Museums Trace Jewish Community’s Rise “From Shtetl to Suburb”

“From Shtetl to Suburb: One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in the Valley”
Illustrates Jewish Experience in the Pioneer Valley at the Springfield Museums
Through March 2nd, 2014

“The story of Jewish immigrants and their work to develop a thriving community over the last century is a fascinating tale of courage, hard work, and perseverance,” states Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History. “Their story is unique, but also emblematic of the challenges faced by so many immigrant groups throughout America’s history.”

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, in conjunction with several noted local organizations and guest curator Dr. Stuart Anfang, invites you to learn about the history of the Jewish community in Western Massachusetts from the late 19th century through the present.  By combining artifacts, photos, film, and personal histories, the exhibition offers multidimensional insights into the experiences of Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Czarist Russia in the late 19th century.  The exhibit also illustrates the growth of their community in the North End of Springfield, the eventual decline of such inner-city neighborhoods in the aftermath of World War II, and the 1960’s relocation of Springfield’s Jewish community and synagogues to Longmeadow and other parts of Western MA following a major urban renewal project in the North End…

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Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

From our archived column, “Not Your Grandparents’ Shtetl: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western MA,”  Amy Meltzer shares different symbols and rituals of Rosh Hashanah.  Also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar, this year Rosh Hashanah takes place Sept 4th at sundown to Sept 6th, 2013.

SWEETNESS OF ROSH HASHANAH

One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah is sweetness. (A traditional greeting is “May you have a good and sweet new year.”) Apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey symbolize that sweetness. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make a trip to a local apple orchard to collect several varieties of local apples. On the holiday we sample the apples, and sweet recipes made from the apples…

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Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires

Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires
Art Exhibit, Documentary, Music & Eid Celebration

The art exhibit, Islam Contemporary, is just one of several featured events in August that celebrate Islamic art and culture. Over the course of the month, there will be a community Eid celebration, a documentary screening and discussion with the directors, and a concert of classical Middle Eastern music. Find out more about these events!

The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield are holding a joint art show, Islam Contemporary, for the month of August, opening on Friday, August 2nd in conjunction with the Pittsfield First Friday Artswalk in the Cultural District. The exhibition features twenty-five artists who hail from around the world, some Muslim, some non-Muslim; some emerging artists, some well-established. Included in the exhibition are works by the Berkshires’ own local artist Daisy Rockwell, granddaughter of Norman Rockwell, and Boston-based Pakistani artist Ambreen Butt. The works on display range from reinterpretations of traditional South Asian art, to critiques of the Western media’s portrayal of women, to statements about multidimensional cultural and gender identities, to attempts to use art to connect communities during times of crisis.

This exhibition offers contemporary and varied perspectives on Islamic art, history, and culture. Students of Middle Eastern studies may find this particularly informative, though families are likely to also learn much from the ideas and images on display. Aziz Sohail, the curator of the exhibition, says, “…this exhibit provides a platform for authentic and diverse voices that grapple with an ever-changing heritage. We hope that the show dispels stereotypes and sparks discussion by facilitating a complex and nuanced look at Islamic heritage and culture.” After (or during) your visit, ask your family to think about the works on display and compare the people and lives that they represent to their own lives. What is similar? What is different? What were they surprised by? What new information were they able to absorb/digest over the course of their visit?

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Stockbridge Library Features Lecture on Outsider Art: Prison Art in America

Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America
Art & Cultural Studies at the Stockbridge Library
Friday, January 25th

“For students of art and culture, psychology and philosophy, and human consciousness, the question emerges-how is it that this depth and beauty came from, or through, these particular folks-often times uneducated, unworldly, and untrained,” writes the Stockbridge Library. “Kornfeld points to a new direction… whereby incarcerated people are given the opportunity to reach out to people in need on the outside…” (Find about the Inside/Outside Envelope Project) – Join the Stockbridge Library for this free lecture on Friday, January 25th at 6pm

The Stockbridge Library is offering the community a unique opportunity to learn about a topic not often discussed – the artwork of prison inmates.  Art teacher Phyllis Kornfeld, author of Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America, will share a slideshow presentation of artwork created by inmates.  This presentation will be paired with a discussion of their work, common types of art produced, and its place amongst mainstream American artwork.

Inmates’ work ranges from soap carvings inspired by traditional American folk art, to tattoo-style ink drawings.  Their art challenges the stereotypes of inmates, serving as a window into the culture and mindset of prisoners, conveying the thoughts, questions, and emotions had by these outsider artists.  Their artwork speaks of human qualities that are shared by all, regardless of circumstances.

