“…we’re in a historic transitional moment and the very foundations of society are now open to question.“― David Brooks
VESSELS FOR CHANGE
52 Artists – 100 Mugs – 1 Cause
Area artists rally to support the Berkshire Immigrant Center
BERKSHIRES, Mass.—In October, more than 50 area artists are joining their creative forces to make 100 hand-painted ceramic mugs in support of the Berkshire Immigrant Center. The project, Vessels for Change, will culminate in a celebration at Bright Ideas Brewing on the MASS MoCA campus in North Adams on Wednesday, November 15 from 7-9 pm.
For a $100 donation to the Berkshire Immigrant Center donors will receive a one-of-a-kind handmade mug, locally brewed beer, and a celebration. To make a donation and reserve a mug, visit:
http://www.stephanieboydworks.com/vessels-for-change/Ceramic artist Stephanie Boyd, one of the event organizers, was inspired after a recent mini-fundraiser she held on Facebook shortly after the events at Charlottesville. She made six mugs, posted them for $100 each with the intent of donating 100% to the Southern Poverty Law Center. She sold out within a few hours. The success of that project led her to create something larger to benefit a local organization.
“The response from our community has been inspiring,” says Boyd. “Virtually everyone asked to participate responded with enthusiasm. And the donations are already pouring in.” She continues, “Our community wants to do something positive to provide some counterpoint to the negativity we see in the news everyday.”
Five ceramic artists, Boyd, Suzy Konecky, Amrita Lash, and Phil and Gail Sellers, are making the mugs and artists including the likes of Danny O., Amy Podmore, John MacDonald, Michael Oatman, Tracy Baker-White and many more, (full list below) are painting the mugs in the potters’ studios.
“Opening our studio for artists to come and paint has been a treat. We have already had a few days where there were several artists painting at the same time,” says Gail Sellers of River Hill Pottery. “There is so much enthusiasm,” she adds.
Vessels for Change aims to raise $10,000, equivalent to approximately 5% of the Berkshire Immigrant Center’s annual budget.
“This is a critical and difficult time for many in our immigrant and refugee communities and we are so grateful that our community is coming together to support them and our work,” says Brooke Mead, Director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center. She continues, “We have just hired two new caseworkers to meet the ever-expanding need for our legal immigration counseling for the thousands of immigrants in the Berkshires. This wonderful creative initiative will bring a much-needed influx of funds to support our work and training for our new staff that is critically needed.”
And, added Mead, “We are enormously appreciative and humbled by a grassroots effort to support us financially so that we can keep our attention on our mission – directly helping immigrants.”
The mission of the Berkshire Immigrant Center is to assist individuals and families in making the economic, psychological, and cultural adjustments to a new land. Each year they provide assistance to over 800 individuals from more than 80 countries. Their work navigating the complex U.S. immigration system, promoting civic engagement, and facilitating cultural integration is invaluable. By helping immigrants meet their basic needs, and supporting them in their efforts to become active participants in our community, the Center builds bridges of understanding and cooperation across cultures. Their work results in strengthened communities, reunited families, refugees protected, higher employment income, and economic self-sufficiency for newcomers.
