Berkshire Lightscapes, a steering committee exploring light applications for the arts and public safety in Pittsfield, has taken another huge step towards creating permanent, dynamic and artistic LED lightscapes on buildings and public spaces in downtown Pittsfield. After a successful and beautiful proof of concept on the First Agricultural Bank building this winter, Berkshire Lightscapes has secured a spot in the Commonwealth Places program, which provides a dollar-for-dollar funding match of up to $50,000 from MassDevelopment if the crowdfunding goal set by their organization is reached within 60 days. Berkshire Lightscapes is asking interested citizens, businesses, and organizations to help raise their crowdfunding goal of $50,000, which, when combined with the matching funds, will be used to design and install permanent lighting projects in Park Square, on City Hall, and on Dunham Mall in Pittsfield.
The catch is that in order to qualify for the matching funds, all money must be raised within 60 calendar days, and Berkshire Lightscapes has until May 16th, 2018 at 11:45 pm to raise the $50,000. Their fundraising campaign began just a few days ago and they need your help in spreading the word! Please consider sharing this article and/or making a donation. Donations can be made securely at www.patronicity.com/lightscapes or you can mail a check made payable to the Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association. (More details at the end of this story). Donations are tax deductible as the Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association is a Registered 501(c)(3) organization. Not only are you supporting a project that will contribute to the vitality of our downtown, but there are incentive gifts for donating on the Patronicity website!
The Berkshire Lightscapes project was born after its founder, Elie Hammerling, took a trip to Phoenix, Arizona in the Fall of 2016. He and his wife Myrna visited the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix – a big beautiful area where sophisticated LED lighting was used to highlight the beauty of the desert plantings. “I said to my wife, ‘that was mind-blowing’”, says Hammerling. “The use of lights was really special, and it was done tastefully… not Las Vegas… really the art was the desert plantings”.
Hammerling, retired VP of Planning for Berkshire Medical Center, started thinking about the beautiful architecture in our downtown – the public spaces – the corridors, and decided that once he returned home, he would reach out to people in the community who might be interested in brainstorming about such a project.
The idea of dynamic, artistic lighting in his hometown consumed Hammerling, who spent a lot of free time scouring Pinterest and finding that the majority and the best interesting lighting is done in Europe and Asia. In terms of permanent artistic lighting, the United States can boast the Empire State Building, but temporary installations for art light festivals are more the norm.
Hammerling came up with many beautiful ideas for brightening forgotten places in Pittsfield, such as the placement of glowing globes on Silver Lake tied to one another with a beam of light. Before his imagination ran away from him, he knew that is was time to turn his vision into a specific plan and he developed a steering committee of local residents, each with their own unique skill sets to further the project. The Steering Committee in its present form is Laurie Mick (Community Development Department, City of Pittsfield), Regina Burgio, (Principal, RB Design Co.), Tim Burke (Milltown Capital), Steve Oakes (Building Owner), Eric Hill (Actor and Director), and Peter Lafayette (retired, former Executive Director of the Berkshire Bank Foundation). Hammerling is currently serving his eleventh year on the Board of Directors for Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. and has proudly lived in downtown Pittsfield for the past eleven years with his wife Myrna.
Hammerling and Berkshire Lightscapes found a home under the auspices of the Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association, which is operated out of the office at Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.
In December 2017, the same month they successfully lit up the historic First Agricultural Bank building at 100 North Street, Berkshire Lightscapes submitted an application to Commonwealth Places to help fund a permanent lighting project in Park Square, City Hall, and on Dunham Mall in downtown Pittsfield.
“Our application said, ‘we want to do something artistic, illuminating, and tasteful’”, says Hammerling. To keep their options open, no specifics were specified. “The whole goal (is) if you are driving at night around that area, (the lights) would be, to the eye, something that would have buzz, something that would say ‘this is an interesting community that is doing some things that are artistic,’ (and the lights would be) a connection to what we want to be as an artistic community.”
