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Historic Hudson Has 10 Million Reasons To Celebrate

By Jamie Larson

Historic Hudson already would’ve had a lot to celebrate at their upcoming Drinks on the Waterfront party at the Dunn Warehouse Site on Friday, Sept. 1, as the Hudson, New York organization brings attention to one of the city’s most visible abandoned historic structures right in the center of the Riverfront Park. But then, on Aug. 1, New York State awarded Hudson a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant to help economic development at the waterfront and the surrounding neighborhood.

“It really gives us something to celebrate,” said Alan Neumann, president of Historic Hudson, “especially for the future of the Bridge District. Which is everything below Second Street.”

The waterfront event was initially planned to fundraise for the busy organization and create more interest in the preservation of Dunn’s, which had already received a $500,000 structural stabilization grant in January.

While the former warehouse may not be the most refined historic structure in Hudson, it is one of the only remnants (along with the Basilica) of Hudson’s industrial past and its location makes it ideal for connecting new development at the waterfront to the city’s iconic historic character. According to a survey done by the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 (credit to Gossips of Rivertown for sourcing the document), the building was constructed in 1850, as the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop.

Once used to accommodate large machinery, Dunn’s big bay doors and large open interior may soon be developed into a food hub and restaurant that can both provide affordable food to the neighborhood — currently a food desert — and an eatery for anyone visiting the park. Every project currently outlined in the proposal is just that, a proposal, and will need to go through a public approval process, but there is little doubt Dunn’s will be a big part of future development. Other proposed projects include expansion of Basilica Hudson, support for existing light industry, assistance for an incoming hotel, business incubators, improved pedestrian access to the waterfront and much more.

“Let’s imagine a beautiful and productive future for this city-owned site,” Neumann said. “We need people to come down to the waterfront and have a glass of wine and imagine the future. We need to have a historic anchor.”

The benefit is $35 and includes food from Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions, and wine from Hudson Wine Merchants featuring vintages from the Blue Danube Wine Company. All are central European wines that Neumann says will really surprise people. There will also be a silent auction of historic photographs of the city.

“It’s of primary importance that Historic Hudson keeps its voice strong to preserve what’s quirky and historically important,” Neumann said. “It’s what makes Hudson distinctive and we need to address that as development moves forward. This matters.”

Some Fresh Intelligence About The Grant

Reactions to the grant around town were extremely positive by and large — but Hudson has a long history of justified skepticism about development projects, and the grant application was quickly dissected. While this civic ferocity can sometimes stymie officials, it is one of the key reasons Hudson has been able to maintain so much of the historic character that makes the city a draw. Hudson Development Corporation Executive Director Sheena Salvino, who led the creation of the grant proposal, stressed that no project has been approved and $300,000 of the grant is set aside to hire a planner to shepherd the projects forward the right way. 

“The overarching goal for the narrative we submitted to get the grant was to build a bridge between past and present,” Salvino said. “We stressed the role of historic buildings and how historic sites and things like landscaping promote economic development. Our proposal was to show that we were going to accelerate job growth at every level and create an ecosystem for that growth within the district. In our application we went across the entire spectrum of what’s going on down there.”

One aspect of that spectrum is troubling to residents familiar with the 20-plus years of community opposition to plans for expanding the cement business at Hudson’s deep water port. From blocking the creation of a massive factory by St Lawrence Cement decades ago, to the current opposition to the proposed creation of a haul road by the dock’s current owner A. Colarusso & Son, the community has made its opposition to expansion of operations pretty clear. So, these residents were disheartened to find in the proposal a sentence claiming, “...City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso.”

The sentence is a bruise in an otherwise shiny apple. Salvino was quick to admit that the statement was a misrepresentation of public opinion and a mistake for which she takes responsibility.

“We did not work with Colarusso. Everyone knows there is a community issue around this. From our perspective, Colarusso has a 100-year history in the city and they are an example of the type of industry currently operating at the waterfront. They invested seven million dollars in the purchase of the port and we needed to show the state examples of extensive investment. It was recommended to us by the Empire State Development office that it is a part of the waterfront so it should be included, whether it ends up in the final plan or not.

“Was that sentence the best way to put it? No, it wasn’t,” Salvino continued. “The grant writers didn’t have the background on the history of the dispute and I didn’t catch it in the editing process, and I’m sorry about that. My job is about moving things forward.”

Other skepticism of the proposal comes from the waterfront district’s large minority and low-income population. There is concern that economic development in their neighborhood means the further gentrification of a city already deeply segregated along racial and economic lines. Residents hope the final plan will address the needs of the entire community. Salvino says job creation for all is the core of the project’s mission.

In total, the grant is a major win for Hudson and officials have a rare opportunity to accelerate growth in a city already well on the upswing. Good thing there’s a party coming up where you can raise a glass to what’s historic — and what’s to come — at the waterfront.

Drinks on the Waterfront
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 p.m.
The Dunn Warehouse Yard at the corner of Broad St. & Water St., Hudson, NY
Tickets: $35 online, $40 at the door

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 08/14/17 at 08:38 AM • Permalink

Great Barrington Gears Up For Another Berkshire BikeNFly

By Lisa Green

From just about any vantage point, Berkshires views are pretty gorgeous. On Saturday, Aug. 19, the Berkshire BikeNFly presents an opportunity to marvel at the mountains, forests, farmland and rivers from two perspectives: via bicycle or from the air, aloft in a plane, helicopter or hot air balloon.

