Northampton Arts

Thriving Arts Scene in Western MA!

As an ex-New Yorker and realtor, I have a natural affinity for old mill buildings and factories. It's so exciting to see the development of our local mill buildings, such as those in Holyoke and Easthampton, where new businesses are growing and thriving. Recent years have seen development further south in Springfield, with the creation of the MGM complex; not to mention preexisting venues such at the Springfield Symphony Hall and the Majestic Theatre. We are lucky to live in an area with a wide array of cultural and sporting events to take advantage of. The following piece from MassLive goes into greater detail about our local arts and entertainment growth.

 

The Gateway City Arts Complex in Holyoke (Don Treeger / The Republican)By George Lenker | Special to The Republican

Western Massachusetts arts scene thrives with ‘amazing venues’

While it may still be too early to make any final assessment, there seems to be a growing sentiment among Western Massachusetts’ arts and entertainment promoters that MGM Springfield has not had the negative effect on neighboring entertainment venues that was once feared.

Now entering its third year, the casino resort draws approximately 15,000 visitors daily, but those entertainment dollars don’t seem to be coming largely out of the pockets of other arts and entertainment venues.

“I haven’t seen any downside from MGM Springfield. Our number of shows and tickets sold in the region has increased every year and I expect that trend to continue in 2020,” says John Sanders, a partner and talent buyer for Dan Smalls Presents, an agency that books shows up and down the Pioneer Valley. “I’d actually like to be doing more in Springfield at Symphony Hall and hope to be able to develop a working relationship with MGM to do that.”

Jim Neill, marketing director of Northampton’s multi-venue Iron Horse Entertainment Group, agrees about MGM Springfield not having much of a negative effect.

“They are one more player at the table for some of the same shows everyone else is vying for, so sometimes a show we’d have done will go their way. But in many cases they are doing shows that wouldn’t make sense for us anyway,” Neill says. “After all the anticipation about the casino, the reality is that it hasn’t had a major impact on us.”

MGM itself seems to be doing just fine, as well.

Michael Mathis, former president of MGM Springfield, said 2020 looks bright for the casino. Part of its success, Mathis said, comes from customer feedback.

“Shortly after we opened, we launched a ‘You Said We Did’ campaign, where we solicited customer feedback and then worked to implement their suggestions. This is common practice in the industry,” Mathis said. “We opened a new VIP Lounge based on conversations with our guests. Most recently, we started construction on a new VIP parking area on the second floor of the garage.”

For Danny Eaton, director of the Majestic Theater across the river in West Springfield, the casino has served as a corporate sponsor, so there has been no downside for him.

“For the two years they were under construction, they were a corporate sponsor. Then, once open, for the next five years they (agreed to continue) with their corporate sponsorship but also buy the house for one performance of each of our five plays,” Eaton says. “So, the MGM impact has been and continues to be a benefit to us.”

In general, Eaton says his subscription-based theater has held steady and actually saw an uptick over the past year. “I certainly attribute it to the mix of plays we offer each year; that’s pretty much held true over the years,” he adds.

Neill says the challenges for Iron Horse in the arts and entertainment market remain the same.

“Competing promoters, getting attention as a secondary market and building new acts. Balancing the more adventurous booking with time-tested favorites,” he says. “Staying passionate about the music is the easy part. There are so many talented artists out there, old and new, and we always have our ears to the ground. We’re always planting seeds that will grow into tomorrow’s staples.”

Neill adds that he was excited about the prospects in 2020. “Our spring calendar is packed. We’re beyond thrilled to have Courtney Barnett playing the Iron Horse on her small club tour. Also at the Horse we’ve got Nada Surf, Dar Williams, KT Tunstall, Altan, Lunasa, Loudon, Holly Near, and prog legends Nektar, to name a handful,” he said. “At the Calvin we have Kamasi Washington, Gaelic Storm, the High Kings, comedian Nate Bergatze, a Guster show March 28 that’s almost sold out already.”

Sanders says he, too, is hopeful about the coming year as Dan Smalls Presents (DSP) represents sustainable growth.

“My work with DSP started five years ago and our growth, I believe, has been pretty organic,” he says. “I moved to Northampton and started promoting shows in Western Massachusetts – oh boy, 20 years ago – so my relationships run pretty deep. There was a need to create new opportunities for touring artists to perform in the region, and we’ve developed great partnerships with a few amazing venues in the valley.”

Along with looking to bring some shows to Springfield Symphony Hall, Sanders says Dan Smalls Presents is also planning on expanding its usage in venues it already employs.

