(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – Last November, while visiting two well-attended gallery openings on the same evening in close proximity on North Street, Mary McGinnis, proprietor of Mary’s Carrot Cake shop, and Pittsfield artist Leo Mazzeo came up with the idea of making this type of “arts social” a regular activity. They did some grass-roots research and quickly determined that there was significant interest in participation from retailers along North Street and the artist community in general for a visual arts-based evening out on the town. Thus, the concept of First Fridays Artswalk was born.
Beginning this coming Friday, May 4, 2012, and running year-round, First Fridays Artswalk hopes to attract art lovers and the merely curious to its mostly indoors art displays in more than 20 venues, including galleries, retail establishments, and hospitality businesses along the North and South Street arts corridor. First Fridays Artswalk will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and a reception for the exhibiting artists will take place in most of the venues displaying art.
“Approximately 20 different venues have already signed up, with sites ranging from galleries and established art venues, to barber shops, furniture and clothing stores, frame shops, a multitude of restaurants and many more,” says Leo Mazzeo, lead coordinator of the project. “The Artswalk team will work directly with venues that are new to the arts-hosting scene, sharing their knowledge and experience about displaying art. In this way, the initiative can accommodate organizations and businesses with varying degrees of expertise in displaying and promoting art.” Those requiring additional assistance will be assigned a volunteer “mentor” who will provide guidance in artist selection and the monthly displays of artwork.
“Small cities and towns around the country have long been involved in supporting the arts and the local economy with regularly scheduled events, which encourage more people to visit the downtown district while promoting the local art scene,” says Mary McGinnis, chair of FFA and a retailer in the downtown district.
A committee, which also includes Megan Whilden, Director of Cultural Development, City of Pittsfield, and Mary Rentz, President, Berkshire Art Association, as well as artists and representatives from the arts and business venues, has been set up to act as a coordinating body. The City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development and the Berkshire Art Association are major sponsors of the First Fridays Artswalk. Downtown Pittsfield Inc. will act as the nonprofit fiscal agent for the FFA program.
For the past 6 years, the City of Pittsfield has run a successful 3rd Thursdays program focusing on all the arts, entertainment, food, and music. First Friday Artswalk focuses exclusively on the visual arts and the local artists of Pittsfield.
“When Leo Mazzeo and Mary McGinnis presented First Fridays Artswalk to the BAA, we saw it as the next huge step in making downtown Pittsfield a thriving arts destination. With the merchants joining artists as stakeholders, the FFA builds on both the PAS and the 3rd Thursdays experiences and solidifies the work that so many organizations have put into this goal,” says Mary Rentz, past chair of the Pittsfield Art Show, president of the Berkshire Art Association (BAA) and advisor to the FFA.
Among the highlights of this Friday’s walk, thirteen local Berkshire scenes painted by Marguerite Bride are displayed in the public areas on the first and second floors of the Crowne Plaza (1 West St.). Her work has been on “long-term” loan to the hotel for the past 4 years, with the scenes changing every 4-6 months to match the season.
Alchemy Initiative will celebrate the launch of its new gallery space, the Brick Gallery, located in the lower level of the former Notre Dame church at 40 Melville Street, with new work inspired by the coming of xpring by studio artists Crispina ffrench and Diane Firtell. ffrench will feature spring and summer garments made from recycled T-shirts and sweatshirts. Firtell’s pieces in this show are the result of a weekly experiment to explore the possibilities of a single bouquet.
At Art On No, at 311 North St., it will be time again for the collaborative’s popular spring opening. The 5th annual event will showcase the newly refurbished Art On No Gallery and feature artists’ open studios, food and beverages, music, and a chance to meet the 19 artists featuring in the show, including Marguerite Bride, Daniel Brody, Deborah Rufo Burrato, Joan Palano Ciolfi, Ellen Joffe-Halpern, Kathy Gideon, Annie Laurie, Sophia Lee, Leo Mazzeo, Dawn Meltzer, Lisa Merullo, Sam Ponder, Philip Pryjma, Dee Randolph, Harrison Searles, Eric Shuman, Claudia Shuster, Nathan John Strother, and Scott Taylor.
Berkshire Museum’s galleries (39 South St.), exhibiting fine art from contemporary sculpture, paintings, and photography to the magnificent paintings of the Hudson River School, will be open during the First Fridays Artswalk. Discount coupons for museum admission during First Fridays will be available at the participating Artswalk venues.
