.”

Yes, I know it’s October, and between football, baseball, and beer festivals the whole month is basically shot to Hell even before the gate opens, but trust me – this is an event you need to push up to the top of your “must-do” list over sports and lager tastings.  The clock is ticking and you’ve only got until the 18th to catch a performance at the Barrington Stage, so strap on your running shoes and get down to the box office right now.  Forget that the pair of women starring in this play are each stunningly talented actresses with impressive stage credentials (Hend Ayoub’s resume includes co-starring with Robin Willams); forget that “Veils” has won fistfuls of awards; forget that the set is built around a large-scale electronic projection screen designed by C. Andrew Bauer that’s so essential to grounding “Veils” in a historical time and place that it practically counts as a third character.  Forget them for now, because while those are all great reasons for buying yourself tickets, what makes attending this play imperative is Coash’s funny, intelligent, and remarkably balanced exploration of a complicated tangle of issues that are rarely examined in such depth without bias – let alone with light-hearted gentleness, fairness, and compassion.

Donnetta Lavinia Grays plays Intisar, an American-born devout Muslim woman from Philadelphia who eagerly enrolls in The American University of Cairo so she can study Islam in a Muslim country; to Intisar, her veil is a badge of honor and part of her identity.  Hend Ayoub plays Intisar’s new college roommate Samar, a young modern Egyptian woman studying journalism by day and partying in dance clubs by night.  To Samar, a veil isn’t just an outdated relic, it’s the first step on that famous “slippery slope” that lead other Muslim countries into the hands of religious zealots who reduced women to the level of property.  As the two women get to know each other, they marvel at how a simple piece of cloth can become a symbol that means so many different (and often diametrically opposed) things to so many different people.

Whether they come in books, films, TV series or plays, stories are incredibly important because they show us the world through other people’s eyes, and only by seeing things from many different perspectives do we learn empathy.  “Veils” accomplishes that in spades, and the fact that the acting is every bit as brilliant as its message elevates it to “must-see” status.  As Intisar and Samar re-examine their beliefs through each other’s eyes, each of them comes to recognize their own subconscious biases, and vows to replace their self-righteousness with greater tolerance.  The idea that in order to truly have freedom of religion one must also have (and allow others to have) freedom from religion is a radical notion, and as the convolutions of our own “culture war” ramp up yet again with the approaching presidential election, it’s a discussion as applicable here at home as it is in the Middle East.”

"Veils"

So.  All for now.  Hope to see you at BCC on the 16th and if not, at something else!

Article by Leo Mazzeo and Tammara Leminen.  All photographs and images by Leo Mazzeo except where indicated.