“We did six incredible shows at the Pines (Theater in Look Park, Northampton) in 2019 and will likely at least double that amount in 2020,” he says. “I’m very excited to be working with the team at Look Park to be bringing back live music to this amazing spot. We’ll start rolling out the shows later this month, and I hope the valley will be as excited as I am about the lineup we have this summer.”

One venue Sanders already works with, Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts, has been growing and expanding since beginning in 2011. Gateway City Arts co-director Vitek Kruta says 2019 was great in terms of finalizing and completing the venue’s construction phase.

“We now arrived at the turning point. We also created very successful relationships with (Dan Smalls Presents), Signature Sounds and few other promoters,” Kruta says. “We updated our sound system to state-of-the-art quality with help of Klondike Sound so we can not only assure best quality entertainment but also to attract bands who require that level of quality.”

Kruta saw last year as a year of completion. Along with creating a small works gallery now featuring regularly changing shows, the venue also now has a new bar-restaurant called Judd’s, featuring Czech-American cuisine, a theater, a tap room, a music hall, and woodworking and ceramic shops for use by members.

As for his outlook for 2020, Kruta says, “Holyoke is a home to lots of artists and amazing talent. In the past few years, some artists unfortunately moved away or passed away, and the scene was kind of quiet. But it is slowly coming back and we are going to see more activities this year.”

Over in Easthampton, Rachel Phillips, the chair of Easthampton’s Cultural Council, says 2019 was a great year of growth for her city as far as the arts, and she sees more of the same for this year.

“The city engaged in a series of facilitated community workshops, the Easthampton Futures Project, inviting community members to envision the next iteration of the arts and culture chapter of the city’s master plan,” Phillips says. “And, with more event venues like CitySpace on the horizon and our Millpond Live festival in August and September, 2020 should be yet another banner year for the city.”

Weekend Events in the Northampton Area!

Hello Northampton Area Friends! We wanted to remind you of some fun and important upcoming holiday (and non-holiday) events going on in the area this weekend.

The 16th Annual Hot Chocolate Run for Safe Passage is happening in Northampton this Sunday, December 7th. The first event starts at 9 a.m. in the parking lot next to the Northampton Brewery. There are many local businesses present, giving away goodies. It's fun to cheer on the many walkers and runners who have raised money for this wonderful event!

The Cottage Street Open Studio Sale is on this weekend and next! The dates are December 7, 8 and 14th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cottage Street Studios in Easthampton.

The Easthampton Art Walk, which occurs on the 2nd Saturday of each month, is scheduled for next Saturday, December 14th, after the Cottage Street Open House. 

The 8th Annual Holiday Toy Exchange is happening next weekend. Toys can be dropped off on 12/13, the exchange itself is on the 14th. The event is run nearly entirely by volunteers, and is co-sponsored by the Northampton Department of Public Works and its ReUse Committee and by Northampton Public Schools/Coordinated Family and Community Engagement. Those wishing to donate used toys can do so from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the cafeteria of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. Toys should be clean and complete. More information can be found on this flyer

Lastly, The 39th Annual Northampton Winter Craft Fair will take place Saturday, December 7 through Sunday, December 8, 2019. The event will benefit CHD’s Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Hampshire County in furthering its mission of creating and supporting one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Join BBBS at Northampton High School to shop from a beautiful selection of goods produced by 90 artisans and a delightful children’s book sale. The event will feature live music, including local jazz artist Taylor McCoy, delicious food from Hillside Organic Pizza and Catering, and a silent auction taking place on Saturday. The fair is open 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Sunday. The price of admission is $5 for adults and free for children. There is free parking on the premises. McCoy will perform from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday and 12 – 2 p.m. on Sunday.

 

March with Maple and Main during the Noho Pride March!

Dear FOMMR (Friends of Maple and Main Realty)

Please come join us this Saturday for Noho Pride's Parade and Pride Event in downtown Northampton, MA! The event starts at 12 pm. Check out the Noho Pride website here for parade route and other important information.

Walkers are welcome to join us! Ideally walkers will wear some variation of orange or orange/yellow (Maple and Main Realty colors). There will be orange/yellow balloons, a large Maple and Main Realty banner and at least 10 gregarious and appreciative Maple and Main Realtors to walk with!!!

Let's meet at 11 in the parking lot behind Brewery, look for the Maple and Main Realty banner - close to the ticket dispenser closest to the Brewery.

See you then!

Circus Smirkus at the Northampton Three County Fairgrounds, Includes Some Local Talent!

