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10 Things to Love About Salisbury

By Nichole Dupont

Connecticut’s Northwest Corner has long enjoyed a reputation for the finer things that the region has to offer. Quirky restaurants, unique retail shops (including fabulous bookstores) and a thriving antiques culture make the area a hotspot – literally – for a spring drive into the cultivated country. Salisbury is no exception. The historic village is a quaint hub at the crossroads of routes 41 and 44, where the possibility of spotting a beloved celebrity (think Meryl Streep, Martha Stewart, designer Bunny Williams) goes with the territory of good coffee and prime real estate.

1. The drive: My drive to Salisbury involves a winding, scenic trek south on route 41, which, if you like old barns and farmhouses, is a feast for the eyes. (You may find yourself making several picture stops along the way so be sure to look behind you before you pull off into the pucker brush because tailgating is a norm on this stretch of road.) While some of these structures have the decay reminiscent of an abandoned road in Vermont, most are well kept and still in use. This is evident by the foggy silhouettes of modern tractors in the distant fields as well as the freshly whitewashed homes. And the critters – a herd of scraggy Scottish highlands, a smattering of sheep, noble equines – that line the entry route.

2. Speaking of equines: Salisbury is home to some beautiful horses and horse country, and it is rare to drive for more than a few miles without encountering an equine or two munching on some spring greens (a.k.a. grass) if the weather suits them. Of course, where there are horses, there is serious horse business. Riga Meadows Equestrian Center on Route 41 (or Undermountain Road) and Weatogue Stables both boast state-of-the-art stalls, show rings, lessons and equestrian clinics for horse enthusiasts of all levels, even if you just like to watch from the ground on a summer’s day.

3. The Country Bistro: This little gem is exactly what its name entails. The Country Bistro is tucked away just behind the village’s main drag and is an unassuming, low-ceilinged eatery (with outdoor seating when the wind isn’t gusting at 40 mph) that understands the joie of good food. They serve breakfast and lunch all week and dinner Friday through Sunday, with a menu that highlights authentic French details – shirred eggs, creamery butter, herbed popovers, fragrant coffee, lemon-tarragon dressing and, of course, greens at the end of everything.

4. Everything, in general: Salisbury, even on a Saturday afternoon, can seem a bit sleepy depending on the season. People take their time here. There’s really no rush, and that’s a good thing, especially once you step into the Salisbury General Store and Pharmacy. The vintage Ex-Lax thermometer at the entrance to the store is more of a welcome sign than a deterrent to this unofficial town hub that has been in business since 1935. Prepare to get lost; lost in thought, lost in nostalgia, lost in minutia perusing through the shelves and tables of artisan pottery, Roger and Galet bath products (an olfactory trip down memory lane), retro-style linens, quirky Steampunk cards, homeopathic remedies, homemade lemon curd… you name it, they’ve got it. 

5. How fair thou art: Salisbury folks and visitors take their flora very seriously. On any given day in any given season even a casual courtyard could grace the cover of a Martha Stewart magazine. Fortunately, the hunt for flowers and fresh produce is never fruitless. The town is ripe for the picking with major outfits such as the Salisbury Garden Center on Route 44 as well as (heavenly smelling) boutique shops like the Thornhill Flower and Garden Shop. And don’t rule out quick stop country charm; Weatogue Farm (at 78 Weatogue Road) has a self-serve stand that offers flowers, produce and seasonal goodies from May to November. They also have adorable critters roaming around who don’t mind being photographed we’re told.

6. Hitting the trails: For all of its refined New England charm, with a dash of Nantucket thrown in for good measure (and a prep school), Salisbury has a hard core hiking community blessed with some beautiful vistas and diverse trails. The Undermountain Trail is the main artery through which most hikers pass to reach the summit of Bear Mountain, the cool slick of Sage’s Ravine or to connect to the Appalachian Trail. If you prefer not to hike solo, Peter Becks Village Store on Main Street coordinates a weekly hiking expedition for interested trekkers who want to see a bird’s-eye view of the village.

7. Scoville Memorial Library:  To say that the exterior of the Scoville Library is dour is both generous and an understatement. The Gilded Age monolith (that has since been added to) is constructed from native granite and comes complete with a tower clock which faithfully marks the quarter hours. The interior of the library is a gorgeous monument to the era, complete with vaulted ceilings, arched windows and secret stairwells. The library also boasts a healthy events calendar for patrons of all ages and has 30,000 items within its holdings, not to mention a 15th-century stone carving, sent from England’s Salisbury Cathedral that sits over the fireplace at the far end of the reading room.

8. Getting baked: The whole main street smells. It’s a familiar smell and at the source is freshly baked bread. And cupcakes. And coffee. It hardly seems fair that even on a rainy, wind-driven day the pied carb piper of Salisbury is calling and you must follow him into Salisbury Breads, where fresh-baked baguettes, croissants and sticky buns await. Of course, the moment you step out of the bread store teaming with guilt, they will just be putting the final dollop of chocolate frosting on a sheet of cupcakes at Sweet William’s Bakery right next door. Resistance is futile. And the espresso is nice and hot.

9. The jumps: It’s almost too painful to mention this, but it must be done: the ski jumps. Every year, Salisbury goes out of its way (thanks to the town’s winter sports association) to make the February ski jump championships an extravaganza of winter fun. Of course, the main attraction is watching the athletes whiz down the tower, but ice sculptures, chili contests and a magical winter ball don’t hurt either.

10. Homes, sweet homes: “God, I’d love to have a house here.” This is not an uncommon whisper on a drive through town. Just on Main Street alone, several architectural styles – Federal, Gilded Age, Arts and Crafts, Victorian, Farmhouse – coexist graciously side by side as if they were meant to be together. The Town Hall hardly has the economic austerity of small town New England, yet there it sits, just down the street from the Ragamont House, an old Grecian revival set back from the street and bursting with antique charm. Further up the road sits a 1920s “villa” that could’ve very well been occupied by Gatsby himself. But if you don’t believe me, ol’ sport, take a house tour, and see for yourself. 