What began as a fly-in at the Great Barrington airport to raise funds for the Great Barrington Rotary Club has grown to involve a day of bicycle riding, and a celebration of aviation and community spirit. This year’s event will begin with a ride of your choice — 20, 35 or 52 miles — that pedals off at 9 a.m., beginning and ending at the airport. The preregistration fee (by Aug. 18) is $40 and the first 100 riders to register receive a BikeNFly t-shirt.

It’s a popular ride; the bike event has grown each year says John Benedict, a co-chair (along with Richard Stanley and Mark DeCelle) of the 6th annual Great Barrington, Mass. event that’s become a destination for cyclists and those passionate about planes. The first year, about 80 cyclists showed up, and last year there were nearly 200. It draws people from all over and, with three different routes, Benedict insists anybody can do it (although, this being the Berkshires, you can’t get away from hills). Each course is well marked and color coded. The Boy Scouts are tasked with giving out food and water.

As riders make their way back, the airport comes to life with plane, helicopter and hot air balloon (tethered) rides, paragliding and remote-controlled plane demonstrations, plenty of food and craft vendors, and live music performances. Jeff Lenosky, a mountain biker known as the “Trail Boss” who holds the world record for bunny hopping (the cycling skill, not the dance) will perform two shows in which he exhibits his prowess.

Proceeds from the BikeNFly benefit a wide range of worthy Rotary charities, including elderly services, the Railroad Street Youth Project, the International Youth Exchange and scholarships.

And although it’s a local event on behalf of a local organization, about half of the participants, bicyclists and pilots alike, come from outside Berkshire County.

“We have one person who flies in with a fold-up bicycle in his plane,” says Benedict. “He’s a true bike-and-fly guy.”

Berkshire BikeNFly
Saturday, Aug. 19, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Great Barrington Airport, 71 Egremont Plain Rd., Great Barrington, MA
Ride begins at 9 a.m. Pre-register online.
Registration fee is $40 in advance; $50 day of event.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/06/17 at 08:29 PM • Permalink

In General: 10 Country Stores in the Rural Intelligence Region

By Nichole Dupont

If there is one thing the RI region takes pride in…great pride, actually…it’s the plethora of truly charming general stores that dot the back roads and villages of historic, sometimes sleepy towns. In these gems, visitors can find wonderful baked goods and fresh food, unique (even odd) gifts, specialty groceries and loyal locals. These stores are community touchstones that are as timeless as the towns they inhabit. 

Monterey General Store This creaky-floored historic building in the tiny town center of Monterey, Mass. has changed hands a few times, but its charm (and coffee) has not suffered in the transition. Now under the stewardship of Scott Edward Cole, the store/café — right on the Konkapot River — offers pantry staples, baked goods, delicious breakfast plates and sandwiches, and unexpected items like a full array of shaving products for men, intoxicating scented candles and curated wines. All within the walls of a mercantile building that dates back to 1780.

Becket General Store & Café
Right in the heart of the Berkshires’ remotest rabbit hole, this Main Street store is round-the-clock food heaven, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chef Heather Anello and Kerry Willig cook up home fries, rodeo burgers and enchiladas all day to appreciative customers who no longer have to brave a 40-minute sojourn to get a pizza or a bottle of wine.

Hillsdale General Store 
This big, airy space is home to just about everything, except a full kitchen. (But don’t worry, if you’re hungry, just walk around back to Cross Roads Food Shop for some serious and simple, farm-y fare.) The Hillsdale General Store is a mercantile museum, complete with sparkly barware and other house items, hefty aprons and gloves for serious builders and gardeners, vintage-style games for children and antique collectibles behind a glass case. Upstairs, an emporium of furniture, art and stationery draws shoppers into an old-timey world ruled by fine linen and total nostalgia.

Old Chatham Country Store and Café 
A village landmark in the Hudson Valley, this charming “OC” destination is an art gallery, grocery store, and breakfast, lunch and take-out (on the weekends) hotspot. On Friday evenings, it transforms into a romantic bistro serving a simple menu. OC offers a great atmosphere, not to mention specialty cheeses and pints of Jeni’s ice cream.

Berkshire General Store 
Located on Pittsfield’s main drag, the Berkshire General Store, while still relatively new to the North Street scene, has already become a staple in the urban shuffle. This store has everything, including coveted daily soup and sandwich specials (including a famous clam chowder and a killer chili), ridiculous sweet treats, 99-cent coffee, T-shirts and memorabilia, toys and every other imaginable thing.

The Southfield Store 
You could almost miss this place if it weren’t for the fact that there are often cars lined up here for Sunday brunch. Specifically for the irresistible eggs Benedict, fluffy crème fraiche stuffed omelets and fantastic coffee. Not to mention a dedicated dinner crowd drawn to savory pork belly and grilled octopus. The Southfield Store is an extension of The Old Inn on the Green, and offers the same attention to food detail and memorable palate experience. The high-ceilinged store contains whole cases and shelves of homemade pastries and sweet things — thick cookies, lemon pound cake, croissants — and on any given Sunday, is inhabited by folks in their Sunday best, as well as sod-spackled farmers and outdoor folks ready for a Bloody Mary.