If you are looking for something fun to do with your family in Northampton this weekend - check out Circus Smirkus at the Three County Fairgrounds. There are shows tonight at 7 pm, and tomorrow at 1 pm and 7 pm. Though based in Vermont, this talented troupe boasts some local performers. See the article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette to follow.

Local Circus Smirkus acrobats fly high for home crowd

Cameron Zweir, of Holyoke, and Serafina Walker, of Greenfield, demonstrate a move they use while performing for Circus Smirkus, Thursday at Three County Fairgrounds. —Gazette Staff/JERREY ROBERTS 

By ALEXA CHRYSSOVERGIS
@achryssovergis

Friday, July 15, 2016

When Lucia Mason, 17, was growing up, she was always up a tree somewhere.

The Montague native loved to climb — did it every chance she got, so much so that her mother decided she needed an outlet.

“My mom was like, ‘we need to do something with you,’” she laughed.

That led to joining Circus Smirkus, an international youth circus that has had several performances in Northampton already this week. Shows continue into the weekend, with performances at 1 and 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and feature performances by two other local troupers in addition to Mason: Serafina Walker, 13, from Greenfield and Cameron Zweir, 17, from Holyoke.

Smirkus hails from Vermont and is in its 29th year of touring. The 2016 Big Top Tour begins performing in late June and continues through mid-August, traveling through Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and upstate New York for a total of 67 shows.

Troupers’ individual tricks and stunts stand alone. But many others contribute to the effort, including tent and concession crew members, counselors and organizers, said Circus Smirkus assistant counselor Casey Venturelli. Working together, she said, they create a “beautiful dance.” 

Without one piece, the rest could crumble, and the dance could fall out of sync.

“There’s a lot of togetherness,” Venturelli, 22, said.

A leader, natural and mature

If the troupers were an airplane — to play along with this year’s theme, “Up HUP, and Away: The Invention of Flight” — Zweir might be the engine. One of the older, taller and sturdier of the troupe, he often is physically supporting the weight of his fellow performers in the show, face twisted in concentration and knees shaking.

Zweir is a natural leader, Venturelli said. He contributes to the group and carries his weight — and sometimes, the weight of the other troupers. He’s conscientious and thoughtful, Venturelli said, and listens to calm instrumental music or Flume in his free time.

Zweir is a third-year trouper this summer and performs as a clown, acrobat and aerialist. He was a gymnast for most of his life before joining Smirkus and plans to attend Savannah College of Art and Design to study acting and stunt work.

“I definitely wouldn’t be who I am without Smirkus,” Zweir said. “It’s taught me so much.”

Toughness and strength

Mason is only a first-year trouper, but being 17 and strong, she’s a leader in her own right. A few hours before the show Thursday, she stretched her limbs on a rope outside the group’s backstage tent, guiding fellow troupers to do a “hip hop climb” in an encouraging tone.

The muscles in her lithe body rippled as she demonstrated the trick to her friends Isle, Sarah and Jeannette, and then slid down to explain. 

Up on a swing, together

Then there’s first-year-trouper Walker, who Venturelli says takes constructive criticism with the utmost seriousness and whose bio in the program booklet says she speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.

When she found out she’d made it into Smirkus, she said she “squealed very much” and almost broke her mom’s ribs from hugging her so hard.

Though young, Walker easily matches the synchronization of some of the older teammates. In one of the first performances of the show Thursday, she lifted her body elegantly  up a swinging metal structure with four other acrobats, contorting and twisting. The girls all held each other up and balanced just right so as not to tumble off. 

The togetherness manifests in the trouper’s relationships with each other, too, Venturelli said. They create a tight-knit community.

The show teaches them valuable lessons, Venturelli said. Being on the road for weeks at a time at a young age matures them rapidly and shows them perseverance, resilience and strength. And those 11- to 18-year-olds inspire her, as well.

“They’re tiny people but they’re really incredible,” Venturelli said. “They teach me a lot.” 

 

How To Keep Holiday Spending Under Wraps (wink, wink)

Over lunch with my husband today, I subtly mentioned to him that the credit card bill next month might be a bit higher than usual. Instead of being disgruntled, the way he can be when I don't forewarn him of such things, he said "thank you for letting me know". I was glad to have gotten that piece of news off of my chest, but I am still feeling a bit anxious about the spending that I have done, and inevitably do this time of year. I came home to a text from my sister saying "I'm scared of what my credit card bill will look like for this month!". 'Tis the season.