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Posted by Nichole on 04/07/14 at 12:52 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Chatham

By Tresca Weinstein

Mix Williamsburg hip with Williamstown charm, add a generous seasoning of down-to-earth heart, and you get Chatham, New York — living proof that good things come in small villages.

1. Breakfast: It’s the most important meal of the day, and in Chatham, you can get it any way you want it — from gluten free to over easy to half-caff with soy milk. Grab a classic bagel at the Bagel Café or a wheatless one at the Gluten Free Bakery; sip a mug of tea paired with a slice of frittata at the elegant BenGable Savories [shown right]; feast on griddled breakfast bread with cinnamon butter at Our Daily Bread Deli; or wake up with a really good cup of joe at Ralph’s Pretty Good Café.

2. The Chatham Fair: Officially, it’s the Columbia County Fair, but nobody calls it that. Since 1852, when the Fair netted $12.90 in its first year in Chatham, it’s been the stuff of kids’ wintertime dreams and grown-ups’ sugar-dusted nostalgia. From calves and cupcake contests to fireworks to fried dough, this Labor Day weekend fair is a hot, greasy, muddy, wonderful way to say goodbye to summer.

3. The Crandell Theatre: Built in 1926, the 534-seat, Spanish Renaissance-style theater was owned by the Quirino family for 50 years, until it was purchased by the Chatham Film Club in 2010 — with generous support from the community. Now the Crandell is home not only to the cheapest first-run movies you can find just about anywhere ($5 for adults, $4 for kids), but also to the club’s monthly Sunday-afternoon independent film screenings and to FilmColumbia, an international film festival that celebrates its 15th anniversary in October.

4. Getting fit: There are almost as many places in Chatham to work off your breakfast as there are to eat it, including Chatham Body Works, Govinda Yoga Studio, Ida Drake’s Zumba classes at the Morris Memorial, and The Firm, where proprietor Jennifer Lawrence makes step aerobics a blast.

5. Dance and Theater: From classic musicals performed in the round at the Mac-Haydn and world-class dance under the tent at PS21 [shown right], to community theater at the Ghent Playhouse just down Route 66, Chatham holds its own under the spotlights.

6. The Pub Scene: Okay, so there’s really only one pub in Chatham, the Peint O Grwr on Main Street, whose unpronounceable name just makes it that much cooler. But oh, what a pub it is, with a large selection of ales on tap, great snacks, open mic nights and local bands. Stretch the definition of “pub” a bit and you can include the Blue Plate restaurant and bar just around the corner, where you might find pianist Lincoln Mayorga tickling the keys on a weeknight.

7. Nature: Thanks to the Columbia Land Conservancy, which works with the community to preserve the county’s farmland, forests, wildlife habitat and rural character, there are some gorgeous and well-maintained hiking areas within the village or a short drive outside of it. Borden’s Pond is now just a wetland, but the area still offers forest and streamside hikes with seasonal views of the Catskills. The three miles of trails at Ooms Conservation Area [shown left] wind around Sutherland Pond, traveling through woods, over streams, and up sun-drenched hilltops.

8. The Chatham Public Library: Sure, lots of libraries have preschool story hours. But how many (in towns this small) have Mah Jongg Mondays? Or contemporary art discussion groups? Or great performers like The Storycrafters and local actor/director Kate Gulliver? Plus, they don’t charge overdue fines.

9. Local Produce: Chatham knows good veggies. You’ll find them all summer at Chatham Real Food Market’s Friday-afternoon farmers’ market, where area farms like Little Seed Gardens bring their wares. But the coming of winter doesn’t stop Joe Gilbert at the Berry Farm [shown right] from growing some of the most beautiful Swiss chard you’ve ever seen (organic, of course). While you’re in grocery-shopping mode, stop by the Main Street Grainery, offering natural foods and specialty items.

10. Everybody knows your name: Every town has its own ineffable personality; in Chatham, that’s defined by the sense of community. Step into any of the places mentioned above, and you’ll meet someone you’ve known for years but haven’t seen for months, or someone who went to high school with your kid, or someone you went to high school with, or a new arrival who doesn’t feel new, or your best friend. There are people who would find this claustrophobic. But for most of us, it’s the main reason we’re here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/18/14 at 11:47 AM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About West Stockbridge