Salisbury General Store & Pharmacy 
This chock-full mercantile and full-service pharmacy has been in business since 1935. Plan on spending a good 45 minutes, at least, perusing the shelves of fragrant soaps and toiletries — including some favorites from France — and quirky retro-style linens and homeopathic remedies. This store in Connecticut’s quiet Northwest Corner is worth the long stop and, between party favors, artisan pottery and hilarious greeting cards, you will not leave empty-handed.

Blue Door Market & Café 
One word: Pie. Another word: Also pie. The Blue Door is a hidden gem in farm country (i.e. Sheffield, Mass.) that serves up great sandwiches, including a famous breakfast sandwich, and generous baked goods for the local work crowd as well as for folks just passing through. In addition to the hearty deli menu, the little-market-that-can also offers fresh produce, craft wine and beer, ice cream, the daily news from many outlets, and indoor and outdoor seating. It’s a quiet hangout, mostly because customers are too busy gawking and or eating to make much noise.

Charles H. Baldwin & Sons 
The overwhelming aroma of baking extracts like vanilla and almond saturate the air and the plank floors of this 125-year-old West Stockbridge, Mass. institution. In addition to the vast offerings of extracts, in amber apothecary bottles of all shapes and sizes, Baldwin’s carries snarky Blue Q gifts for every occasion, 10-cent candies, fine chocolate, flavored table syrups, retro toys and seasonal gifts. It’s an authentic trip down memory lane, and one worth taking.

Store at the Five Corners 
At the junction of Routes 7 and 43, right in the heart of Berkshire County’s “North Country,” sits this literal oasis of gourmand treats and truly beautiful gifts (not to mention specialty foods). The French influence is undeniable, with chambray-linen aprons, rustic cheeseboards, crusty breads served with butter and jam, and delicate macarons and meringues. A long farm table with two benches on either side encourages total strangers to sidle up next to one another and enjoy the smells of high-quality teas and coffee, handmade soaps, and one-of-a-kind cheeses.

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Posted by Nichole on 05/01/17 at 02:16 PM • Permalink

Act Now! Participation Workshops: Civics 101 In One Day Or Less

Back when civics classes were a regular part of the public school package, we learned not to take our democracy for granted, but there seemed little reason to take that notion to heart. Things are different now, and while we have been slapped awake and propelled into action, we find ourselves in need of coaching. What exactly are our rights, and how do we best make our voices heard?

Those who want a citizen’s refresher course can attend the Civic Participation Workshops at Berkshire Community College on Saturday, April 1. The Four Freedoms Coalition, in partnership with Berkshire Community College, is holding a day of free, non-partisan advocacy workshops, with a mission to boost the confidence of budding (and veteran) citizen activists.

The idea for the trainings came from Becky Meier, who works with adult learners in the English As A Second Language program at BCC’s South County campus. Inspired by other communities doing similar programs, she brought the idea to the Four Freedoms Coalition, an organization with which she was involved.

“Lots of people have become reenergized and politicized, on both ends of the political spectrum,” she says. “I kept hearing people say they were confused about what to do. They weren’t sure how to write letters, or they were hesitant about making phone calls. Some don’t know who their elected officials are. Something is holding people back. I realized we needed a basic civics course.”

Workshops will cover a range of topics: how to write a letter to the editor, call your legislator, use social media effectively, advocate on the local, state and national levels, and how to run for office (or help someone else to). Among the people running the workshops will be Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and local community activists Shirley Edgerton, Sherwood Guernsey and Megan Whilden. All are volunteering their time.

Meier stresses that this is a nonpartisan event. Everyone is welcome and can choose to stay for an hour or the day.

“Hopefully, this is just the beginning,” she says. “If it’s successful, we’ll see what people are interested in, and continue to do other workshops.”

For more information and to register, click here, or call Becky Meier at (518) 781-4866.

Civic Participation Workshops  
Saturday, April 1, 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Berkshire Community College
1350 West St., Pittsfield, MA

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/19/17 at 12:41 PM • Permalink

Members with Benefits: The Rest Of The Region

By Jamie Larson

Last week we explored the benefits of becoming a member of some of the Berkshires’ cultural institutions. The rest of our region, Columbia County, Litchfield County and Northern Dutchess County, is likewise resplendent with arts organizations worth joining. So here, again, we enumerate a few more of the perks of patronage around the region. The list of membership benefits to follow, like last week’s, is exemplative rather than comprehensive to encourage you to get involved. If we could, we’d join them all.

The Hudson Opera House, recently renamed Henry Hudson Hall, is about to enter one of the most exciting chapters in its long and storied history with the completion of a massive renovation and restoration project. The performance hall will be officially unveiled to members and donors at the Proprietors Ball April 22. Becoming a Friend of the Opera House ($50-$1,000) entitles you to discounts and access to special events. 