This lecture will take place at the library on Friday, January 25th, 2013 at 6pm in Stockbridge, MA.  Older students can attend the event to learn about prison culture, the universality of human artistic expression, art in America, and other topics related to art, psychology, and criminal justice.  For more information, call the library at 413-298-5501.  The Stockbridge Library is located at 46 Main Street in Stockbridge, MA.

Two Western MA Exhibits Explore Native American Art & Culture

Native American Heritage Month Celebrated Across Western MA

On Saturday, November 10, and Sunday, November 11, 2012, Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield will celebrate Native American Heritage Month with four exceptional performances featuring music, stories, and dance. The festival will feature the rich history and culture of the Mohawk and Nipmuck tribes, conveyed through storytelling, music, and ritual. The performers are Jerry Thundercloud McDonald, Joseph Firecrow (pictured here), Larry Spotted Crow Mann, and Sandy Rhodes. For more information, visit www,berkshiremuseum.org or contact the Berkshire Museum at 413-443-7171. (Photo credit: David Carnes)

Fall is often a time when students learn about the history of America and the American Revolution – topics that lend themselves to studies of Native American history and culture, as well.  Students’ learning about Native American ways of life during Native American Heritage Month can be supplemented by a visit to a gallery show of Native American artwork – either at Westfield State University or the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield!

The Berkshire Museum’s exhibit, Rethink! Native American Art, features a wide variety of work from Native American groups nationwide, and is open through January 6th.  Along with the exhibit, the museum is hosting a series of community events featuring Native American music, dance, storytelling, and more.  On November 10th and 11th, the museum will host the Chief Konkapot Festival of Native American culture, offering visitors a chance to see a variety of performances showcasing the traditions of numerous nations from across North America, including:

  • Saturday, November 10th at 1pm – Jerry Thundercloud McDonald presents Mohawk music, stories, and dance. McDonald will also speak on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s influence on the formation of the U.S. Constitution. ($$)
  • Saturday, November 10th at 7pm – Joseph Firecrow of the Northern Cheyenne, a Grammy-nominated Northern Cheyenne musician and master of the traditional Native American flute, will perform a special concert.  ($$)
  • Sunday, November 11th at 1pm – Larry Spotted Crow Mann, Nipmuck poet and author of Tales from the Whispering Basket, presents Nipmuck stories, songs, and drum with the Quabbin Lake Singers. ($$)
  • Sunday, November 11th at 3pm – Sandy Rhodes will be presenting contemporary pow wow culture, dance, and regalia. ($$)

Follow the festival at the museum, the Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield will be hosting a free performance by Joseph Firecrow on Monday, November 12th at 12:15pm, sponsored by the BCC Committee for Diversity.

Westfield State University’s Arno Maris Gallery will host an exhibit of Native American Culture and Tradition through Saturday, December 8th, 2012. The exhibit will feature works from Native American artists Lenny Novak and Dan Shears.

Another opportunity to see contemporary Native American art in Western MA will be at the Arno Maris Gallery in Westfield State’s Ely Campus Center in Hampden County.  The gallery is hosting an exhibit of unique, handcrafted dreamcatchers – made in a traditional style that only five people are trained in!  Students can learn about the intricate nature of dreamcatcher making, as well as the significance of the pieces in Native American culture.  The exhibit runs through December 8th, and admission to the gallery is free.

Both exhibits offer unique learning opportunities, and showcase artwork that is not often accessible.  Each show provides an in-depth look at Native American traditions, and highlights the important role that artistic expression plays in Native American culture.

Cultural Studies: Christian Folk Art from India at UMass

Christian Folk Art from India
Dec. 12th-16th, 2011
Augusta Savage Gallery at UMass

An exhibit from the collection of local, 83 year-old independent scholar of South Asian Studies Georgana Falb Foster at the UMass Augusta Savage Gallery in Amherst, MA. This exhibit features paintings of Christian stories by artists who come from Hindu hereditary castes of story teller/painters (Chitrakars) in Bengal province. Show runs Dec. 12th-16th with an opening reception on Monday, Dec. 12th from 5-7pm

The Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts’ Fine Arts Center will be hosting a show of Christian Folk Art from India opening with a reception on Monday, December 12th from 5-7pm and running through December 16th.

Each piece in the collection is a painted cloth scroll depicting a Christian story or concept- the scrolls were used by Chitrakars, traveling painters/storytellers in the Bengal province of India, and the scrolls were used to help illustrate the stories that the Chitrakars shared with communities.

Also included in the show are works by Christian Indian artist Frank Wesley, as well as other Christian artworks and artifacts.

A visit to the gallery can help students become aware of how Christianity influences and differs within various cultures worldwide, and thinking about this specific art show is a great way to segue into a broader dialogue on religion and cultures.

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