By Pamela Dreyfus Smith
Even in the dead of winter, there are a surprising number of reasons to explore West Stockbridge. A cross section of interesting artisans, BSO musicians, fine artists, filmmakers, foodies and collectors have gravitated to this part of the Berkshires to live, work and enjoy the lifestyle. These transplants are now many of the café, gallery and shop owners broadening West Stockbridge’s character and charms in all seasons.
1. Lovely Walks: West Stockbridge, which was built on both sides of the Williams River, is a romantic place to stroll. Surrounded by beautiful hills and lakes, you can walk across bridges and through remnants of the old mining companies and mills, then explore the cafes, restaurants, art galleries and shops that sell local goods as well as the exotic.
2. Café Society: In this town coffee is treated like wine and the customers are warmly welcomed. Six Depot Roastery Café is in the old railroad station and Shaker Dam Coffeehouse is next to the river dam. Both offer very different sensibilities in coffee making, design and atmosphere. Shaker Dam, located in a bright yellow Shaker house, serves up coffee from around the world, discovered by co-owner and National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer. One of the specialties is the Kyoto Cold Brew system, which makes a very low-acid coffee. Drink it by the warm fire in a café that looks and feels like a world traveler’s living room. A contemporary take on the coffee bar, Six Depot offers carefully aged and personally selected international coffee beans that are roasted right on the premises. There’s a bustling community that gravitates to the big open spaces flooded with light and the warmth of loving owners Lisa Landry and Flavio Lichtenthal., who was the chef at Gould Farm in Monterey prior to opening Six Depot. The adjoining gallery space is gaining popularity as a showcase for artists, films and live performances. Their affogato (espresso and SoCo Creamery ice cream) is shown above.
3. Restaurants and Foodie Shops: Rouge (shown right) is well known to the RI region for its authentic fine French food and wine dinners. Around the corner, Truc Orient Express is a favorite for delicious Vietnamese food (open in summer). The aforementioned Six Depot Café serves breakfast and lunch until 4 p.m. Argentinian Chef Flavio often includes specialties from his native country on the menu (local, fresh, and organically grown whenever possible). West Stockbridge Public Market on Main Street is a country store that had a makeover last year by new owner Tim Walch, previous owner of restaurants in the Virgin Islands and Seattle, WA. Hearty, delectable take-away lunches are home cooked by Tim’s sister on the premises and include pot roast, pulled pork and other deli fare. There are also plenty of organic choices on their grocery shelves. Queensboro Wine and Spirits, also on Main Street, carries domestic and imported beer, wine and spirits, with a special interest in rare, handmade wines. The Nook & Cranny Restaurant is a sandwich shop at the other end of 102 known for its great sweet potato fries.
4. Art Galleries: Besides the aforementioned Shaker Dam and Six Depot Galleries, West Stockbridge also is home to Hotchkiss Mobiles, featuring the creations of Joel Hotchkiss, who supplies objects for museum shops, most notably MOMA and the Guggenheim Museum. (A Hotchkiss mobile, shown right.)
5. Shopping Adventures: The town is home to several alluring and curious shops that will surprise and delight. Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, best known for its famous vanilla extract (made using only the finest bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar), is the producer of a collection of other fine extracts, as well as “Mr. Baldwin’s Proper Bloody Mary Mix,” table syrup and Bay Rum aftershave. Visit this historic establishment to find a treasure trove of nostalgia including an old photo booth machine and a cash register that dates back to 1888, the year they opened. Zoftique, a woman’s clothing store, offers sizes into the plus range. Equator Antiques and McGrory’s Oriental Rugs are in connecting stores on Main Street and fascinate the eye with dazzling color. Robin Greeson’s Equator carries clothing and textiles from Victorian times through the present, and is a collection of wearable items that could double as home décor. Clothing, quilts, shoes from the 30s and 40s, American Indian dresses and jewelry of all kinds… There’s such variety, quality of preservation and quantity here — every corner is a new adventure.
6. Rare and Collectible Books: The Bookloft, currently situated above The Floor Store, is the sister-store to the one in Great Barrington but is special in that it offers only rare, collectible and used books. The store is preparing a move to a bigger and more accessible space across from Six Depot. 
7. Artisans: Peter Thorne, furnituremaker and one of the founders of The Berkshire Woodmakers Guild, creates beautifully crafted furniture and cabinets in his workshop up the hill and behind his house. Anderson & Sons Shaker Tree Furniture builds reproduction Shaker furniture and objects. Also of interest are Margie Skaggs Ceramics, Hoffman Pottery and Sarah Thorne Design (Interiors). Out of Vietnam is part of Truc Orient Express and sells Vietnamese hand-crafted items (summer only, shown right).
8. The Farmers’ Market and The Zucchini Festival: The West Stockbridge Farmers Market, held every Thursday from mid-May through the first week in October in Merritt Green opposite the post office, offers an enticing array of freshly grown or lovingly made products from local farmers and small specialty companies. There are musical performers and activities for children to enjoy. The Zucchini Festival, a town tradition in early August, celebrates whatever you can imagine when it comes to this over-producing vegetable: A costumed pet show competition, “zuch” races in the Williams River, zucchini car races, and prizes for zucchini-related activities i.e. a zucchini catapult, weigh-off and “weirdest looking” contest. And, of course, there’s good food to eat based around the vegetable—baked, fried, roasted and iced. (Note: At the time of this writing, the future of the Zucchini Festival is unknown.)
9. West Stockbridge Historical Society: The WSHS presents chamber music concerts in the Congregational Church (shown right) performed by BSO musicians, and history tours through the village. The Society will reside in the town hall, in the old public library space, after the current renovation is complete.
10. Trails to Explore: The town is in close proximity to many hiking trails: Flat Brook Wildlife Management (West Stockbridge), Ice Glen, Laura’s Tower (Stockbridge/Housatonic), Burbank Trail, Steven’s Glen (Richmond), Shaker Mountain, (Hancock), Shadowbrook (Lenox), Goose Pond, October Mountain (Lee), Harvey Mountain and Beebe Hill just over the border in Austerlitz, NY.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 03/02/14 at 07:16 PM • Permalink

A Place To Write In The Berkshires: Coffee, And Contagious Motivation

The Writers Room in Washington, D.C.

By Lisa Green

A few years ago, Charles Karelis and his son Alex were sitting in a Starbucks in Washington, D.C., observing the klatch of writers consuming more tables than coffee. What if, they thought, we turned the Starbucks model on its head? What if we sold the space to write and gave the coffee for free?

The basic concept wasn’t entirely novel. There are writers rooms across the country: six in New York City alone, Karelis says, with others in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Toronto. A laptop doesn’t take much space, but writing requires a place to concentrate, and home isn’t always the best place for that.

In October of 2012, after receiving a positive response to a questionnaire circulated to potential writers looking for a space of their own — next to someone else’s space — they opened The Writers Room in D.C.

“Americans love to be alone together,” Karelis says. “They are too distracted at home, but they don’t like complete solitude.” The Writers Room in D.C. accommodates both sides of the social spectrum, with a light-filled quiet room set up with workstations, but also a kitchenette (the only place talking is allowed), equipped with, of course, the writer’s fuel, Starbucks coffee. Wi-fi and printing are no-charge extras. A membership guarantees a workstation, and no reservations are necessary. And cellphones are not allowed.

Charles and Alex Karelis.

Now, the Karelis team is looking to see if there’s a desire in the Berkshires for a dedicated space for writers, which they’re calling A Place to Write in the Berkshires. They’ve issued a query to see if there’s enough interest to move forward. The input would determine the best area for such a place. The membership fee would be dictated by the space, but with the lower rents in the Berkshires, the fee would almost certainly be under the $130 per month charged by the D.C. Writers Room.