Living in Northampton, MA, there are so many wonderful sales at open studios of local artists and artisans this time of year, as well as home-based sales, and the generally great stuff you can find at our array of local shops. Add to that the overall charm of our New England city, all dressed up in her holiday finest - it's hard to resist the urge to shop til you drop, as the saying goes.

I came across this article a week ago. one my go-to blog site, Apartment Therapy, with some sound advice about how to stay on top of spending over the holidays. Read on!

 

How to Avoid a Major Financial Hangover After The Holidays

by Dabne Frake


It’s not too late to ensure you make it through the holidays without going into serious debt. Even if you waded through the 5am crowds on Black Friday, the gift-buying season is in full swing, with plenty of time to say to yourself, “Oh, I just know Dabney would love that [insert item here]. I should just get it for her.” While I appreciate the thought, I’d much rather see you be free and clear of financial worry and set yourself up for budget-happy 2016.

1. Set a Budget
If you already budget, you’re probably in good shape. You know how much you have to spend this month and have planned for it. For the rest of you, take a minute to look at your bank accounts and figure out how much you have that can go towards gifts. And then stick to it.

2. Pay With Cash
Resist the urge to whip out your credit card at checkout register. Using cash makes you more aware of what you’re spending. And if you don’t have the cash on hand, then you can’t buy whatever it is you have your eye on.

3. Use Up Those Gift Cards
If you tend to accumulate gift cards, this is a good way to use them. They might come from actual presents you’ve been given, but we often get free gift cards as rewards for other purchases. Shop throughout the year using these bonus windfalls, and you'll have less to buy in December.

4. Don’t Buy For Absolutely Everyone.... or Yourself
A lot of overspending comes from getting everyone you know a little something, along with splurging on yourself whenever you come across a good deal. Pare down your holiday gift list by focusing on those people you care about the most, and leave off all those random people with whom you don't have a real connection. (Note: By this I don't mean you shouldn't buy gifts through programs like Toys for Tots....)

5. Start Saving for Next Christmas…Now
Set up an automatic savings account (Like Capital One 360) and have $10 slide out of your account every week and into a safe place where you won’t think about it our touch it for another twelve months. By next December, you’ll have roughly $500 to put towards presents.

6. Regift
This might be controversial, but sometimes it just makes sense. If you are gifted things you have no use for, pass them on to others who you might be genuinely happy to get them. Doing so reduces clutter in your own household, and saves you from having to buy more gifts. If you're unsure, check out our guide to regifting, and see what others had to say in the comments.

7. Make Your Gifts
Homemade gifts are way to make the holidays meaningful, and ease pressure on the wallet. Start with our Homemade Holidays gift ideas, and get to making!
 

(Image credits: Ashley Poskin)

 

End of Summer Events in the Northampton Area

Here we are in the final weeks of summer in the Pioneer Valley - it seems to be going by quickly! The weather has been lovely and it has been a great summer so far. There are still some highlights to look forward to in August and September here in Northampton and the surrounding areas.

1. Tuesday, August 25th from 4-9:30 p.m. is our 25th Annual Transperformance presented by the Northampton Arts Council and held at Look Park. A fantastic events where local bands and performers cover songs based on a specific theme - this year the theme is "Look at the Movies".

 

2. August 27th - 30th is the 147th Annual Cummington Fair, in Cummington, MA. A traditional country fair with animals, shows, rides, great food all  nestled on the beautiful Cummington Fairgrounds.

 

3. The Three County Fair in Northampton is held annually over Labor Day weekend, September 4 - 7th. This is a much larger fair than the Cummington fair, held at the Fairgrounds in Northampton.

 

4. Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket MA in happening through August 30th, 2015.


For more information about summer events and festivals, check out this list at masslive.com

 

Wintertime Fun - Art's Night Out and Northampton Ice Art Festival!

For those of us who are staying put this President's Day weekend/week, here amid the piles of snow and the cold temps, it's nice to know that we have the 5th Annual Northampton Ice Sculpture Festival to look forward to. While we certainly have more than enough snow to go around, the Northampton Center for the Arts who hosts this annual event, is having nearly 5 tons of ice delivered tomorrow for the creation of ice sculptures for the festival. The festival coincides with the monthly event Arts Night Out, where local area artist's and artisan's work is on display at Northampton's art galleries, stores and other spaces. Looks like the makings of a wonderful winter night on the town! - and another great reason to make your home in the Pioneer Valley. The full article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette to follow.