Become a member of the Opera House’s new Proprietors Association to become even more immersed in the future of the reinvigorated venue. At the Bronze level ($1,500) members receive recognition, an invitation for two to the president’s cocktail party, two tickets to the Proprietors Ball and advance notice with patron priority seating to all special events and performances. The Silver level ($3,000) gets you six tickets to the ball, and the Gold level ($5,000) entitles you to a table for eight at the ball and a seat-naming opportunity in the restored performance hall. Platinum donors ($10,000+) receive a table for ten at the ball, two seat naming opportunities, their name on the wall in the Center Hall Gallery and the opportunity to host an opening night performance followed by a reception with the artist.

Frederic Church’s Olana has breathtaking views, amazing architecture, engaging programing and excellent parties. Basic membership ($50 for one, $75 for a family or $25 for students and teachers) comes with unlimited free admission to the main house and walking historic landscape tours, a 15-percent discount on purchases from the Olana Museum Store, free or discounted admission to most educational programs and invitations to exclusive members-only exhibition previews and events. Slightly higher but still very affordable levels ($125-$500) include discounted summer party tickets, increasing numbers of unlimited guest passes, invites and extra tickets to members-only events.

Court Hall Circle members ($1,000) also receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the main house and Frederic Church’s designed landscape for up to five guests. Those who join the Bell Tower Circle ($5,000) are offered a private sunset wine-and-cheese gathering at a “special location” at Olana for up to 12 guests. Who knows where the Bell Tower Circle’s special location might be?

PS21, like the Opera House, is undergoing some major facilities upgrades that will have a huge positive impact on programming. The new indoor-outdoor theater will allow the organization to operate year round while maintaining the summer feel to which audiences are accustomed. Members ($40 for individuals, $25 for students, $60 for couples and $100 for 4 friends) receive discounted ticket prices. A Sustainer ($500) gets all admissions at the member price. A Samaritan ($1,000) also gets priority seating and the ability to sponsor specific events. Donors at the Sponsor level ($2,500) receive two full season passes and a discount on facility rentals.

The Spencertown Academy’s programing would be well worth supporting on its own, but the Academy also hosts one of our favorite literary events of the year, the three-day Festival of Books. Memberships are extremely affordable (student $20, individual $45, couple $80, household $100). Donors receive discounted tickets to Academy-produced programs, the opportunity to participate in an annual members-only art exhibit and an array of season-specific special members’ promos at annual events.

Basilica Hudson’s donor benefits reflect the spirit of the venue’s eclectic programming, focusing around the 24-Hour Drone event. Underwriting an hour of the Drone ($100) includes 1 ticket and a free coffee. Underwrite an artist performance ($250) and get 2 tickets, a free Drone survival kit and lots of coffee. Underwrite an ensemble’s performance ($500) and also receive a limited edition 24-Hour Drone poster designed by AJ Annunziata.

Additionally, make a gift of $500 or more to Basilica and they will engrave your name (or short phrase of your choice) on a plaque and affix it to one of the iconic hodgepodge of Hudson-made and salvaged chairs in the Basilica’s theater space.

The Fisher Center at Bard and its lineup of SummerScape programming and Spiegeltent events are a vital part of regional artistic life. Friends ($75) receive access to tickets before the general public, invitations to season previews and open house events, a 10-percent discount on Spiegeltent dining, a 20-percent discount on Fisher Center merchandise and the ability to reserve up to 4 complimentary tickets for the film series. Supporters ($150) are also welcome to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Fisher Center. Sponsors ($300) get invitations to opening night parties.

Subsequent membership levels see even more benefits before entering the Patron level ($1,500) where members receive access to the best seats and personalized ticket handling through the Patron Priority Line and access to the Bard Music Festival Patron’s Lounge at Olin Hall. At the Producer level ($2,500), you and a guest are invited to an exclusive pre-performance dinner, and at the Director level ($5,000) receive reserved VIP parking for all events at the Fisher Center and an invitation for two to an intimate dinner with a performer, creator or scholar.

Photo: Buck Lewis


The New York Stage and Film Festival at Vassar’s Powerhouse Theater is an audience member’s dream put on by an organization whose members include many of the stars and creators behind the work celebrated at the event. Joining the festival’s Producer’s Circle ($1,000 or above) invites you to join an informal group of active supporters, and makes you a part of the NYSAF community. Members have close contact with the artists and staff and get behind-the-scenes access to the organization.

All members ($100) of the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck are recognized by name in the lobby and receive a complimentary ticket. Become a Director ($250) and receive two comped tickets to any of the theater’s great productions. Producers ($500) are invited to the VIP opening night reception. Angels ($1,000+) receive four tickets and get to attend a rehearsal.

The Millerton Moviehouse shows a lot more than just blockbusters. On any given night you can catch the best of independent film, live theater broadcasts, gallery exhibitions, forums and more. Member support allows the Moviehouse the flexibility to support a wide range of expression. A Silver membership ($60 for individuals, $100 for dual) means $2 off movie tickets, 1 free movie ticket when joining (2 if dual), invitations to special member events, discounts at local shops and restaurants and reciprocal membership discounts at Art House theaters nationwide. At the Gold level ($100/$175) members get an additional free ticket per person and $5 off all special event tickets.

