Artscape is an energetic, volunteer-led committee responsible for the fun, accessible, and professional public art in various outdoor locations throughout the City of Pittsfield. One of their most visible contributions are the beautifully painted electrical load boxes in downtown Pittsfield. This summer, in partnership with Berkshire Music School, Artscape has helped bring a unique type of art, painted pianos, to Pittsfield and Berkshire County. We sat down with Hotel on North’s Noel Henebury and director of the Berkshire Athenaeum Alex Reczkowski, Chair and Secretary of the Artscape committee respectively, to talk about all things Artscape and Painted Pianos!
“Most people know what we do but don’t know where it comes from. For example, we are responsible for the Paintbox Project…. We, Artscape, are a group of volunteers that work with the city and volunteer our time and efforts to make Pittsfield a prettier place”, says Henebury.
Pittsfield’s Artscape committee was formed in the early 2000s and served as lead organizers of the “Sheeptacular” public art project in 2004, as well as the 2006-2007 “Art Of The Game” public art project. These unique art pieces were auctioned off, creating funding for the rotating public art shows we have seen in downtown Pittsfield over the past decade. The Artscape committee is responsible for sponsoring, planning, and overseeing such juried exhibitions of public art in the City of Pittsfield. All of the outdoor sculptures and art-pieces chosen are created by well-known, accomplished artists, and the committee prides itself on being able to pay all of the artists whose work is exhibited.
In 2016, Artscape found itself looking for new funding sources, and this was the impetus for the Pittsfield Paintbox Project which was sponsored generously by Berkshire Money Management. The Paintbox Project paired up local artists with electrical load boxes downtown. A jury of people in the arts community who had not applied as artists and representatives from host venues narrowed down almost 60 submissions for 10 boxes. No Artscape committee members were involved in the selections. Five additional boxes were added in 2017.
“The Pittsfield Paintbox Project really got to the nature or the mission of Artscape which is to add pride to the downtown area”, says Reczkowski.
“The boxes were something new to add to the landscape and gosh the response has been incredible! People are excited about it!”, adds Henebury. “It brings me joy to know that I, in a small way, am helping to improve the city that I love… that I have a little bit of an impact”.
The Artscape committee also serves as advisors for other public art projects.
This summer, Pittsfield’s Artscape committee has partnered with Berkshire Music School to bring music and vibrant color to the streets of Berkshire County in the form of 16 painted pianos. The program, called “Painted Piano Project – Berkshire Summer of Music”, will feature these playable works of art and a series of pop-up concerts performed by talented musicians from July 18th through August 25th, culminating with a live auction of these unique works of art on August 26th at Berkshire Music School. Four finished pianos are already installed in downtown Pittsfield.
“The Painted Piano Project has been in the works for two years and when I learned summer 2018 was going to be dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein AND the theme for the summer reading programs at our local libraries was Reading Rocks!, the Summer of Music was created”, says Tracy Wilson, Executive Director of Berkshire Music School.
“The Painted Piano project would not have happened without the creative energy of the Artscape Committee, particularly Jen Glockner and Alex Reczkowski, and All-Ways Moving & Storage Co. (talk about rock stars!! If you have a piano or anything heavier than a toaster oven to move, call them!). Brochures will be available at each piano in the next week or so which includes the location of each piano, so I hope you all travel around to see these beautiful works of art and put your hands on the keyboard and make some music!”
Well-known local artists were chosen to create these stunning works of art on an atypical medium and each were given two months to complete their designs. Adams Memorial Middle School was graciously opened up for the artists to work on their pianos thanks to the Adams Arts Advisory Board. All-Ways Moving & Storage Co. collected the pianos and brought them to the school, and is now delivering them to their temporary summer homes throughout Berkshire County. Once in place, each piano has an assigned caretaker who is responsible for keeping it dry during any summer storms.
Pittsfield will host four painted pianos through August 25th including a hand-painted piano in Park Square by local artist Marge Bride.
“When I was told the location of my piano was going to be Park Square, it just seemed to scream at me… ‘Paint Park Square on me’ …so I did”, says Bride. “After seeing how absolutely stunning some of the other pianos came out, mine seems a little plain, but, that’s kind of my style I guess. My piano has a winter theme. The piano is painted white with the scenes on it. I like to think of it as a large snow globe of Park Square…on … Park Square.”
The First Street Common features an inspiring community piano under the gazebo by local artist Tina Cardot of The Funky Phoenix, and Palace Park features a painted piano by local artist Michael Rousseau. Of his piano, Michael remarks it is “a metaphor for the potential greatness that lies below a less-than desired exterior, the song waiting to be sung.”
All 16 pianos will be on view to the public for approximately six weeks, before the Berkshire Music School holds a live auction of panels from these pianos on August 26th, 5 to 7 pm. “Don’t pass up the opportunity to own a piece of an original, one of a kind, Berkshire art”, adds Wilson. All proceeds from the sale of these painted pianos will go towards the music school’s educational programs and developments.
“The Painted Piano Project has similar aspects to our paintboxes where we have unorthodox canvases that will be placed in front of businesses and will be associated with those businesses”, says Henebury. “How do you work out the logistics of creativity without restricting it?” That’s where the Artscape committee comes in.
The Pittsfield Artscape committee is currently working on developing other new public art projects and you can expect to see more of the beloved Pittsfield Paintboxes in the near future. If you would like to contribute to Artscape, you may make a check payable to Artscape c/o City of Pittsfield and submit it to 70 Allen St., Pittsfield, MA. 01201. “We don’t ask for donations, we ask for investments”, says Henebury. For questions or more information about Artscape, contact Artscape via Facebook or call Pittsfield’s Department of Community Development at 413-499-9368.
The mission of Artscape is to enhance the overall character of the City’s downtown and attract visitors there by installing and promoting works of art in various accessible outdoor locations throughout Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District.
By Kimberly Gritman, Marketing Coordinator Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.
Images and video courtesy of Pittsfield Parks and Recreation, Jennifer Glockner, Cultural Pittsfield, Artscape, and Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.
Additional Artscape committee members:
Susan Aldam (Aldam Design), Tina Cardot (The Funky Phoenix), Jennifer Rose Carlo, Ghazi Kazmi (Whitney Center for the Arts), Bethany Kirchmann (Berkshire Children & Families), Martin Mansfield (Barrington Stage Company), and Harry Park (Berkshire Museum).
Ex officio members: Mayor Linda Tyer, Jen Glockner (Office of Cultural Development), Vice-chair Cheryl Mirer (Downtown Pittsfield, Inc.), Treasurer Rebecca Manship (Recreation Activities Coordinator for the Department of Community Development) and Sika Sedzro (TDI Fellow, MassDevelopment)