The participating artists are a “who’s who” of the local creative economy and includes: William Archer, Tracy Baker-White, Renée Bouchard, Keith Bona, Stephanie Boyd, Sharon Carson, Jana Christy, Deb Coombs, Phyllis Criddle, Richard Criddle, Arthur DeBow, Zoe Doucette, Mike Glier, Brandon Graving, Suzy Helme, Jane Hudson, Frank Jackson, Ellen Joffe-Halpern, Joanna Klain, Alison Kolesar, Suzy Konecky, David Lane, Amrita Lash, John MacDonald, Sarah McNair, Anna Moriarty-Lev, Mark Mulherin, Karl Mullen, Mary Natalizia, Dawn Nelson, Danny O, Michael Oatman, Linda O’Brien, Opie O’Brien, Derek Parker, Doug Paisley, Amy Podmore, Maggi Randall, John Recco, Michele Ridgeway, Bill Riley, Anne Rocklein, Eric Rudd, Greg Scheckler, Ann Scott, Gail Sellers, Phil Sellers, Karin Stack, Diane Sullivan, Sandra Thomas, Betty Vera
The event organizers are Stephanie Boyd, Gail Sellers, Phil Sellers, Suzy Konecky, Laura Christensen, Orion Howard, Amrita Lash, Sandra Thomas
Sponsors/Supporters: Bright Ideas Brewing, Williamstown Community Chest, Sheffield Pottery
To make a donation: http://www.stephanieboydworks.com/vessels-for-change/
We begin our show with Alexander Davis, who talks about the meetup with candidates for 1st Berkshires district state representative organized by Greylock Together. Julia Dixon discusses the state of the area’s creative economy and her new endeavor as a consultant who can help both artists and organizations with her experience and insights. We talked at length with Setsuko Winchester about the discussion, “Asian-Americans: No More Perpetual Foreigners,” as well the Yellow Bowl Project—her photo/ceramic response to the forced incarceration of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War II.
Greylock Together gives the public a chance to hear from the four Democratic candidates vying for the chance to face off against C
Meet Your 1st Berkshire Candidates
Sunday, September 10; 3:00–4:30 p.m.
Williamstown Youth Center
66 School Street, Williamstown, Mass.
Activist group Greylock Together has invited the candidates for the vacant 1st Berkshire seat in the Massachusetts House to come and speak about their candidacy. Everyone is invited to join us and hear each candidate make a brief pitch about how they would be the best to serve. As of right now, we will hear from all four of the declared candidates: John Barrett III, Lisa Blackmer, Stephanie Bosley, and Kevin Towle.
The event will be broadcast on Willinet. We will have three babysitters available if you need someone to watch your mini-activists, too!
You can come prepared! Over the course of the past couple of months, Greylock Together has assembled a list of goals we wish to achieve on the local, state, and national level. Each goal is supported by a supermajority of our members. While some are not immediately actionable for a state representative, we still think it’s important that our representative shares our goals and values. We have sent out a survey based on these goals to each candidate. Read their responses now.
Alexander Davis is an English teacher and a political activist with Greylock Together. While he’s been a political obsessive for many years, he only really got involved after attending the Women’s March on Washington. Since then, he’s been trying to do what he can. Alexander lives in Williamstown, MA with his wife and baby daughter.
Julia Dixon — Creative Economy Specialist
We were really excited to speak with Julia again, especially upon learning that, as a consultant, she’ll be filling a key need in the region. Now, individuals and organizations can tap into all that she has learned about the cultural landscape in a direct, highly personalized fashion. Visit her website to learn more.
Julia Dixon is an artist, writer, arts administrator, community convener, and creative economy consultant. She is working as a freelance project manager as well as an economic and business consultant based at the Eclipse Mill Artist Lofts in North Adams, Massachusetts, where she lives. Her previous full time positions include Managing Director of Berkshire Creative and Creative Economy Specialist at 1Berkshire. She is the founder and owner of BerkshireFlirt LLC, founder and host of “Creative City” on WMNB-LP 107.1FM, appointed co-founding member and chair of the North Adams Public Arts Commission, and volunteers as a student mentor. She received her BFA from Purchase College in 2005 and MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2014.
Julia sits on numerous community development and cultural committees. She is an appointed founding member and chair of the North Adams Public Arts Commission, member of the North Adams Exchange (NAX) steering group, member of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center advisory board, and was a founding board member of the Makers’ Mill in North Adams. In addition, she is passionate about mentoring high school and college students. She co-taught MCLA’s fall 2016 design thinking capstone class Community Engagement in the Arts with department chair Lisa Donovan, Ph.D., and mentored students participating in MCLA’s inaugural Entrepreneurship & Innovation Challenge in 2017.
Julia is a 2017 honoree of Berkshire Community College’s 40 Under Forty awards, recipient of Americans for the Arts’ 2016 Annual Convention scholarship, and 2014 graduate of the Berkshire Leadership Program and former member of its steering committee.