Several oils from a series of paintings of rare fowl by Marion Grant of Richmond will be on view during the month of May at Berkshire Medical Center. The exhibition features several carefully rendered studies of domesticated birds, such as the Silver-Laced Wyandotte and Golden Campene chickens. Grant’s show at BMC follows on the heels of her Roots, Fruits, and Greens show at Gallery 25.
Berkshire Community College’s (BCC) Gallery at the Intermodal Transportation Center on the corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue will host abstract artist Daniel Brody. Working in ink on paper and acrylic on unstretched canvas, Brody creates abstract works that explode and blossom with biomorphic shapes.
Brix Wine Bar & Bistro will show work by Berkshire native Kate Knapp. Knapp’s work is bold, passionate, and strongly influenced by color and light, reflecting her intimate relationship with nature. Knapp works and exhibits from her studio in Housatonic (Front Street Gallery), where she also teaches.
The Colonial Theatre lobby (111 South St.) will feature the photography of Nicholas Whitman. Whitman will be in attendance as artist and curator to showcase a display of his work and copies of his book, The Colonial Theatre: A Pittsfield Resurrection, which documents the history and restoration of the Colonial Theatre.
Empty Set Projects (150 South St.) is the studio of artists Monika Pizzichemi, Michael McKay, and Marcel Bova. Works completed and in progress to be shown include paintings by McKay and Bova with photographs and mixed-media sculpture by Pizzichemi.
Ferrin Gallery (437 North St.) will preview COVET ART + OBJECTS, one segment of a summer-long series of exhibitions and programs based on contemporary artists creating new works in response to museum collections. The projects in COVET range from simple updates of content by changing a cast of characters or details in a painting; the recreation of an object using new technology; and conceptual perspectives that focus on details drawn from conversations with curators. COVET artist Michael Allen Lowe will be in the gallery for the preview.
Printmaker and figure artist Michael Vincent Bushy will be exhibiting Bones & Bodies, a collection of figure drawings and anatomical prints at Gallery 25, 25 Union Street. The drawings are primarily in charcoal and deal with the figure, both as a study and a narrative device. Potentially furthering the narratives, the artist will also be exhibiting several anatomical block prints.
The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts (28 Renne Ave.) will be hosting the annual Berkshire Art Association Fellowship Show. This exhibit features work by Berkshire County students enrolled as art majors at any college in the country, as well as to non-residents currently studying art at a Berkshire County college. $4,000 in scholarships have been awarded this year by the BAA.
Mad Macs, Inc., a local store that sells and supports Apple branded computers and compatible products, will present the work of Sally Tiska Rice in the Mad Macs Digital Gallery at 21 Union Street. In addition to her traditional paintings, Tiska Rice will also be presenting a series of paintings that focus on the mixture of modern technical items in traditional and non-traditional settings.
Kathryn Jensen will show her paintings of Western Massachusetts at the Marketplace Café (53 North St.). Jensen’s paintings feature traditional rural buildings against the hills and waterways of Western Massachusetts. Jensen is the recent publisher of a small book celebrating the region, Between Two Cities: The Hilltowns in Art and Poetry” and chairs the Cummington Cultural Council.
Miller Supply (205 West St.) will be displaying a variety of works by artists showing in the First Fridays Artswalk. Many of the artists participating in the program during the month will exhibit one piece each of their artwork along with information on the location of their current show.
Paul Rich and Sons Home Furnishings and Design presents a window exhibition of new paintings by local artist Joanie Ciolfi. Ciolfi‘s paintings are expressive oils that push realistic subject matter towards the brink of abstraction. The pieces are vibrant and atmospheric and painted with distinctive rhythms to create dramatic works of art.
Living in the quiet town of Middlefield, Sean McCusker has developed a kinship with the solitude of the hilly landscape around him. Focusing this in his artwork he develops striking surreal landscapes full of color and mystery. His latest show, Dreaming of Light, at Steven Valenti’s Clothing for Men (157 North St.), is composed of the meditations of a dreamy traveler searching for home.
Peg Dotchin will show a collection of paintings of children at TREEHOUSE (305 North St.) The exhibit, entitled All the Children, translates and explores the universal language of children, which goes beyond what they cannot say and is expressed through a direct gaze that suggests an inner strength and determination. Dotchin comes to TREEHOUSE as a long time studio artist from the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.
Also on exhibit is work by the artists of the Berkshire Carousel project at the Berkshire Carousel Gallery at 170 North St.
Other venues slated to be open on May 4 include Bagels Too, Pateez Boutique, Shawn’s Barber Shop, Spice Dragon, The Lantern Restaurant, and yBar.