The Sharon Playhouse membership provides half of the organization’s funding, making membership at any level vital to their continued success. Become a Partner ($500) and you’re invited to all Mainstage opening night receptions. The Playhouse’s Angel Program ($1,000+) provides members with a complimentary cocktail before any Mainstage production, a pair of complimentary premium seats to a production of your choosing and access to “Angel-only” special events. Platinum Angels ($2,500) also receive an invitation to observe an hour of auditions in NYC or Connecticut and two premium seats to all Mainstage productions. Enter the Director’s Circle ($5,000) and you have premium seats at the Mainstage and Stage II plus two tickets to the annual Spotlight Gala and an invitation to attend the first rehearsal of a production of your choosing.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/13/17 at 08:52 AM • Permalink

Fulfill Your Role In The Arts: Become A Member

By Jamie Larson

Now, as you’re receiving seasonal brochures to the region’s arts organizations, is perhaps the best time of year to consider becoming more than just a visitor to these institutions. Consider membership. Your support is vital to the enduring legacy of the museums, theaters and sites that comprise regional culture, so they’ve designed membership benefits that offer more than just a tote bag. Most organizations have curated benefits packages that foster a community around the institution, turning audience members into contributors and, at some levels, even collaborators.

We’ve done the homework for you on some of benefits available to members at the Berkshire’s preeminent arts venues, and we encourage you to pick one (or more) to champion.

Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is the premiere performance space of our region. As such, the membership levels are significant, starting at Friend ($100), which includes the opportunity to order tickets early, a 10-percent discount at the Glass Houses and Symphony Shop, Talks & Walks advance registration, and discount admission for most Tanglewood Music Center Fellows’ recitals, chamber music performances, Festival of Contemporary Music performances and more.

In between Friend and the Koussevitzky Society Virtuoso membership level ($5,000) which includes all benefits plus an individually specific all-access experience, is a long list of benefits worth exploring. At the Advanced Ticket level ($500) you receive free admission for two to both Friends-only symphony working rehearsals. Join the Tent Club ($750) and receive dining privileges at the Tent and a season parking pass. Highwood Club members ($1,500) get additional donor-exclusive experiences and dining club privileges at Seranak (the former home of conductor Serge Koussevitsky) as well as a closer parking space. From there, higher levels of donation allow members to interact directly with musicians and even the opportunity to name a BSO Prelude concert performed during one BSO Shed performance.

MASS MoCA provides its individual members ($65) unlimited admission to the gallery as well as exhibition opening events, plus purchasing discounts at the museum shop, café and nearby Porches Inn. The dual/family memberships (starting at $95) cover admission for two and children under 18. The Contributor level ($200) grants all the same plus free admission to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The Director’s Forum level ($1,000) has a lot of value: you can bring four guests free to the museum and openings. Higher donation levels allow members to include even more friends and family in these and more museum activities for free, which seems an excellent way to not only support but expand the community around the unique museum. 

At The Clark Art Institute, an individual membership of just $65 gets you unlimited year-round admission, access to members-only exhibition previews and events, discounted tickets to concerts, films, public talks and other special events, as well as discounts at the museum store and café.

Higher levels of donation get members complimentary admission for increasing numbers of guests as well as invitations to events like the Clark Society dinner, events around and about exhibitions and the museum’s programming, and participation in the North American Reciprocal Museum program and the Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums.

For dance lovers, Jacob’s Pillow is as good as it gets. Memberships start at just $50 and already includes invitations to free members-only events. The acclaimed venue has many benefits that focus on providing personal connection to performances and performers. At the $250 level you get your first invitation to a Saturday evening cast party and higher levels mean more exclusive invites to to intimate Creative Residency showings ($500), all Saturday parties and personal guided tours ($1,000).

Members of the Ted Shawn Circle ($2,000 to $10,000) are invited to all Ted Shawn events, the annual Visionary Leaders event, a morning talk series with the director of preservation, and observation of select rehearsals. Those fortunate enough to be able to donate beyond $25,000 get to sponsor parties and an opening night performance as well as a number of select VIP perks. 

The Norman Rockwell Museum is a celebration of an icon who captured life in the present while looking forward to a better America. Membership to the museum begins at $50 and a family membership for two adults and four children is only $75. At the $150 level members get admission privileges to more than 800 North American Reciprocal Museums (NARM). Benefits at increasingly higher levels include two unlimited guest passes, special invitations to exclusive parties and learning opportunities, private collection tours and a lunch with the director or curator of the museum.

Berkshire Theatre Group members at the introductory level ($50) receive first option ticket purchase privileges with season announcements and a 20-percent discount on BTG gift items. Subsequent levels add complimentary tickets and theater tours. At the $1,000 membership level you’re invited to the President’s Circle Supper and receive a VIP parking pass for summer performances. The highest level ($10,000+) entitles you to dinner with the BTG board president, complimentary meals at Jane’s Café and other personalized benefits.

The Williamstown Theater Festival gives all members (starting at $50) priority ticket handling. Higher level “WTF Friends” memberships ($300) provide advanced access to tickets for Fellowship Projects. These are new works created by up-and-coming playwrights, directors and members of the WTF Non-Equity Company.

“WTF Friends with Benefits” ($600) receive access to a donors-only lounge where they can mingle with Festival artists before all Main and Nikos Stage productions. Invitations to other events come with higher levels as well. “WTF Lovers” ($2,500) receive “guaranteed access to a pair of the best seats in the house for all Main and Nikos Stage productions,” ticket concierge service through the development office, an invitation for two to an exclusive WTF Lovers cocktail reception and other special events with Festival leadership and artists throughout the season. WTF also adds two free drinks per production. Donations surpassing $10,000 afford members personalized access to the Festival house seats and more.