Commonwealth Places is a Massachusetts state-wide program designed to “help fund place-based, community-driven projects – art installations, parks, bike trails, markets, and more – that revitalize downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. Successful projects must activate a new or underused public or community space, and the program will give preference to permanent physical projects…. Once a project has been approved, Patronicity (MassDevelopment’s consultant) will assist project sponsors with their fundraising efforts to help ensure successful crowdfunding campaigns.” (https://www.massdevelopment.com/what-we-offer/real-estate-services/commonwealth-places/)
The Berkshire Lightscapes application was approved by Commonwealth Places in February of 2018, and Berkshire Lightscapes, in partnership with Patronicity, Commonwealth Places, and MassDevelopment, has created a concise landing page for donors complete with a fantastic video which overviews the project and features stunning aerial shots of Pittsfield. The video also features interviews with Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. Board President, Jesse Cook-Dubin; Board Member and Artistic Director & CEO of Berkshire Theatre Group, Kate Maguire; and Board Member and Founder of Berkshire Lightscapes, Elie Hammerling.
The total funding of $100,000 ($50,000 in donations raised and $50,000 in matching funds) will be used to complete the project in downtown Pittsfield by August 2018.
Hammerling wants to make it clear that “Berkshire Lightscapes is not asking the city to pay any money here (and the project will create) no tax burden on the people”. The Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association is managing the funds and the project will be paid for by state funds and grants, foundations, businesses, and individuals who wish to contribute to the project.
“I think the city has (grown) so much in the last 15 years… not only through improving its streetscape, but we have the theatres; The Beacon Cinema; we have more restaurants; the city has more vitality,” says Hammerling. “But at night it’s still darker than it should be…. (The city) would be even more attractive if it was illuminated better. And if it was illuminated with artistic, tasteful lighting, it would be an attraction which ultimately would get more restaurants to say, ‘this is a hip town’, more developers to say, ‘let’s get more buildings like the Onota Building’…. It’s my hope that (the new lighting) will resonate with visitors (and) local people who live downtown or come to downtown, and that it will be a springboard for even building the economy.”
“Dunham Mall is a pedestrian thoroughfare connecting North Street’s commercial district with City Hall. In the daytime, many people use Dunham Mall as a pedestrian connecting corridor. It’s rarely used at night, but enhanced lighting would provide a “corridor of artistic light” to illuminate the event/entertainment venue in front of City Hall.”
An interesting, artistic pattern on the pavement would be created using projection and/or downlights with gobos.
“City Hall does have muted white light on its front façade. Berkshire Lightscapes would enhance the current lighting by adding tasteful lighting (the lightscape) to the front of the building and the front railings. This will bring out the architectural beauty of this historical structure and provide safety with the lit stair rails.
Entertainment and events would be located in front of City Hall, and onto contiguous areas.”
Hammerling is working very closely with Jennifer Glockner, Director of Cultural Development for the City of Pittsfield, to create a plan for entertainment during beautiful spring, summer, and fall evenings on the steps of City Hall. The existing sound system paired with the enhanced lighting would provide the backdrop for entertainers from our public-school system, our community, and our professional organizations. The plan would include blocking off the streets in front of the venue and using a nearby church as an alternate location in the event of bad weather.
The lighting and electrical recommendations for Dunham Mall and City Hall were created by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York. A donation from Greylock Federal Credit Union made these highly detailed recommendations possible.
“Park Square is a small “park” right in the center of the downtown. It is framed by some of the most historically significant buildings in Pittsfield. Berkshire Lightscapes believes it’s an excellent location for artistic lighting, both within the square, but also future up-lighting and highlighting of some of the significant surrounding architecture.
The preliminary plan proposes two memorial style spotlights to highlight the historic Civil War monument facing North Street; and twenty-one up-lights on the existing Acorn Lights. The Park Square lighting plan and costs were developed by Craig Okerstrom-Lang, landscape architect, Great Barrington, MA.” The landscape architect for implementation of the Park Square plan has not yet been determined.
Berkshire Lightscapes is working closely with the City of Pittsfield’s maintenance and parks departments throughout the course of this project.
Please consider making a donation! Any amount, small or large, is appreciated!
Donate online at www.patronicity.com/lightscapes
If you prefer to pay by check; please make check payable to: Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association and write “Berkshire Lightscapes” on the check memo. Checks can be mailed to: DPI/DPCA, 33 Dunham Mall #101, Pittsfield, MA 01201.
The Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association is a Registered 501(c)(3), Tax ID.
“The mission of The Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association (DPCA) is to promote and operate cultural, artistic, educational, and community enhancements programs, in and around Downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts and to support and collaborate with other Berkshire County cultural, artistic, educational, and community initiatives which favorably impact art, culture, educational programs, and the general well-being of Downtown Pittsfield.”
By Contributor Kimberly Gritman
Images and specific project details courtesy of Berkshire Lightscapes.