Asian-Americans: No More Perpetual Foreigners
The first humans in North American came from the Asian land-mass. Yet somehow Asian-Americans can still be perceived as ‘foreign’. How many years, how many generations must pass before immigrants become ‘American’? Is there a double-standard? Do immigrants from European countries become accepted – and acceptable – sooner than immigrants from other parts of the globe? More laws have been passed in the United States attempting to restrict immigration from Asian countries than from any other part of the world. Japanese-Americans were the only US citizens collectively interned during World War II. And yet Asian-Americans are also paradoxically stereotyped as being a ‘model minority’. What does all this mean?
Join Helen Haerhan Moon, Deepika Shukla, Setsuko Winchester, and K. Scott Wong as they discuss what it means to be Asian-American in the USA and here in the Berkshires.
During the Second World War, the US Government opened ten concentration camps to incarcerate 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who had been forcibly removed from the West Coast.
Asian-Americans: No More Perpetual Foreigners
Presented by the City of Pittsfield’s Human Rights Commission
Sunday, September 10, 2017, 2:00–4:00 p.m.
39 South Street, Pittsfield, Mass.
(excerpted from submitted info and her project’s website.)
Setsuko Sato Winchester is a former NPR journalist and ceramicist. Photographs of her Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project are currently on exhibit at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York, through December 31, 2017.
In 2015, I — an American-Japanese, former NPR journalist, ceramicist — began a journey to visit all the remains of these camps, most of them now desolate and lonely ruins. In my studio in Massachusetts I had hand-pinched and glazed 120 bright yellow tea bowls: yellow, to represent the “Yellow Peril,” as Asians were euphemistically referred to at the time, and tea bowls, to represent man’s humanity. My plan was to photograph arrangements of these bowls in each camp, to create a conceptual art project which I called the “Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project.” The intent of this project is to inform and educate. The hope is to diffuse fear, not spread it.
It was FDR who created the camps — the same FDR who had famously made the iconic Four Freedoms speech. My belief, after much research, is that “Japanese-Americans,” imprisoned in these ten camps wrongly and unjustly, were about as frightening as the tea bowls I planned to display. It is widely agreed today that there was absolutely nothing to fear from them. And it turns out — the irony at the center of my art project — that they had much to fear from the US Government.
Hence my project.
Helen Moon is a critical care nurse at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington. While studying at UMass Boston, she worked and volunteered her time to community programing and advocacy groups affecting Black, Korean and Vietnamese Americans in the greater Boston region. Moon has lead summer camps for Somalian refugee children in Ethiopia, taught English to children in Mexico, served food to homeless veterans in Boston, and has had tea with Muslim women in Egypt. It is because of her love of people from all walks of life, and her continued pursuit of human rights, equal representation, and diversity that Moon is honored to engage in conversations that enrich our understanding of race relations here in Berkshire County.
Deepika Bains Shukla
Deepika Bains Shukla is an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in Springfield. She prosecutes federal criminal cases involving fraud, public corruption, gun and drug crimes, terrorism, and civil rights crimes. Before coming to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Deepika was a Staff Attorney at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, a litigator at a small civil rights firm, and an associate at a large law firm in New York.
Setsuko Winchester, born in New York City of Japanese immigrant parents, worked as a journalist, editor and producer at NPR’s Morning Edition and Talk of the Nation before moving to Western Massachusetts in 2006 to pursue a life-long interest in ceramics and the visual arts. In 2015 those interests of art and journalism converged in an online project called the Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project. Using her ceramics and photography, her work explores the concept of freedom and what it could mean to different groups at different times in American history through the lens of the mass incarceration of people of Japanese ethnicity in the United States during WWII. The actual tea bowls used in this project were selected by SculptureNow and are installed on the grounds of the Mount, the home of Edith Wharton in Lenox, MA (from June 1- Oct.31, 2017). You can find her website at: http://www.yellowbowlproject.com
K. Scott Wong
K. Scott Wong is the Charles R. Keller Professor of History at Williams College where he teaches a variety of courses in Asian American history, comparative immigration history, history and memory, and the history of race and ethnicity in American culture. He has written numerous articles in journals and anthologies. His most recent monograph is “Americans First”: Chinese Americans and the Second World War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.) He is also a former series editor for the Asian American History and Culture series published by Temple University Press.