Barrington Stage Company has an enthusiastic member base; their fun events bring folks together from all over. All members ($50+) are acknowledged in the season playbill and “Angel” members ($250) get 20-percent off in the lobby shop.

Starting at the Benefactor Level ($500+), members get complimentary passes to new play readings. At the Founders Society level ($1,995+), members receive season access to the Patron Lounge, personalized concierge assistance for priority seating, invitation to all summer Boyd-Quinson Mainstage opening night parties and complimentary scripts to all Mainstage shows. As donation levels increase, the benefits get even better and include guided backstage tours, meetings with the casts, complimentary combo passes, opportunities to attend rehearsals and much more.

The Berkshire Museum is as busy as any community center, and that’s really what it is. Basic membership, just $50 for an individual or $75 for dual/family, offers a general admission pass for a guest and free admission to science and technology centers worldwide. Supporters ($250) get additional guest passes plus invitations to exclusive events and travel opportunities. For $1,000, you join the Crane Society, which gets you behind-the-scenes access to the museum’s collections, unlimited free admission, season passes to the Little Cinema, a place at the annual Crane Society gathering with the executive director and other social events.

The Berkshire Botanical Garden offers unlimited access memberships that start at $50 for individuals, $30 for students and $100 for a family. Members also enjoy advance notice and member prices on classes, lectures, workshops and more. A $150 membership also comes with two guest passes. A $500 “Patron” gets an added escorted tour of the garden for up to 10 people and invitations to special receptions. Members who donate $1,000 or more join the Fence Club and receive all benefits and invitations to garden exhibition previews and special privileges at year-round Fence Club events. Additionally, that package promises a one-hour, on-site consultation with a member of the Garden’s horticultural staff.

Other Berkshires Cultural Organizations To Consider:
The Mount
Hancock Shaker Village
Shakespeare & Company

Next week: Cultural organizations in the rest of the Rural Intelligence region.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/06/17 at 10:04 AM • Permalink

Sylvia Center Cooks Up A Family Class at Valley Variety

Program Director Jenn So with young cooks in training.

By Jamie Larson

The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook is an excellent example of how our regionally specific “farm to table” philosophy runs deeper than commerce and consumption. The programing provided on site at the farm during the growing season, and now to local children after school, is helping to expand the inclusivity and reach of the local farm and food community that many of us have come to take for granted. 

The Center’s latest series of cooking classes brings kids and parents from Hudson, New York’s at-risk community, where food insecurity and lack of access to healthy options are serious and under-addressed issues, into the kitchen at Valley Variety for a free six-week course on how to prepare healthy meals and hone cooking skills.

Jenn So, who leads the classes and is the Sylvia Center’s director of programs, says the classes are a welcome expansion of their mission that, along with their after-school programs in the Hudson City School District, is funded through a generous grant from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

“Kids are picky eaters, so we create an environment where we expose kids to what hasn’t worked for them in the past,” says So. “The veggie mac and cheese is one the kids really like. It’s not just the veggies but the addition of a freshly made sauce, too. They see what goes into it. Also, because the class is six weeks, the kids really become confident in their skills.”

The parents say they’re picking up some useful new skills and recipes but are also just pleased to see their kids so engaged and eager to cook.

“She’s really been enjoying the new types of food we’ve been making,” father and EMT William Mackey says of his daughter, as she busily stirs the batter for banana chocolate chip muffins. “We’ve already started eating healthier at home. This makes me much more aware of our options and we’ve learned some new techniques.”

Another aspect So says is rewarding about the Wednesday night class is how it brings together the two halves of the Hudson community that is so dramatically and visibly segregated along racial and economic lines.

“We all know about the gentrification of Hudson,” So says. “One thing that’s special about this class is that, with Valley Variety hosting, it’s a great opportunity for a community that has been displaced to feel comfortable in a space they might not have otherwise.”

The plain truth is that seeing a group of families of color casually enjoying themselves in one of Hudson’s many high-end stores is, unfortunately, anomalous.

“It was always a part of the idea to use the space with the community,” saysd Valley Variety owner Chuck Rosenthal, who’s hosting the classes for free. “So when the Sylvia Center approached us, it was a natural fit.”

The Sylvia Center’s on-farm programing won’t get rolling until the plants get growing in the summer time, but their website offers some great examples of their programs worth checking out or donating to. And So says they’re always looking for volunteers.

The Center’s work supports a rich connection between community and agriculture in ways that are deep, making foundational connections that, if the kids at Valley Variety are any indication, will last a long, long time.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 02/21/17 at 08:11 AM • Permalink

Ten 10x10 Activities You Should Consider

There’s really only one thing that’s not a ten about Pittsfield’s 10x10 Festival: this is the sixth year it’s been supplying locals with reasons to get out on a winter afternoon or evening. Taking our cue from the theme, we’re highlighting ten of the many performances, exhibits, fitness and other activities that bring light and fun to the area from February 16-26. The festival is organized by The City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development.

