Tuesday, May 28, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

BITS & BYTES: MASS MoCA and WTF present ‘The Plastic Bag Store’; Lee Day, Alon Koppel, and Jada Fabrizio at Mad Rose Gallery; Simone White and Scott Matthews at Race Brook Lodge; North Berkshire Community Dance; Q-MoB, Berkshire Elder Services, and BHS LGBTQ+ series on changing demographics; Author Lee McColgan at Arrowhead; BCC honors students present reading; ‘Literacy Night’ at Farmington River School

MASS MoCA and WTF present the museum debut of a thought-provoking, awe-inspiring world made out of discarded single-use plastic and cardboard.

MASS MoCA and WTF present the museum debut of ‘The Plastic Bag Store,’ an immersive experience of art, theater, and film

North Adams— From May 9th through September 2nd, MASS MoCA and WTF present the museum debut of a thought-provoking, awe-inspiring world made out of discarded single-use plastic and cardboard.

Created by artist Robin Frohardt and produced by Pomegranate Arts, “The Plastic Bag Store,” is an immersive experience of art, theater, film, and fun. Subtitled “a tragicomic ode to the foreverness of plastic,” creatively addresses global climate concerns through art, humor, and a critical lens. Frohardt has meticulously hand-sculpted thousands of items, including produce, meat, dry goods, toiletries, cakes, and sushi rolls, using discarded plastic bags that have been thoroughly washed and ingeniously upcycled. Frohardt started working on The Plastic Bag Store in 2015, inspired after watching someone double-bag groceries that were already bags inside of bags inside of boxes.

Visitors will step into a vibrantly heightened, tongue-in-cheek supermarket setting meant to spark critical reflection on our culture of consumption and convenience. Frohardt repurposes 2-liter bottles as “Plastic Dew,” yellow tarp becomes carrots, plastic caps are “capperonnis” on faux frozen pizzas, and “free-range” plastic bags transform into a dozen eggs. Touch is often encouraged, as a box of “Yucky Shards” reveals, with a gentle shake, to be full of clunky trash. Visitors should also be on the lookout for plasticized regional items on the shelves.

‘The Plastic Bag Store.’ Photo by Bailey Holiver.

During timed activations, performers transform the store into an immersive cinema, using inventive puppetry, shadow play, and intricate handmade sets to present a darkly funny and often tender story about the enduring effects of single-use plastics. The comedic narrative explores the life behind things, emphasizing how what we value least may become our most lasting cultural legacy.

In advance of the opening, “Cardboard Cinema: Robin Frohardt’s Handmade Worlds” is now on view in MASS MoCA’s Kidspace. This companion project to “The Plastic Bag Store” is an installation of handmade cardboard sets and puppets accompanied by Robin Frohardt’s animated short films.

The exhibit runs from May 9th through September 2nd in Building 1 at MASS MoCA on MASS MoCA Way in North Adams. It is recommended for ages 6 and up. Advanced tickets are $25 with discounts for members and children. Tickets and more information can be found online. 


Mad Rose Gallery to present an esteemed trio exhibition featuring the photographic works of Lee Day, Alon Koppel, and Jada Fabrizio

Millerton, N.Y.— Opening on May 9th, Mad Rose Gallery will present “This MUST be the Place?,” an esteemed trio exhibition featuring the photographic works of Lee Day, Alon Koppel, and Jada Fabrizio. 

Jada Fabrizio, an accomplished photographer known for her staged images, has seen her work exhibited in museums and galleries not just throughout the New York metropolitan area but also in various cities across the United States. Her unique approach to photography involves the use of diverse materials such as wood, clay, paint, found objects, and toys to craft the scenes she captures. This innovative technique has garnered her features in numerous esteemed publications including Musée Magazine, Chronogram Magazine, Pikchur Magazine, and High Shelf Press. 

Jada Fabrizio, ‘Over the Moon,’ 11”x 7”, staged photography, archival print, 2021.

Lee Day has worked in a variety of creative disciplines including photojournalism, stock photography, interactive media, web design, and creative writing. Now returning to his initial passion, photography, Lee is exploring the limits to which he can extend the algorithms of the digital image.

Alon Koppel returned to his primary passion and source of income, photography, after a career in design. His background in graphic design has endowed him with a more structured methodology and project-based approach to his photography endeavors, surprisingly granting him greater freedom to explore creatively. Alon’s projects span from rephotographing historical stereoscopic images to capturing long-exposure photographs of various transportation methods.