 

Frozen: Area artists put frigid temps to good use at fifth annual Northampton Ice Art Festival

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  • CAROL LOLLIS<br/>Peter Dellert in his wood working studio in Holyoke, sketches what he is going to carve for the ice festival.

    CAROL LOLLIS
    Peter Dellert in his wood working studio in Holyoke, sketches what he is going to carve for the ice festival. 

 
 
 
 

As officials in Northampton try to figure out how to get rid of the city’s overflowing piles of snow, many residents are looking forward to the delivery Friday of nearly five tons of ice. 

 

All that frozen water will be divvied up into 300-pound blocks, which will then be used by 11 artists to create sculptures for “The Northampton Ice Art Festival,” sponsored by the Northampton Center for the Arts.

 

The artists will get to work Friday morning at a dozen downtown locations (professional ice artist Joe Almeida will sculpt at two sites), and plan to finish up in time for “Arts Night Out” that begins at 5 p.m.

 

A close call 

 

The festival almost didn’t happen this year, says Penny Burke, director of the Center for the Arts. Its future had been in question since the event’s former sponsor, the Northampton BID, was dissolved late last year. 

 

Burke, who spearheaded the battle to preserve the festival, says an infusion of funds from the Northampton Radio Group, and support from the City of Northampton and Northampton’s “Arts Night Out” ensured that the festival would go on. 

 

“We didn’t want to see this special event fade away,” said Radio Group general manager, David Musante. “It brings people to town to stroll, shop, and dine. It creates great memories and keeps people coming back to downtown Northampton.”

 

And it’s more than a money-maker, Burke says. It also offers an opportunity for artists, both professional and amateur, to have their works seen. Among them will be a V-One martini luge in front of Eastside Grill on Strong Avenue. The luge, a sloped block of ice that cools beverages as they flow down its channels, will actually be put to use, Burke said.

 

“Who doesn’t wanna see a martini luge?” 

 

This year’s festival coincides with the city’s “Arts Night Out,” which takes place on the second Friday of every month. And it’s not an accident, she added, that it falls on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

 

“It’s supposed to be a holiday-like environment,” Burke said. 

 

Here’s how it works: Artists will arrive at their stations Friday between 8 and 10 a.m., where they will labor over slabs of ice, picking and chipping away with ice tools and chain saws, until the late afternoon. Completed pieces will be revealed during “Arts Night Out,” from 5 to 8 p.m.

 

“It’s a festive atmosphere,” Burke said. “You can go in and out of venues to stay warm and happy and, depending on the weather, sculptures may stay around for a while.” 

 

From newbies to pros

 

Featured ice artists come from diverse backgrounds with different levels of experience and expertise. Several have participated in all of Northampton’s ice festivals, including professional ice carver Joe Almeida, painter/sculptor Greg Stone and Don Chapelle, founder of Boston’s “Brilliant Ice Sculpture.” 

 

The other participants are mixed media artist Peter Dellert, sculptors Tim de Christopher and Matt Evald Johnson, installation artist Chris Nelson, the eclectic Sally Curcio, wood carver Nathan Peterson and sculptor Tom Kellner. 

 

Dellert is participating in the festival for the fourth time. 

 

Calling himself an “amateur” ice sculptor, Dellert says he uses his skills as a carpenter and mixed media artist to make his ice carvings. At first, though, the learning curve was a bit steep. Before his initial attempt at ice art, Dellert says, he was given an impromptu, hands-on lesson by Almeida, the professional ice sculptor, in the parking lot behind Spoleto’s restaurant. After the lesson, Dellert sculpted abstract shapes. The following year, with more experience under his belt, he says, he made a basket that held a heart. Last year, he produced a frozen representation of a Heliconia, a tropical flower.

 

With experience, he says, his ice-sculpting skills have developed over time.

 

This year, he will carve a representation of a drawing by the late Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky. 

 

“I am becoming more familiar with the material,” Dellert said.

 

Carving ice is actually easier than carving wood, Dellert said, because ice is softer than wood, making it easier to make swift cuts with a chain saw, ice pick or other tool. Plus, he added, ice holds an edge nicely, and is easily manipulated.

 

Although he enjoys carving ice once a year, he says, his favorite part of the festival is the social and community interaction. 

 

“It’s good because I get to hang with my buds,” Dellert said.

 

Sculptors will begin work Friday at 10 a.m.; the art walk, “Arts Night Out,” begins the same day at 5 p.m. and runs until 8 p.m. A map of artists and their installation sites will be available at “Arts Night Out” locations. For more information, visit www.nohoarts.org.