1. 10x10 New Play Festival at Barrington Stage Company Ten 10-minute plays by 10 different playwrights. Feb. 16–March 5.

2. Chair-ity Auction at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge Ten local artists have used their creative genius to recycle chairs no longer being used at the lounge. Bid on the chairs via a silent auction, with proceeds going to the Pittsfield Education Foundation. The public is invited to a reception for the artists on Feb. 17 from 5-8 p.m.

3. BIFF 10 Best of Fest Shorts at Beacon Cinema The Berkshire International Film Festival, in collaboration with the Beacon Cinema, presents some of the best shorts from the annual Festival. Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. & Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m. Free.

4. WordXWord’s 10 New Voices at Berkshire Museum WordXWord introduces 10 fresh new voices in a fast-paced program of poetry and spoken word. Feb. 20, 7 p.m. Free.

5. 10x10 Yoga at Berkshire Yoga, Dance & Fitness Explore 10 poses to relieve stress. All levels welcome. Feb. 22, noon-1 p.m. Free.

6. 10 Minutes of Fireworks at the First Street Common Feb. 25, 5:45-6 p.m.

7. 10 Spot: 10 Photographs by 10 Artists Now–Feb. 25 at The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts; now through March 20 at Sohn Fine Art Gallery in Lenox.

8. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Presents Dance for Social Justice at the Boys & Girls Club Danza Organica of Boston leads a Dance for Social Justice Movement Workshop for all ages, followed by a lecture/demonstration performance. Feb. 24, 4-5:30 p.m. workshop; 6-7 p.m. performance.

9. 10 Flavors of Jazz at Flavours of Malaysia Berkshires Jazz presents The Matt DeChamplain Trio, with vocalist Alta De Champlain, performing 10 styles (or “flavors”) of jazz. Feb. 25, 8 p.m.

10. Berkshire Art Association’s Real Art Party at Berkshire Museum Artists from the Berkshires and beyond contribute 10x10-inch original work to be given away for $25 each. Feb. 23, preview party (free) at 6 p.m., auction begins at 7 p.m.

10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival in Downtown Pittsfield, MA
Feb. 16-26, 2017

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/14/17 at 11:09 AM • Permalink

Hudson Sock Auction Brings Warmth At A Cold Time

By Jamie Larson

It’s hard these days, for Americans with the capacity for empathy, to know how to prioritize our not inexhaustible philanthropic energies and resources, beset as we are, on all fronts now, by animus and woe. When the whole nation seems to be falling quickly into a long cold darkness, how does one choose which piece of limited kindling would do the most good if lit first?

Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling anyway. So color me surprised when I found a supremely worthy cause in the form of the upcoming Hudson Neighborhood Knitters Sock Auction. The event, to be held Saturday, Feb. 18 at Verdigris Tea and Chocolate in Hudson (where the group meets to stitch and crochet regularly) will auction off dozens of handmade socks stuffed with prizes, including a $100 bill. The proceeds from the sale of the footwear will go towards the pre-assured purchase of 500 pairs of high-quality thermal socks, distributed by the Hudson Salvation Army to local folks in need this increasingly difficult winter.

Socks have always been the number one item requested by the homeless, and the founder of Hudson Neighborhood Knitters Claudia Krisniski says being able to make a meaningful personal impact in the community while doing something they love (and would be doing anyway) shows that every little bit counts.

“Knitters love to give back,” says Krisniski, owner of the Country Wool shop. “We live in turbulent times. I grew up in the 60s and it feels the same now. People need to ground themselves and take care of their neighbors.”

The auction will be first and foremost a really fun event. There will be refreshments, a wine bar and music.

“When we display the socks there are also fun facts, including how many hours they took to make,” says Krisniski. “One pair took ten episodes of Gun Smoke.

The power of knitting as a symbol of charity and support was on full display recently during the national and international women’s marches when hand-knit pink “cat” hats were imbued with a powerful meaning. When the opposition seems insurmountably monolithic, symbols become more important than ever. There will be a pair of pink socks with a set of cat ears up for auction.

“We have to take care of our neighbors now. I hope we will be fine,” says Krisniski, who supplied a lot of pink yarn through Country Wool for those revolutionary hats. “If we look out for each other locally, hopefully we can get through what the administration throws our way.”

Professional auctioneer Rupert Fennell has volunteered his time to auction off the socks. There will be at least 25 pairs up for grabs; they include some extremely intricate styles and designs for men, women and children. A few pairs are already on display at Verdigris, so if you didn’t already have an excuse to go there this week, you’re welcome.

“The knitters have always been a joy to have at Verdigris. They brighten up my day whenever they meet,” says Verdigris owner Kim Bach. “This is a great way to help the homeless and I think the plan is to do this every year. So far, the socks that we’re displaying are incredible. They are each really different and so many people are participating. It’s really impressive.”

Indeed. Knitting a gift of support, whether it’s pink hats for women’s rights, blankets for troops abroad or socks for the homeless, takes an implicit dedication of time, thought and care. It’s something hard to define about tradition, warmth, home and compassion. It seems more difficult each day to decode why we all must struggle so and what on earth we can do to help each other but I can tell you one thing I know that helps; socks. Socks help.