The exhibit opens on May 9th. There is a reception on Saturday May 11th from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Mad Rose Gallery at 5916 North Elm Avenue in Millerton, N.Y. More information can be found online. 


Race Brook Lodge presents Simone White and Scott Matthews ‘Singing Sad Songs in Spring’

Sheffield— On Saturday, May 11th from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Race Brook Lodge presents Simone White and Scott Matthews “Singing Sad Songs in Spring.”

You’re invited to an intimate dual show of back to back solo sets from songwriters Scott Matthew and Simone White. Evocative ballads will interweave with delicate, introspective melodies, and raw emotion will pulse inside of refined poetry and musicality. Observational and confessional, these modern day bards practice the most stripped down form of storytelling.

Singer-songwriters Simone White and Scott Matthew. Courtesy Race Brook Lodge.

NPR reported that “Simone White has a voice like ether. It’s sweetly airy and hypnotic. Hearing it can pull you under to a strangely beautiful, glittering world where nothing seems real.” She has released eight albums, several collaborations and has toured with and opened for Little Dragon, Victoria Williams, Mark Eitzel, Andrew Bird, Nouvelle Vague, Thao, Honest Jon’s Chop Up with Damon Albarn, John C. Reilly and others.

Scott Matthew is a singer-songwriter who gained widespread recognition after composing the theme song for John Cameron Mitchell’s film, “Shortbus”.” Matthew’s haunting vocals can be heard on Japanese animation series “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie,” where his collaborations with the esteemed composer Yoko Kanno left an indelible mark. His album “Unlearned” reinterprets popular hits into profound ballads, revealing the emotional depth within. The collaboration with Portuguese composer Rodrigo Leao on “Life Is Long” stands as a beacon of his artistry, blending melancholic arrangements with Matthew’s intense, lyrical contributions.

The performances are on Saturday, May 11th from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Barnspace at Race Brook Lodge at 864 South Undermountain Road in Sheffield. Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $30 at the door. Tickets and more information can be found online. 


North Berkshire Community Dance presents at community contra dance in Williamstown

Williamstown— On Saturday, May 11th from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m., North Berkshire Community Dance will hold its monthly contra dance with calling (teaching) by Quena Crain, and live traditional fiddle music by masters of the New England contra dance repertoire. 

Contra dancing is a contemporary take on a living tradition. The music is live, the dances are taught, and anyone is welcome, with or without a partner (people change partners fluidly for each dance.) The caller teaches dance moves and skills as needed.

North Berkshire Community Dance.

Quena Crain will call (teach) all dances, starting the evening with easy dances friendly to newcomers and families with children. Crain, who calls all over New England (and far beyond), brings an infectious joy to the dance hall. Her fun calling and easy teaching style are beloved by all age groups. Quena is adept at leading dance events for people of any experience level.

Mary Cay Brass has been a foundational performer and teacher in the traditional dance and music community for many years, supplying a vital pulse in many beloved dance bands, including “The Greenfield Dance Band” with David Kaynor, and “Airdance” with Rodney Miller. Laurie Indenbaum has been fiddling for dances in Vermont and surrounding states since 1976, with many fine callers and bands, including “Applejack” and “The Full Catastrophe.”  Andy Davis has been a part of Nowell Sing We Clear, and on staff at Country Dance and Song Society summer camps for many years. He also plays accordion for a Morris dancing team and calls for contra dances. Each of the three has been playing for contra dances for over forty years, and frequently together.  Their music will lift your feet, and bring all the dancers together into one happy dance.

The dance is on Saturday, May 11th from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. in the Community Hall of the First Congregational Church at 906 Main Street in Williamstown. Admission is pay-as-you-can with $12 to $20 suggested; barter is also welcome. More information can be found online. 


Q-MoB, Berkshire Elder Services, and Berkshire Health Systems launch LGBTQ+ series to address rapidly changing demographics in the Berkshires

Pittsfield— For four consecutive Thursdays, May 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., LGBTQ+ people of all ages are invited to learn about practical aging well hacks from experts and to join intergenerational LGBTQ+ peers in a collaborative learning series designed to help you age well in health, relationships, housing, finances, and health insurance. 

On May 14th, queer men ages 60 and up are also invited to help organize a new Queer Men’s Aging Well Peer Support Group, an on-going peer support group to help one another gracefully negotiate the inevitable changes that come in relationships, health, housing, financial Resources and risks, spirituality, service, and work. Learn more about this group online. 

Courtesy Q-MoB, Berkshire Elder Services, and BHS.