Karelis invites writers to answer a few quick questions (no Survey Monkey here; put it in your own words, literary people!), available at the A Place to Write in the Berkshires web site, and hopes the survey will go viral among local writers.

Although he lives in D.C., Karelis isn’t unfamiliar with our area.  A lifelong academic and author of The Persistence of Poverty, Karelis was president of Colgate University but taught philosophy at Williams earlier in his career.

Considering all the writing and book festivals, author appearances and poetry slams in the region, it shouldn’t be hard to find 35 interested writers, the number they need to establish A Place to Write in the Berkshires. Responding is an opportunity to help design a writing environment space in which the laundry won’t be beckoning, the dog won’t insist on being petted, and contagious motivation, as Karelis calls it, might lead to flow.

“I want to see where people want us to be,” he says. 

A Place to Write in the Berkshires

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/24/14 at 08:59 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Williamstown

By Amy Krzanik

Nestled quietly in the corner of Vermont and New York State, Berkshire County’s northernmost town is no stranger to big city influence. From its multicultural dining opportunities to the internationally acclaimed acts and films brought to the area by Williams College, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the Williamstown Film Festival, this sleepy college town has major cultural and academic pull.

1. Restaurants: For such a small town, Williamstown has an extremely varied palate. Two new restaurants—Pera Mediterranean Bistro and Tony’s Sombrero—join local Spring Street favorites Spice Root and Sushi Thai Garden, while in other parts of town diners enjoy Coyote Flaco, Mezze Bistro + Bar (shown right), Hobson’s Choice, Hops and Vines and other truly fine dining spots. Don’t forget to grab a hot coffee and a cookie from Tunnel City this winter and a scoop of Purple Cow ice cream from Lickety-Split (across the street) come summer.

2. Images Cinema: Tucked between MASS MoCA by Design and West’s Wine & Spirits, Images is the only single-screen, independent, non-profit theater in the Berkshires and it’s been open for 80 years!

3. Williams College: From free performances and lectures, to world-renowned theater and dance events at the ‘62 Center, sky-viewing at the Hopkins Observatory, and the Williams College Museum of Art, the school brings much more than just top-tier education to the town.

4. The Clark Art Institute: Opened in 1955 to house and exhibit the collection of Sterling and Francine Clark, the museum has become not only the site of seminal installations both permanent and traveling, but also an important research center for scholars, museum professionals, and researchers from around the world. A selection of works from the permanent collection is now on view, with a larger portion of the campus currently undergoing renovations and planning to reopen on July 4.

5. Williamstown Theatre Festival: The Tony Award-winning festival attracts big names to this small town, in the form of well-known stars of the stage and screen, award-winning directors and respected playwrights. Beyond the ticketed shows, WTF also offers free outdoor performances, late-night cabarets, and family-friendly workshops. This summer’s festival will run July 2 – August 17 and tickets are on sale now.

6. Williamstown Film Festival: A week-long celebration of independent film, the 15-year-old WFF offers viewers a chance to go behind the scenes, through panel discussions, seminars, Q & A’s with actors, writers, directors and producers, and plenty of after parties.

7. Nature: Whether you prefer a short, scenic walking loop or a strenuous snowshoe trek, the surrounding hills have a plethora of hiking trails. Scenery includes classic New England sights like old-growth forests, two-century-old rock walls (they make for good neighbors), open meadows, tranquil ponds and bubbling brooks.

8. Field Farm & The Guest House at Field Farm: The Guest House is a vintage modern masterpiece you can sleep in from Spring through Fall, and Field Farm is a 316-acre nature preserve managed by the Trustees of Reservations that offers year-round trails for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

9. Wild Oats Market: This co-op is the place to get your organic goods, including fresh fruits and veggies, cheeses, teas, beauty products and more; plus rice, nuts and other staples by the pound, and homemade gluten-free breads and desserts. They also offer a nutritious and delicious daily hot meal, plus sandwiches, salads (including a great curry chicken salad) and a wide selection of single-serving desserts.

10.  Local Farms: Cricket Creek Farm offers raw milk, cheese, butter, baked goods, eggs, grass-fed beef and whey-fed pork. Sweet Brook Farm sells maple syrup, apparel, toys, and has a fully stocked alpaca yarn shop. Summertime horse-drawn hay rides and wintertime sleigh rides let guests view the scenery and meet the alpacas. Green River Farms offers seasonal pick-your-own fruits and veggies, interactive tours, and a petting barn. The Big Pig Farm (piglets shown right) raises and sells pharmaceutical-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free grass-fed beef cattle and pasture-raised pigs, along with hay and composted manure for gardens. Caretaker Farm is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm raising food and animals using sustainable and alternative energy methods.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/11/14 at 03:26 PM • Permalink

10X10 Upstreet Arts Festival Returns For Charming Third Year

By Lisa Green

The 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival returns to Pittsfield for its third year, Feb. 13-24, and while in some cases the third time’s the charm, 10x10 seems to have been charmed from the get go.

It began with a premise nobody could argue with: People need get out of their self-imposed hibernation during the doldrums of winter. Artists need a creative kick to develop and present their art. Pittsfield needs activity to sustain the momentum driven the rest of the year by Third Thursdays and the Friday Arts Walks. The City of Pittsfield’s Office of Cultural Development and Barrington Stage Company stepped up to make that happen. Turns out people were just waiting to be lured out of their dens.

The roster truly includes something for everyone: theater, art shows, film series, concerts, comedy and dance and plenty of kids activities, all somehow embracing the theme of ten, whether it’s the number of acts in a performance, a time limitation or the size of a canvas.

And, of course, there is the original raison d’etre: The 10X10 New Play Festival at the Barrington Stage Company, featuring ten 10-minute plays by 10 playwrights (and three directors and six actors, but who’s counting?).  Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage, who initially introduced the 10X10 theme, says the ten-minute plays appeal to everyone. Perhaps it’s because they’re more like our modern TV viewing habits, she speculates, with our shortened attention spans, not to mention the ability to change the channel. After all, there’s a new one act every ten minutes. “If you don’t like one, there’s another,” she says.