Densho’s mission is to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy, and promote equal justice for all.
In the wake of the November election, people across the country have seen fear and anger and exclusion become part of a national public conversation. Many people are sharing the experience of feeling that they do not belong in their familiar places. It’s called othering — making someone feel pushed to the edges, unwanted or different. It can happen in daily meetings and conversations, at work, at school, even at home.
In the Berkshires, movements are growing in response, art and lectures and performances and rallies, to explain what othering means and what it looks like — and to draw people together instead.
People are saying in different ways, I feel threatened. I feel alone. And people are saying that hate is not mine. I want to stand with you. I want to live in a country where we can all live and love and work, pray or not, speak and play music. People are saying we need to talk to each other.
In the Berkshires, efforts are growing to bring people together. In Pittsfield, on a November afternoon, young WordxWord poets and storytellers reflected on how it felt to be excluded or pushed to the edges, as part of “Othering,” a month-long show curated by the Berkshire Art Association at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.
In Great Barrington, Asma Abbas, Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy at Bard College of Simon’s Rock, invited Moustafa Bayoumi, American Book Award–winning writer and professor of English at Brooklyn College — who wrote one of the most re-tweeted tweets of the 2016 USA presidential debates, according to Twitter—to speak about Muslim American experiences in the last 15 years.
In North Adams, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel, joins Rabbi David Markus, her co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish Renewal movement, in a call for solidarity. If a national effort to register Muslims becomes real, they are calling on all Americans to register.
Nick Cave’s “Until”
And in December of 2016, MASS MoCA, offered free admission for Berkshire residents until the solstice, as Nick Cave’s installation, Until, opened to take a close look at the ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” — and what happens when it becomes “guilty until proven innocent.”
Soprano Brenda Wimberly and organist Sereca Henderson perform at the opening of Nick Cave’s ‘Until,’ at MASS MoCA. His installation fills the Rauschenberg gallery, and everyone who walks in stops at the doorway. The room is as large as a football field. And it is full of light.
It’s like walking into an optical mobile. It’s a maze of stars and spirals and suns on 16,000 strings. They spin like tops, and they transform from pinwheeling color to faint lines, until they become invisible. In some of them, at the core, he has set the image of a hand gun.
Nick Cave is known for Soundsuits, wearable sculptures that cover the whole body, and he often performs in them. But here he has created something new. It’s a landscape. It’s a cloudscape made of chandelier crystal. It’s a place where he invites other people to perform.
Benjamin Clementine gave a concert on opening night.
Nick Cave created this installation holding in mind the lives and deaths of Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith and Michael Brown and more like them. Mass MoCA curator Denise Markonish speaks about his work.
Moustafa Bayoumi and Asma Abas
John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme,’ a jazz classic from 1965 has echoes of Middle Eastern scales in its improvisation, and echoes of Islamic prayer in its inspiration, professor Moustafa Bayoumi writes in his 2015 collection of essays, “This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror.”
Coltrane often performed with Muslim musicians, he says, and anyone with an ear attuned to Islamic influences can hear them in Coltrane’s words and music.
He quotes Coltrane’s liner notes: “No Matter what … it is with God. He is Merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly — a love supreme.”
Moustafa Bayoumi is an internationally recognized journalist. He is a columnist for The Guardian; his writing has appeared in journals from the New York Times to the Nation; and he has appeared on CNN, FOX News, National Public Radio and many other media outlets around the world.
He is an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, and in 2008 he won an American Book Award for “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America.”
“How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” takes its title from writer, Civil Rights activist and Great Barrington native, W.E.B. DuBois, who asks that question in Souls of Black Folk.
In his book, Bayoumi tells the stories of seven young men and women in their 20s living in Brooklyn after 9/11.
Rasha and her family were imprisoned without trial and without evidence; Sami served in the military in Iraq; Yasmin fought discrimination in her diverse high school — and won.