Hudson Neighborhood Knitters Sock Auction
Saturday, Feb. 18, 7-9 p.m.
Vedigris Tea and Chocolate Bar
135 Warren St., Hudson, NY

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 01/30/17 at 09:24 AM • Permalink

Eye Candy Close To Home: A Social Media Guide

By Nichole Dupont

Cutting the junk out of your diet is a staple for New Year success (or so we all think). But before you hop off the social media train and vow never to “waste time” on Instagram again, maybe you should take a look at these eye-catching, clever sites from the Rural Intelligence region that cover the gamut; food, fashion, photography, even a little bit of philosophy. Artists, business owners and foodies are becoming (or have already become) connoisseurs of the quip, offering up tidbits of whimsy that could very well spark a kitchen remodel…or a tart…or a trip to the library. Call it politics-free browsing, with purpose.

Let’s begin with the creature comforts. Or, the only comfort. Despite the snarky memes about not posting what you’re having for dinner, we love pictures of food. And anything eats related. Harney & Sons Tea out of Millerton, New York has a gorgeous website, complete with blog and gallery pics, which will immediately inspire you to get out your only tray and serve up some biscuits and tea. A heartier, vegan feast for the eyes is found at the Zen-esque Instagram home of Elixir, a vegan café in Great Barrington, Mass. Morning light streams across a bowl of porridge stocked with pecans, pepitas and bananas, and you can’t help but want to recreate that healing fare for yourself.

Another food porn site — this one veers more towards vintage decadence — is the Insta-home of Pleasant and Main Café in Housatonic, Mass. Serving stands are piled high with fat muffins and croissants and sweet crepes are dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and all of the food is set in charming seasonal vignettes.

If you want to do a little more than just look and drool, A Raisin and a Porpoise is a blog worth visiting. The witty (and deep) musings of Berkshire-based writer, mother and sheep farmer Janet Elsbach are combined with recipes.  From delicate glazed madeleines to nettle and potato hash, the recipes — dotted with great photos of Elsbach’s expressive critters — are the epitome of country comfort, right down to the tablecloth pattern. But always with a twist.

More country charm awaits at Made in Ghent, the cyber home of Little Ghent Farm, a work-in-progress, diversified family farm and deli outlet in Ghent, New York. Green springscapes, gem-colored preserves, and even a muddy swine or two seem almost holy in their screen presence. (With such gorgeous photos, it comes as no surprise that co-owner Richard Beaven is a professional photographer.)

Speaking of piggies, Raven and Boar, a small Chatham, New York pig, poultry and produce farm, boasts a gorgeous gallery of everything that is essential and romantic about life on the farm. The irony of life is captured while scrolling through pictures of fat, whiskered pigs and thickly marbled cuts of meat. And it’s beautiful.

Real Estate
Everybody loves a good kitchen. Or bathtub. Or even balustrade (yeah, I wrote that). And we are all guilty of perusing and sighing over local real estate guides, poring over grainy pics of lakes and cathedral ceilings. Why not enjoy the view in color? is “living” website of real estate — including vacation and rental properties — on both sides of the Hudson River. The site is curated and provides new content daily. One can easily get lost in thought looking at enchanted cottages and lacy Victorians, many of which are affordable and just within reach.

A crazy-decadent real estate experience can be found on the William Pitt Sotheby’s Instagram home for Connecticut and Massachusetts. Style-drenched images of airy farmhouse kitchens, hidden gardens, and sophisticated libraries have provided this writer an escape from waiting room doldrums.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t toot our own horn when it comes to real estate; Rural Intelligence features real estate listings of some of the region’s most outstanding properties every week in our Real Estate pages. Just so you know.

The Stage
Sometimes a little snippet of performance is all that’s needed to get the creative juices flowing (or to inspire you to finally buy that season stage pass). If you have an hour, or several hours as will probably be the case, check out the mother lode of recorded performances and vintage photographs at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival archives page. The archives pay homage to many of the dancers who have graced the Pillow stage (including Mikhail Baryshnikov, whom yours truly got to see when she was 16 years old, total fangirl). Of course, founder Ted Shawn and the Men Dancers play predominantly in the mass content of the archives.

Old black and whites of gorgeous dancers find kinship with the nostalgic images put out by the Hudson Opera House (located on Warren Street). A collage of images include the long road of that building’s renovation as well as rich color shots of current exhibitions and performances and sepia-stained ephemera.

Art and Photography
Arguably, everything on social media (especially Instagram) is art. I’ll leave that to you and your tiny Polaroid carrying friends to suss that out, but in the meantime, real beautiful work is showing up on Imgrum from the likes of the very young, very talented Jake Borden, a Berkshires-based camera fella and assistant to NatGeo photographer John Stanmeyer. Borden boasts an Instagram account — jakebordenphoto — of gritty, haunting portraits and landscapes. Also in the photography frame is fashion designer Adam Lippes, who will occasionally post from his weekend getaway in Monterey, Mass., but mostly the page is suffused with gorgeous settings and stunning models in Lippes’ designs.
Artist and designer Ali Herrmann floods her Instagram account with bright bespoke images of her work. The mostly heavy-duty encaustic and oil paintings are available on Etsy as well, should the screen on your phone not suffice.

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Posted by Nichole on 01/03/17 at 06:31 AM • Permalink