But that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The evenings of one acts draw in many people who come to the theater for the first time, and the audiences are younger than the summertime crowd.

Painting by Michael Rousseau, one of the ten Berkshire artists featured in the TEN SPOT art show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

“From the first to the second year, the number of attendees and events doubled,” says Megan Whilden, who runs the Office of Cultural Development. “It gives performers an opportunity to do something creative in the winter, and for the community and visitors to come out and enjoy the activities in one compact area, the Upstreet Cultural District.”

“Plus,” she adds, “it’s really affordable. A lot of the activities are free, or very low fee.” The priciest — the New Play Festival — is $30, but there are $15 tickets for preview nights, a Barrington Stage tradition in the summer season.

The Festival is scheduled to coincide with school vacation week, so kids and teens can take part in the tens, too, including a teen art show and the DANCE TEN performance showcase presenting ten community dance groups and schools throughout the Berkshires.

Each year has offered different events, although some have been such hits that they are becoming regulars on the schedule. The New Play Festival, the Ten Days of Play at the Berkshire Museum, the Real Art Party fundraiser, and the comedy club have proven themselves. Some approach the tens in a new way. Instead of a ten-minute film festival, The Beacon Cinema, along with Berkshire International Film Festival, will screen four ten-themed films (free!). Among the new events this year are the Ten Popular Arias (at the new kid on the block, The Whitney Center for the Arts,and the Ten Fingered Jazz with the Roy Gerson Trio presented by Berkshires Jazz at Baba Louie’s. The presenting organizations fund their own events, but there is a marketing fund from the city, and the Festival is getting additional support from local sponsors.

Both Boyd and Whilden pointed out the whimsical nature of the Festival. It’s just fun — something we all pretty desperately need this time of year. And although it’s called 10X10, it may be time to add another equation into the festival. For everyone —artists, the area and audiences — it’s WinXWinXWin.

The schedule is exciting and extensive, so best bet is to check out the website.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/04/14 at 09:39 PM • Permalink

Nice Ice: Where and When To Skate

There is nothing more romantic than skating on a pond or a lake. But this winter’s eccentric weather is making it hard to tell when it’s actually safe to go skating outdoors. Fortunately, there are public skating sessions at indoor rinks across our region (some at posh prep schools) that can always be depended on and might be a good excuse to take a road trip to a town you’ve always meant to visit.

South Kent School
South Kent, CT
Sundays: 12 - 2 PM
$5 for day pass

Boys & Girls Club of Pittsfield
Pittsfield, MA
Saturdays and Sundays: 2 - 3:45 PM; through mid-March.
$5 for non-members; skate rentals are available for an additional $3 but get there early to ensure that you can get the right-size skates.
Information: 413.448.8258

Hotchkiss School
Lakeville, CT
Saturdays: 11 AM - 12:30 PM; through February 15. 
$3 per person; no skate rentals. Skaters are encouraged to wear helmets and other safety equipment. Information: 860.435.5186

Salisbury School
Salisbury, CT
Sundays: 4 - 5:30 PM; through February 16.
Skaters are required to wear helmets and other safety equipment. Information: 860.435.5776

McCann Ice Arena
Poughkeepsie, NY
Mondays & Tuesdays: 12 - 2 PM
Fridays: 11 - 1 PM;  7:15 - 9 PM
Saturdays & Sundays: 2- 4 PM
Adults $7, Children 10 & under $5; skate rental $3
Information: 845.454.5800

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink
North Adams, MA
Days and times vary each week, check website.
Adults $4, Children $3, Seniors $1; skate rentals $3
Information:  413.664.8185

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 01/16/14 at 06:13 PM • Permalink

Norman Rockwell Reconsidered: The Closet Case as Gay Icon?

By Dan Shaw
Norman Rockwell’s paintings have become the all-American Rorschach Test. As scholars, collectors and museum-goers reconsider his cultural significance and uncover new layers of symbolism in his work, the artist who lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for 25 years has become an Everyman, a hero to liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites, gays and straights, religious traditionalists and secular humanists.

Deborah Solomon’s new, much-discussed biography, American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux), presents him as a latent homosexual, which has not sat well with a few members of Rockwell’s family.  Nevertheless, if one accepts her premise and then reexamines his catalogue raisonné, the subtext of the artist’s having lived in the closet with forbidden desires emerges as both heartbreaking and, paradoxically, inspiring. It also may explain the depth of feeling evident in his civil rights and social justice paintings of the 1960s.

His oeuvre—including “Saying Grace [below],” which sold for $46 million at Sotheby’s on December 4, making it one of the ten most expensive American paintings ever bought at auction—can be seen as more than a nostalgic evocation of everyday small-town rituals. His work can also be viewed as a chronicle of how homosexuals hid by necessity in the United States prior to 1969 and the dawning of the gay liberation movement.  By shedding light on the homoeroticism in Rockwell’s work, Ms. Solomon has opened a Pandora’s Box and helped me understand my longtime fascination with the artist. When I first visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, on the weekend after September 11, 2001, I had a visceral response to his paintings.  I had wanted to do something patriotic, and his art made me feel proud to be an American in a way that I had never felt before and could not articulate at the time. Like nearly everyone who’s seen his work in person, I was awed by his technique, humor, attention to detail, and the big themes that the paintings often represented. But what impressed me most was his respect for his subjects. Even when he was lightly poking fun at people, his images were imbued with empathy.

Rockwell was a sociologist with a paintbrush.  His depiction of New England folkways was familiar to me from living in the Berkshires, which he called home from 1953 until his death in 1978. He idealized country life, but so do all ex-New Yorkers who live in the Rural Intelligence region. Solomon did not quite grasp this truth: She writes that he “invented the small town that is nowhere in particular,” but the world he painted existed and still exists—and not just in Stockbridge. The interactions between ordinary people who look each other in the eye happens every day from Ancramdale and Austerlitz to Wassaic and Williamstown.

