Annuals of the Arts: Hilltown Glories in Photos

Annuals of the Arts: Hilltown Glories in Photos
By Chelsea Faria, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA (February 3rd, 2011)

Sienna Wildfield, founder of The Hilltown Families online grassroots communications network, does not subscribe to the notion that if you’ve seen one Hilltown, you’ve seen them all. Far from it.

She believes each Hilltown has its own “unique culture, often reflected in their seasonal and community celebrations,” she said in a telephone interview with Briefings.

To catch a glimpse of the individuality of the Hilltowns that give the western region of the state part of its character, the Hilltown Families network is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a photo exhibit on the region. Hilltown Families: A Traveling Photography Exhibit opens this week in Florence. Wildfield is the curator as well as the photographer featured in the exhibit. Her work features images of Hilltown family life and the landscapes of western Massachusetts.

The exhibit will travel to five towns this year: in February and March at the Cup & Top Cafe in Florence. There will be an opening reception Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. “As the show travels throughout the region, it will showcase images relative to the season and the host town,” Wildfield said. The debut, however, will incorporate images from towns all over western Massachusetts.

After Florence, the exhibit will make an appearance in Haydenville in April, hosted by Bread Euphoria, the popular Route 9 bakery. Wildfield said she is still seeking a location for the exhibit in the summer months.

In September, it will travel to Williamsburg, to be displayed at the Meekins Library, then to Ashfield, where it will stay for five weeks starting in October, and then to Shelburne Falls at Mocha May’s in November.

Wildfield said the exhibit gives “community members an opportunity to gather and reflect on valued aspects of life in the region.” One value that brings people together in the Hilltowns is the widespread support of local food initiatives and farmers markets. “Together we support family farms by choosing to purchase our food as locally as possible, and shop all year round at both summer and winter farmers’ markets,” Wildfield said. “Our community is strong with the voice of many activists too and has rallied behind opportunities like creating a community farm, forming a perennial food growing group, and supporting free workshops on food security.”

The Hilltowns are home to many farms, and a number of them will be displayed in the photography exhibit, she said.

The exhibit is a fundraiser for the Hilltown Families organization. Money will be raised through sales of the images, and donations in conjunction with the photography sales. “This will allow for outreach to local families and business, and moving the organization toward a sustainable communication model,” Wildfield said. The Hilltown Families network connects families through social networking tools on its website. Anyone interested in organizing an event or learning about upcoming events can check out the website’s weekly suggested events list, online forums, weekly e-newsletter, and read posts on local issues and events.

Reprinted with permission. Originally appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on 2/3/11.

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