“The coming health, social, and economic crisis LGBTQ+ seniors are facing is just the next in a long line of challenges the queer community has faced and overcome by coming together to learn and take action together,” said Bart Church, Q-MoB’s Interim Executive Director. He also shared startling data from a 2021 National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging, the largest study of LGBTQ+ seniors ever done:

  • More than three million LGBTQ+ adults over age 50 live in the U.S. – and more than half of them feel isolated from others and 59 percent report feeling a lack of companionship. This population is set to grow to about seven million by 2030 (6 years from now). The LGBTQ+ senior population in the Berkshires is growing even faster because of COVID migrations from the big cities.
  • Seven out of 10 LGBTQ older adults live alone as compared to three out of 10 heterosexual older adults. The social isolation of living alone, compounded by the fears of allowing homecare, chore-service, and other lay and professional staff into one’s home create a significant barrier for care. LGBTQ+ older adults often feel they have no one to call in times of need.
  • Nine out of 10 LGBTQ+ older adults have no children to help care for them as compared to two out of 10 heterosexual older adults. Furthermore, LGBTQ+ older adults have often been ostracized from an extended network of family members based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ+ older adults tend to form extended friend networks or “chosen families” that they rely on to help care for them at times of need. Unlike heterosexual family structures that are intergenerational, chosen families tend to be comprised of peers who are, as they age, facing the same care challenges.

All sessions meet in the Athenaeum Room (2nd Floor Balcony Room) of the Berkshire Athenaeum Pittsfield Public Library on 1 Wendell Ave in Pittsfield. Learn more about each session online: Session 1, Session 2, Session 3, Session 4. 


Berkshire County Historical Society presents ‘A House Restored’ with author Lee McColgan at Arrowhead

Pittsfield— On Wednesday, May 8th from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Berkshire County Historical Society presents ‘A House Restored’ with author Lee McColgan at Arrowhead.

‘A House Restored’ by Lee McColgan.

Join author Lee McColgan for a free lecture and book signing during which he will share his renovation tales of the Loring House as detailed in his new book, “A House Restored.”

Trading the corporate ladder for a stepladder, Lee McColgan commits to preserving the ramshackle Loring House, built in 1702, using period materials and methods and on a holiday deadline. But his enchantment withers as he discovers the massive repairs it needs. A small kitchen fix reveals that the structure’s rotten frame could collapse at any moment. In a bathroom, mold appears and spreads. He fights deteriorating bricks, frozen pipes, shattered windows, a punctured foundation, and even an airborne chimney cap while learning from a diverse cast of preservationists, including a master mason named Irons, a stone whisperer, and the Window Witch. But can he meet his deadline before family and friends arrive, or will it all come crashing down?


Author Lee McColgan.

McColgan’s journey expertly examines our relationship to history through the homes we inhabit, beautifully articulating the philosophy of preserving the past to find purpose for the future. McColgan has worked on Boston’s Old North Church, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, and other buildings. His work has appeared in Architectural Digest, Boston Globe, and Wall Street Journal. He lives with his wife in the Loring House in Pembroke, Massachusetts.

The free event is on Wednesday, May 8th from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Arrowhead at 780 Holmes Road in Pittsfield. Moree information can be found online. 


Berkshire Community College Honors Scholar students to present free public reading

Pittsfield— On Wednesday, May 8th at 4:30 p.m., three Berkshire Community College (BCC) Honors Scholar Program students Rowan Boyer, Mwila Malama and Clarise Seguin will present a public reading of their works.

The three students were awarded Melville Fellowships by the Berkshire County Historical Society. They have been busy creating original writings and art while spending time at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead, the location where Melville wrote “Moby-Dick,” working with Writer-in-Residence Emeritus Jana Laiz. The students are also earning experiential learning honors course credit.

The reading is on Wednesday, May 8th at 4:30 p.m. in Melville Hall’s Room M-21 at BCC on West Street in Pittsfield. It is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. For those who cannot attend in person, a virtual recording will be accessible on Zoom.


Farmington River School presents ‘Literacy Night Extravaganza’

Otis— On Wednesday, May 8 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Farmington River School presents ‘Literacy Night Extravaganza.’ 

The event includes a free pizza dinner, buy one, get one free Scholastic Book Fair, 50/50 raffle, readers theaters, and much more. A highlight is a book walk presented by the Otis Library with a focus on Revolutionary War hero Henry Knox and his amazing journey through Otis.

The event is on Wednesday, May 8 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., Farmington River School at 555 North Main Road in Otis. All are welcome.


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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.