I thought my feeling simpatico with Rockwell [self, portrait left] was due to our shared yearning for a simpler, kinder world. But then I heard Ms. Solomon speak at the museum in October and read her biography (written with the cooperation of his family). The book portrays Rockwell as an outsider trying to obey the norms and conventions of bourgeois society, which mirrored my own search for acceptance as a gay man in a heteronormative world.

Rockwell’s men are unquestionably more compelling and attractive than his women. He told a reporter from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “I can’t draw a pretty girl, no matter how much I try. I’m afraid that they all look like old men.” And he explained to the New York Herald Tribune: “If I try to do a picture of a girl with a low-cut dress on, full of allure, she just winds up looking the way you’d want your daughter to look—safe. Or if she’s an older woman she’ll never look like Marlene Dietrich. Every time, she’ll look as though she should be out in the kitchen, peeling potatoes. Sex appeal seems to be something I just can’t catch on a piece of canvas.”

Instead of femme fatales, some of his women resemble lesbian archetypes. “Rosie the Riveter,” the 1943 painting of a patriotic worker in an aircraft factory during World War II, features a butch woman with muscular arms who sits with her legs spread like a man. “Girl with Black Eye” [above] is his 1953 portrait of a heroic tomboy. With scraped knees and unruly braids, she is smirking outside the principal’s office and clearly proud that she’s survived a fistfight.

The discomfort of being perceived as an effeminate male is a recurring theme, too. The 1930 painting “Gary Cooper as the Texan” [left] shows the movie star’s uneasiness as a makeup man applies lipstick to his rugged face.  In “Boy with Carriage” from 1916, an adolescent dressed in a suit with a large-nippled baby bottle in his breast pocket is unhappily pushing a stroller. He’s being mocked by two boys in baseball uniforms; his irritation at having to babysit, which was then considered women’s work, is evident on his scowling face.

The only way to extrapolate Rockwell’s feelings about sexuality and gender identity is from his paintings. Like most men of his era, he would have never dared express them in letters or journals for fear of possibly being exposed as a deviant (though Ms. Solomon found one diary entry where he described another man on a camping trip as “most fetching in his long flannels”).

His 1948 painting “The Gossips” (which sold on December 4 at Sotheby’s for $8.5 million) reveals his keen understanding of rumormongering. Although the painting [right] is humorous, it discloses the perils of small-town life where you inevitably know what people are saying behind your back.

Looking anew at Rockwell’s work through the prism of forbidden homosexuality, new narratives emerge. Although he had three wives and three children, Solomon portrays him as a loner looking for connection, the repressed gay man conforming to the mainstream. As queer theorists would say, he was hiding in plain sight. (So were other minorities, which is the subject of another new book, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell’s America by Jane Allen Petrick, who will be giving a talk at the Norman Rockwell Museum on January 18 at 2 p.m.)

Solomon points out that one of his most reproduced Saturday Evening Post covers, “The Runaway” [left] from 1958, can be read in a variety of ways. It portrays a kindly policeman chatting with a runaway grade-school boy on the adjacent stool at a diner. As Solomon writes, the picture was seen at the time as a “touching tribute to American values.” The policeman “represents the warm arm of the law, authority at its paternal best.” However, her revisionist interpretation sees the cop “as a figure of tantalizing masculinity, a muscle man in a skintight uniform and boots” who “gazes intently into the boy’s eyes and tilts his upper body toward him.” It’s an innocent and benign scene, but the subtext is unmistakable and familiar: I remember being a boy that age and looking at men longingly without quite knowing what those feelings stirring inside of me were.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, Rockwell was divulging the unspoken undercurrents of the pre-sexual-revolution era. His 1919 Post cover “Sailor Dreaming of a Girlfriend” [top of page] depicts two sailors side by side with one resting his hand on the other’s knee. Despite its title, the men seem to be daydreaming about one another.

Rockwell’s intuitive understanding of what it’s like to feel marginalized and alienated is clear in his civil rights paintings from the 1960s. These overtly political statements proclaim his empathy for African Americans and their striving for full equality and acceptance. If Rockwell indeed spent his life fearful of being outed and thus ostracized by family, friends and a nation who considered him a paragon of American virtue, then he would have implicitly felt solidarity with African Americans who were trying to integrate into an often hostile society.

One of his two late masterpieces is the 1964 painting [right] that appeared in Look magazine and was inspired by Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old girl who was the first African American to attend an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960. She is shown walking to school with pride and courage, escorted by four U.S. Marshalls. There’s evidence that rotten tomatoes have been thrown her way and splattered on the wall behind her where the N word has been scrawled. Ms. Solomon calls it “the defining image of the civil rights struggle.” Its pathos is undeniable, and when I saw it for the first time it brought tears to me eyes.

Interestingly, the painting is called “The Problem We All Live With.” Was Rockwell merely suggesting that racism was a social issue for the entire country? Or was he implying that every individual lives with a fear about being bullied, ridiculed or hated? Did he identify with the African American girl who needed bodyguards just to go to school like everybody else? Ruby Bridges, c’est moi? Certainly, a boy or girl who identified as gay in 1964 would have been treated just as cruelly. After all, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not include any mention of sexual orientation. Gay rights were a nonissue then, and it’s possible that Rockwell was projecting his own fears and hopes onto Ruby Bridges.

From a queer perspective, Rockwell’s 1943 “Freedom of Speech” [left] takes on new significance, too. Ms. Solomon suggests that the swarthy, working class man (as evidenced by his clothes) who’s not wearing a wedding ring and standing up to speak surrounded by WASP men in jackets and ties could be an immigrant, a literal outsider. While the painting ostensibly celebrates the inclusive, democratic spirit of a New England town meeting, it can also be read as a gay man’s wish to stand up and be heard: The freedom to be.

