Sunday, May 19, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

Bits & Bytes: ‘Woods and Waters’ at Ventfort Hall; folk concert at Bennington; birding at Green Drinks; ‘Charley’s Horse’; construction class builds fairgrounds booth

Hoffmann Bird Club President Jonathan Pierce will discuss notable local birds and highlight early-summer bird behavior, as well as opportunities to get out and see birds with the Hoffman Bird Club

Ventfort Hall to present talk on Hudson River School landscape art

Douglas McCombs. Photo courtesy Ventfort Hall

Lenox — Ventfort Hall and Gilded Age Museum will host Douglas McCombs, chief curator of the Albany Institute of History & Art in New York, Tuesday, June 19, at 4 p.m. for the talk  “Woods and Waters: Hudson River School Landscapes” followed by a Victorian tea.

Albany was second only to New York City as a center for American landscape art movement known as the Hudson River School. From the 1820s through the 1870s, artists associated with the movement such as Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, James Hart, Asher B. Durand, Homer Dodge Martin and John Kensett lived and worked in the state capital or spent time in the community visiting friends, fellow artists and patrons.

The Albany Institute of History & Art, one of the oldest museums in the country, now holds the largest collection of Hudson River School paintings and drawing in the upper Hudson Valley. Works from the collection are regularly exhibited at museums nationally and internationally. First joining the institute in 2004, McCombs has served as chief curator since 2014.  In addition to curating the re-installation of the collection, he is also writing the accompanying catalogue. He received a Ph.D. in American cultural history from Kent State University and was curator at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, before relocating to Albany.

Tickets are $26 for advance reservations and $32 on the day of the event.  Reservations are recommended due to limited seating. For tickets and more information, contact Ventfort Hall at (413) 637-3206 or


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Izzy Heltai. Photo courtesy Bennington College

Bennington College to present Izzy Heltai, Pinedrop

Pinedrop. Photo courtesy Pinedrop

Shaftsbury, Vt. — On Tuesday, June 19, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., Bennington College will present a concert of folk and bluegrass music with Izzy Heltai and Pinedrop at its Robert Frost Stone House Museum.

Heltai is a folk singer-songwriter from Boston, Massachusetts, who currently resides in the Berkshires and concentrates on storytelling with emotional and sonic resonance. Heltai draws influence from Carole King, Paul Simon, Dave Van Ronk, Gregory Alan Isakov and Jason Isbell. Heltai was a finalist at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival’s Grassy Hill Emerging Artist Showcase in 2017 and performed at the FreshGrass festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, in 2016 and 2017. He tours continuously around the Northeast.

A four-piece band from Brattleboro, Pinedrop features Derek Sensale on vocals and guitar, Dan Bisson on upright bass, Nick Paar on mandolin and Charlie Peckar on fiddle. Pinedrop has played venues and festivals near and far, including FreshGrass. The band released “Four,” its debut EP, in February.

The concert is free and open to the public. Donations to support the museum and the musicians are appreciated. Visitors should bring blankets, chairs and bug spray to enjoy the outdoors concert. A cash bar will be available. For more information, contact Bennington College at (802) 442-5401.


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Pittsfield Green Drinks to discuss birding in the Berkshires

A family of mallards at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Pittsfield as photographed by Hoffmann Bird Club member Matt Kelly

Pittsfield — Hoffmann Bird Club President Jonathan Pierce will speak at the Pittsfield Green Drinks meeting Tuesday, June 19, at 6 p.m. at J. Allen’s Clubhouse Grille.

Pierce will discuss notable local birds and highlight early-summer bird behavior, as well as opportunities to get out and see birds with the Hoffman Bird Club, a group that is open to anyone interested in birds or birding. There will also be time for questions and answers. In addition to his involvement with the Hoffman Bird Club, Pierce also serves as a naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox.

The meeting will begin at 5:15 p.m. For more information, contact Elizabeth Orenstein at (413) 717-1255 or


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Debut novel ‘Charley’s Horse’ addresses bullying, fear, family breakups

Image courtesy Judith Shaw

Great Barrington — Bullying remains a topic of serious concern in many elementary and middle schools, and children of every age have been the target of bullies or have witnessed bullying. In her award-winning novel, “Charley’s Horse,” writer Judith Shaw explores specific ways for her main character to cope with bullying, and even gain the upper hand without bullying back.

Judith Shaw

Chosen as runner-up for the 2018 Maxy Award in the Young Adult category, “Charley’s Horse” tells the story of Charley, an 11-year-old girl who knows everything about horses—except how to ride them. When her parents split up, she’s sent to a riding camp in Vermont and expects everything to be okay—but her horse hates her, riding lessons scare her and a bully in her cabin sees her as an easy target. Eventually she fends off bullying attacks, finds help in unexpected places, and makes a few fast friends.

New Yorker Judith Shaw has lived in Berkshire County for over 20 years, the first 17 on a horse farm in Richmond where she was a longtime contributor to the Richmond Record. She is married to an Australian and raised two children in Indonesia, Singapore and the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia. When a riding accident ended her active involvement with horses, Shaw focused on her other lifelong passion: writing. After decades as an editor and journalist, she began to explore fiction. “Charley’s Horse” is her first novel.


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Chatham High School Residential Construction staff and students in front of the partially finished information booth at the Columbia County Fairgrounds. Front row from left: Shawn Caldwell, Triston Schermerhorn, Craig Coons, Valerie Denning and Kyle Nehmens. Back row from left: Rich Kratt, Jon Elbert, Randy Van Alstyne and Corey Dexheimer. Photo: Patrick Wemitt

Chatham High School construction class builds new fairgrounds booth

Chatham, N.Y. — Attendees of the Columbia County Fair will be greeted in August by a brand new information booth built this spring by Chatham High School students under the direction of teacher Shawn Caldwell. Considered the most challenging project Caldwell’s Residential Construction class has undertaken so far, the new booth replaces a smaller and more dated structure at the fairgrounds’ entrance.

“Students really take pride in knowing they are building something that will benefit an organization and they can say ‘Hey, I helped with that,’” said Caldwell of the project. A technology teacher at CHS, Caldwell teaches Residential Construction every other year. The past three classes have built sheds for the Northern Columbia County Pop Warner program, Chatham Central School District and the Chatham Little League.

The project was started at the school and then brought over to the fairgrounds for completion, according to Caldwell. The class began formulating plans and constructing the exterior walls, framing and sheathing each wall at school. The class brought all the walls over from school and put them in place in May, including an 8-by-12 covered area attached to an 8-by-12 structure that the class built. Students framed the covered area on-site and then set the trusses for the roof and began sheathing. The class returned a week later and finished sheathing the roof, shingled it and completed trim work.

“It’s something these kids can tell people 10 years from now they helped build,” said Brian Madsen, director of the fair’s Buildings and Grounds Committee. “It’s a good deed for the kids and a great program for the school that gives something back to the community.”



The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

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The audience is invited to walk between the timed and the timeless, between the sacred and profane, the authentic identities we create for ourselves versus what others place upon us, how we define who and what we see through those lenses, and how all of this is embodied in ways that create our reality.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.