At the time of year when we’re looking for light and warmth in New England, artists from the Berkshires and beyond contribute their talents to the Winter Arts Festival in Pittsfield, MA. This year’s sixth annual festival ran from February 16th – 26th, highlighting hundreds of visual artists, actors, playwrights, musicians, poets, and dancers in more than 50 events. Barrington Stage, Beacon Cinema, Berkshire Athenaeum, Berkshire International Film Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Word X Word, Dotties Coffee Shop, and Lichtenstein Art Center were just a few venues to host festival events.
The Barrington Stage Company featured ten new original mini masterworks that began every ten minutes. Proceeds from the 100 minute evening benefited a local playwright mentoring project, a theatre program for young people ages 13 – 19 who have a story to share. This national award-winning afterschool program serves local students who live in foster care or in families that are impacted by poverty, racism, and other hardships. Renowned Jacob’s Pillow Dancers also contributed to the community and took their Dance for Social Justice Program to the Girls and Boys Club in Pittsfield. All lectures and demonstrations were free and open to the public.
Over the past few years, I’ve donated a 10 x 10 inch painting to the Berkshire Arts Association event at the Berkshire Museum. This year I decided to volunteer for the first time and helped hang more than 140 works for the show. Each piece was numbered and hung with loving care in chronological order (my little still life was #77). Several days later, I returned to the grand hall in the museum to help the folks at the BAA set up tables, food platters and beverages in time for the 6pm preview party and 7pm auction.
At the opening, the marble floored room was filled to a deafening capacity with hundreds of enthusiastic supporters of the local arts. Everyone seemed to know each other and even a couple of local politicians attended the charity event. Later, a few people gave short speeches of gratitude and a particularly poised young art student gave a heartfelt thanks to the 10 x 10 and the BAA for providing funding to her local high school’s art program. Then what everyone was waiting for, the lottery drawing, began and there were so many good choices.
People paid $25.00 in advance for an “art” ticket which allowed them to choose any painting when their number was picked and called lottery style. Like my BAA compatriots, I was given a pinwheel to wave, signalling that I was available to help the lucky winner pluck their desired and highly prized original art from the wall. After #77 was selected and I introduced myself to my painting’s new owner, I decided it was time to head on home.
The 10 x 10 inch is an unjuried annual exhibition with a mosaic of original works donated by artists of all ages and creative potential. In an uncertain cultural climate, it’s even more important now than ever before to reaffirm our commitment to the local arts. It felt good to show up and to be part of the crowd.
For more information about local arts in the Berkshires contact: http://berkshireartassociation.org