Rockwell’s other late masterpiece is the “Golden Rule” [right] from 1960. He imagines an egalitarian world where all people are accepted for who they are. (A mosaic copy of the painting is displayed at the United Nations.) Predating by decades Bob Geldof’s “We are the World” music video and the United Colors of Benetton campaign, “Golden Rule” is a utopian, multicultural tableau where people of all races and ethnicities live in harmony. The words “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” are painted in gold right on the canvas. The phrase would be especially poignant for a man who lived in a society where the Golden Rule did not apply to homosexuals.

Today, Rockwell can be seen as the accidental activist who advocated for equality the best way he could without jeopardizing his reputation, friends and family. Did he have any other choice? Ultimately, he was more than an extraordinarily gifted and influential artist. He was a great humanitarian, too.

Dan Shaw, the co-founder of Rural Intelligence, is a regular contributor to The New York Times. He is writing a book on life in the closet.

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 01/09/14 at 06:49 AM • Permalink

A Mercantile Matriarchy on a Main Street:  The Women of Hudson’s 400 Block

By Jamie Larson

2406 Zoom in on Hudson New York, with its eclectic diversity and history. Zoom in closer on Warren Street and its stylish economy of art, antiques, design, fashion, and culture. Now, get closer still. Focus on the 400 block and an interesting anomaly; the large majority of the businesses (more than two thirds) are owned and operated by gifted female entrepreneurs at the top of their game.

“What’s nice is that everyone on the block has become really tight,” says Tessy Keller, owner of TK Home and Garden, a shop with a large but refined selection of everything from furniture and table settings, to hip children’s toys and quality bath products. (Above, Keller works the TK counter.)

“[In this industry] I think women are fast growing, more adventurous and a lot more eager these days,” she says. “And here [the 400 block] we’re all relatively new. Three or four years ago this block was sort of dead.”

It’s certainly not dead anymore and the diversity in the types of women-owned businesses just on this one block is quite astounding. 403 Warren alone is home to the offices of Modern Farmer Magazine edited by CEO Ann Marie Gardner, Pilates Hudson, owned by Nicole Meadors, and Sadhana Yoga, which Sondra Loring directs.

2414 Iconic Hudson brands call the 400 block home, as well. The international makeup company Face Stockholm run by mother-daughter team Gun Nowak and Martina Arfwidson occupiess the space at 401 Warren and the ever-popular bookstore/pub The Spotty Dog, owned by Kelley Drahushuk, resides in the historic old Evans firehouse at 440.

Of course, like all of Warren Street, the 400 block also is home to art, antiques and fashion boutiques offering items of the highest quality, from Danusia Jarecka’s Skalar Antiques, with its collection of museum-quality Mid-century modern European and American furniture and lighting, to Alex Dewez’s Harvy’s Counter, which displays Dewez’s curatorial eye for balance in its elegance, whimsy, and edge. (Above right; Jarecka in her shop.)

In this day and age, a coincidental concentration of women-owned storefronts on a single block of a small-business-rich municipality shouldn’t shock anyone but, upon closer inspection, these shops really stand out. There’s a reason these successful women chose Hudson and it’s closely linked to the reason their stores have earned our respect and patronage. It’s all about quality.

“I’m attracted to excellence in quality, originality, and materials,” says Culture+Commerce Project owner Sherry Jo Williams, who may have inadvertently started the discussion about the women of the 400 block with the opening of her gallery’s current collection, “Women. Wood. Work.,” which features pieces created exclusively by female woodworkers of the Hudson Valley.

2349“It doesn’t jump out at you when you walk in that these [pieces] are feminine. The work is just a little different. The scale is different.”

A week before the show, Williams noticed something about the furniture being delivered by the artists and had a passing moment of concern. “I had a show full of benches,” she says, exaggerating a bit, as there are plenty of amazing non-bench items in the showroom.

Then she spoke with a friend, who was not surprised at all by the wealth of benches. She told Williams to contemplate the relationship women have with crafting communally. “Benches are a place to sit down together. Your knees touch. The designs are not conspicuously feminine or masculine but there’s a subtext predating the chair, if you will, about sitting together in community.” (Above, Williams at Culture+Commerce Project.)

Williams says she feels that same sense of community with the other women along the workbench that is the 400 block of Warren Street.

“There is opportunity here and we’re right in the middle of the city,” Williams says. “I felt promise and eclectic-ness and diversity. I think there’s a sense of hope here. The women on this block all have a sense of themselves. There are some really dynamic personalities.”

2402One of the block’s newest personalities is Laleh Khorramian, proprietor of Laloon, a stunning salon showcasing her sensual, one-of-a-kind garments, each an art piece in its own right. On the topic of the novelty of having so many women on one block, Khorramian echoes another sentiment shared by Williams and many others: it’s interesting but had no bearing on why she came to Hudson. “Landing here was incidental,” she says. “The space inspired me and Hudson was in line with my life’s direction.”

Again and again, store after store, the women owners say the same thing: Hudson just feels like the right place to be. (Above, Laleh Khorramian takes an important business call at Laloon.)

Jarecka of Skalar has been at 438½ for eight years. She’s been contemplating organizing a regular dinner of the Women of the 400 block and says that for professional women working in the art world (most of them successful New York City transplants), Hudson has a lot of allure. “Hudson and Columbia County have become a Mecca for the creative elite. That brings people here who want to be a part of it. I think Brooklyn is interesting, but Manhattan is no longer creative to me.”

She says the motivation for her upstate expatriation was all about quality of life, that the draw of Hudson for female, and male, professionals is that you can have the sophistication of an urban center but still be close to nature. “I can swim in a pond for a half hour in the morning before I open the store.”

2392Jarecka and Williams both agree that while business came first in the decision to open up shop in Hudson, there’s something about the way Hudson does business that appeals to them as women. “Here, when someone walks into the store, you spend time with each other,” Jarecka says. “We talk. There’s a chance we become friends. Even if they don’t buy anything, they become sponsors for your store and tell someone else. It’s a really nice situation in which to meet people. There is an aspect of embracing and hosting people, of building a community that is, you could say, feminine.”