In December, professor Bayoumi came to Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington to talk with professor Asma Abbas, and her students and the community, about the experience of being Muslim American in the past, in the last 15 years and today.
Many Americans misunderstand a great deal about what Muslim Americans believe and how they live their lives, he said.
To begin with, Muslim Americans have lived in this country for almost 400 years.
Aleph takes a stand against othering
Rachel Barenblat of Williamstown is the rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, and she will serve as the interim Jewish Chaplain at Williams College in the spring semester. She is also co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish renewal movement, with David Markus, associate spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El of City Island in the Bronx. He has Berkshire ties as well — like Rachel, he is a Williams College alum. (In full disclosure, I am also a Williams alum, and Rachel is an old friend.)
Jewish Renewal, founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, is a movement across Jewish denominations. At its center, Aleph includes a rigorous liberal seminary and a growing network of congregations and communities around the world.
In response to the U.S. president-elect’s campaign promise to require all Muslims to register with the government, Aleph has sent out a call to all Americans, if that day comes, to register as Muslim in solidarity.
That call comes out of values central to Renewal, Rachel and David say, from a respect for all faiths, and a core Jewish value (Lev. 19:18), to love your neighbor as yourself.
The experience of being treated differently — the ‘Othering’ that David Markus talks about — is also the name of the Berkshire Art Association’s biennial juried show. In November, it filled the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield with abstract paintings, collages and drawings.
The art association sent out a call for work reflecting on experiences of exclusion and separation. More than 30 artists from throughout the Northeast had work in the exhibit — from a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. military who served two tours in Iraq to an African-American Pittsfield High School graduate now studying art at Williams College.
On Nov. 13, the Pittsfield organization WordxWord hosted an afternoon of poetry and storytelling on the same theme — WordxWord uses spoken word, poetry and storytelling to celebrate diversity and creativity and make connections.
Four of those poets have given us permission to share there work here. We thank Izzy; our second poet, who has asked to remain anonymous; Sage; and Doni Smith.
On Saturday, Jan. 7, on the 76th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, a new Four Freedoms Coalition will invite the Berkshire community to unite against hate and bigotry in all its forms. The Berkshire County branch of the NAACP, BRIDGE, Berkshire Immigrant Center, United Africans of the Berkshires, and the United American Muslim Association of the Berkshires and others will gather for a rally and march in downtown Pittsfield.
The Four Freedoms Coalition is a non-partisan, diverse coalition of community organizations and people working together to unite the community and reaffirm the American values outlined in President Roosevelt’s speech:
Freedom from fear
Freedom from want
Freedom of speech
Freedom of religion.
All are welcome. To find out more, check out the Four Freedoms Coalition on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org
On Jan. 29 at 3 p.m., Doni Smith and WordXWord will welcome the new year with a free poetry reading to celebrate sharing and caring and reflect on the consequences of greed at MCLA’s Gallery 51, at 51 Main St., North Adams.
Nine days after the presidential inauguration, poets and spoken word artists will bear witness to a world where greed appears to have no limits, and yet every day holds moments of generosity and compassion. The event will accompay Josh Ostraff’s exhibition, OFA ATU, which opens Jan. 26.
Also in Pittsfield, Georgene Poliak has formed All Band Together as an initiative in compassion and solidarity. At the holiday Shindy at Shire City Sanctuary, she showed arm bands with a crescent and a star that she is making out of upcycled t-shirts and sweaters. They recall the bands that Jews in Europe were made to wear under the Nazi occupation. But these mean the opposite — they mean that people of many faiths can stand together.
And in the spring, new artists will come to Mass MoCA to create and perform work inspired by Nick Cave’s ‘Until.’ Internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones will present a new solo work on March 4.
And choreographer, writer, and actress Okwui Okpokwasili will create and offer a site-specific dance on April 7.
Grammy-winnter and living legend Mavis Staples, known worldwide as a voice in R&B, Gospel, Soul, folk, rock and blues, will also perform at Mass MoCA on March 25.
And Toshi Reagon and Dorrance Dance will return to the ’62 Center at Williams College with tap masters Derick Grant and Dromeshia Sumbry-Edwards.