Face Stockholm
Owners Gun Nowak and Martina Arfwidson
401 Warren Street
(518) 822-9474

Pilates Hudson
Owner Nicole Meadors
403 Warren Street
(518) 828-9776

Sadhana Yoga
Director Sondra Loring
403 Warren Street
(518) 828-1034

Modern Farmer
CEO and Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Gardner
403 Warren Street, Second Floor
(888) 797-9925

Kea on the Hudson
Owners Susan Gomersall and Azy Schecter
409 Warren Street
(718) 222-8087

Olde Hudson
Owner Dena Moran
421 Warren Street
(518) 828-6923

Louisa Ellis Clothing
Owner Melissa Bigarel
426 Warren Street
(518) 828-4367

Culture+Commerce Project
Owner Sherry Jo Williams
428 Warren Street
(518) 828-9219

Hudson Vintage
Owner Dawn Vennekohl
433 Warren Street
(518) 828-7484

George Antiques
Owner Lorissa Lill
438 Warren Street
(781) 367-7840

Skalar Antiques
Owner Danusia Jarecka
438½ Warren Street
(518) 828-1173

Spotty Dog Books and Ale
Owner Kelley Drahushuk
440 Warren Street
(518) 671-6006

TK Antiques, Home and Garden
Owner Tessy Keller
441 Warren Street
(518) 697-0909

Harvey’s Counter
Owner Alex Dewez
443 Warren Street
(347) 725-1301

Owner Cora Hales
443½ Warren Street
(518) 828-6620

Les Indiennes
Owner Mary Bergtold Mulcany
444 Warren Street
(518) 828-2811

Owner Laleh Khorramian
445 Warren Street
(917) 426-4226

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 12/02/13 at 07:27 PM • Permalink

Riding High: Olympic Champion Peter Wylde’s Winley Equestrian Center

By Don Rosendale
Photos by Tracy Emmanuel

Millbrook regularly is featured as an equestrian nirvana in Ralph Lauren photo layouts, as well as countless New York Times Magazine and Town and Country spreads. The “Millbrook Hunt Country” that surrounds the tiny village of that name offers one of the country’s oldest and most famed foxhunts, two of the country’s premier Three Day Events (Fitch’s Corners and of course Millbrook), a decent medium goal polo league at Mashomack, and fancy boarding stables where for a mere $1,500 a month your horse will get better care than your son at Hotchkiss. But one thing that’s been missing until now has been someone with international and Olympic credentials to teach you how to ride. That drought ended this fall when Peter Wylde unpacked his tack trunk at Winley Farm. Wylde brought with him the Olympic gold medal earned in Athens in 2004, a World Equestrian Games bronze, a pair of Pan Am Games silvers and a reputation as a talented, patient teacher of other riders.

Wylde is movie star handsome – the comparison to Joseph Cotten is sometimes made – and as a Tufts graduate, well-spoken. As a teenager, he won the Medal Maclay at the National Horse Show, arming him as the best teenage rider in the country. And from there it was all uphill.

Winley Farm has been a Millbrook landmark for more than a century. Its 155 grassy acres, at the village’s edge, were for decades the home of Amory Winthrop, a patrician equestrienne. She died in 1998, and two years later, sisters Ester and Judith Goelkel arrived from Germany with a business plan to breed European “sport horses.” The Goelkel sisters built an equestrian “village” that, in teenage lexicon, would be called awesome. It has an indoor riding arena as big as a soccer field, with a concert hall sound system and innovative “walls” made up of overhead garage doors that can be rolled up on balmy days. The horse stalls are as big as some people’s living rooms, the heated viewing rooms overlooking the riding arena belong in Architectural Digest, and the brick paved aisles are wide enough for a Bentley to drive through without a side mirror brushing the blankets outside the stalls. There is a machine that looks like a Brobdingnagian revolving door that cools down horses after a workout by walking them in circles, and special heated shower stalls.

But by 2013, the stalls stood largely empty. Wylde, who had been training in Europe for the last decade, was at a horse show in Palm Beach, Florida when Judith Goelkel suggested he might take over Winley as a facility for what in the horse world are called “hunters” and “jumpers.” A decade ago, Wylde had been based at Dan Lufkin’s estate a few miles away, so he was familiar with Winley. “I knew it was spectacular, like no other place in the world,” he says. “So it didn’t take long for me to decide to accept the offer.” He accepted in a New York minute, moved to Millbrook, and, to set down roots, he and his husband/business partner Eduard Mullenders bought a home on Tower Hill, 10 minutes from Winley. “I’m here for the long run,” he promises.

The local equestrian set got a taste of Wylde training last week at the first clinic he offered at Winley—two days, 90 minutes each day, starting with groups challenged only by obstacles no bigger than a curb and working up to some serious fences. The clinic sold out within a day. The first flight was a group of five pre-teen girls on their show ponies with tails so perfectly groomed they must have gone to Frederic Fekkai on the way to class. Doting mothers (who seemed electrified by Wylde’s mere presence) stood by the rail. Wylde lived up to his reputation as a master teacher. He worked patiently with each girl and her pony, always encouraging, never rebuking, getting the best out of each rider, until the end of the 90-minute session. Even to the untrained eye, they were performing better than they were at the beginning.

One of the inaugural group was Julie Fink and her pony, Mr. Goodbar. Her mother, Jodie, stood at the rail, ecstatic. Wylde had been diffident about the prices of his stalls and services, but Jodie was willing to talk about the tariff. “It’s $400 for the two-day clinic, 90 minutes each day,” she disclosed, quickly noting: “And it’s worth it.” And after a pause, “It’s worth every penny. He is an amazing teacher.”

As for those perfect horse tails, she revealed that the credit goes not to Fekkai, but to Maddie Duggan, who runs the stable in Mabbetsville where that particular squad of riders all board.

Winley Farm
33 Winley Crescent
Millbrook, NY
(845) 677-3124

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 11/11/13 at 10:58 AM • Permalink