Gateway City Arts Connects Community and Creativity

Gateway City Arts Connects Community and Creativity

Previously in our series spotlighting arts-based community organizations, we featured Easthampton City Arts+, Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays and Turners Falls RiverCulture, all of which support a community’s cultural identify. Across western Massachusetts, many communities have become havens for artists of all kinds. The area is chock-full of painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, performers, and other creative types, their work saturating our communities with artistic expression in a wide variety of mediums. Connecting these artists and their work to the the rest of the community are arts organizations, which serve as valuable resources for connecting families with events and community-based learning opportunities.

This month, we spotlight Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, a creative co-working space intended for making, teaching, and performing art of all kinds. Gateway City Arts is much more than a maker space, however – the organization’s mission is not only to provide work spaces but to strengthen local community, culture, and the arts by providing space in addition to infrastructure. Community-based learning opportunities abound at Gateway City Arts, thanks to the myriad of diverse events, performances, and learning opportunities.  Read the rest of this entry »

A Textile Artist’s Take on Western MA Labor History

A Textile Artist’s Take on Local Labor History
Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA
March and April 2014

Western MA native, Deborah Baronas, has an exhibit at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, now through April 2014. Baronas will show a body of work that examines the lives of 19th century laborers, highlighting the work of textile mill workers, domestic servants, and tobacco farm field hands. This exhibit is more than an art show; it immerses viewers in history and can be used as an educational tool to recreate the past and delve into the lives and experiences of 19th-century working-class laborers.

Artist Deborah Baronas grew up on a farm in western Massachusetts, encouraged to pursue her interest in art when she wasn’t helping her parents in the fields. Years later, with a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and many years of experience in textile design, she has begun to explore the dichotomy that has defined her life – that of a “gritty work culture” versus the “world of glamour” – and the “duality [of] manufacturing and production,” through her art.

In an upcoming exhibition at Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, Baronas will show a body of work that examines the lives of 19th century laborers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The exhibition highlights the work of textile mill workers, domestic servants, and tobacco farm field hands through hand-stenciled and screen-printed images on the strong, coarse fabric known as “scrim,” as well as paintings, historical artifacts, and other materials. This exhibit is more than an art show; it immerses viewers in history and can be used as an educational tool to recreate the past and delve into the lives and experiences of 19th-century working-class laborers.

“We are always in a state of having lived in the past, residing in the present and looking to the future. We mark the passage of time by examining our presence in the present,” says Baronas. For her, the creation of these pieces – these juxtapositions of her adult work as a textile designer with her younger work as a painter and farmhand – illustrate her own past, present, and future, as well as the past, present, and future of the workers who populated the mills and farms in the Pioneer Valley a century earlier.

Click here to see discussion questions related to the exhibit…

History Exhibition Recalls Holyoke’s Industrial Past

Echoes of Industry:
The Death and Rebirth of Holyoke’s Mills
Jan – Feb, 2014

With 25 mills near the end of the 19th century, Holyoke was the largest paper manufacturer. Today these mills are reminders of another age – victims of fire, demolition or a new purpose. What remains offers a silent dignity that demands to be recorded.

This January and February, Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke remembers the city’s past through a display of artwork by Eric Broudy. “Echoes of Industry: The Death and Rebirth of Holyoke’s Mills” contains photographs Broudy took of the old, run-down mills – their exteriors and vast interiors, the “architectural details with rubble and shattered windows” – and a video installation featuring footage of Holyoke mills being given new life, through the development of creative spaces like art galleries, dance and yoga studios, offices, restaurants, even homes, in these once-mighty industrial structures…

Read the rest of this entry »

The Holyoke History Walk: A Virtual Tour of the City

The Holyoke History Walk: A Virtual Tour of the City

“Holyoke, Massachusetts is marked as one of the first planned industrial cities famed for its paper manufacturing,” writes Penni Martorell, City Historian. “The City’s rich past is reflected in its architecture: remnants of the paper mills topped with wrought iron widow’s walks; the stunning City Hall, buffeted on all sides by stained glass windows; and the central train depot, originally designed by H.H. Richardson. The Holyoke History Walk was created to engage the public with the history of the city through their direct geographic interaction with its architecture, monuments, and historic landscapes while at the same time utilizing historical collections and materials present in the city’s archival records.”

Have you ever walked, biked, or driven through downtown Holyoke and wondered about the history of the city’s numerous old buildings?  Each empty mill, towering church, and brick rowhouse tells a story of the city’s past.  An exploration of Holyoke’s history reveals a rich, diverse, and complicated history.  Visitors to Holyoke can now learn about the city’s history themselves – from home or while exploring the city’s streets thanks to the Wistariahurst Museum!

The Museum has recently added a gigantic community resource to its repertoire- the Holyoke History Walk, available on the museum’s website, offering a comparative look at the city and many of its streets and buildings as they once were (up to 125 years ago). Read the rest of this entry »

Victorian Lawn Games & Intro to Classical Music in Holyoke

Wistariahurst Museum Hosts Victorian Game Day & Beethoven’s Wig

Marjorie Latham of the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA writes:

Are you and your kids looking for some great ways to have fun this coming weekend? We would love to see you!  Wistariahurst Museum is hosting two free youth events this Saturday and Sunday, June 2nd & 3rd!

Victorian Game Day on the Lawn at Wistariahurst: On Saturday, June 2, from 1 to 3pm, Wistariahurst is hosting an afternoon of old-fashioned outdoor games on the lawn. Visitors of all ages are welcome to play a rousing game of croquet, volley the birdie with an invigorating match of badminton, let kites soar as high as they’ll go, or keep their elegance intact with the Victorian favorite, “Graces.”

Richard Perlmutter as “Beethoven’s Wig” in Concert: On Sunday, June 3 at 2pm, we’ll keep up the exciting pace with an energetic concert for kids! As you may know, Wistariahurst has a proud musical history. The Italianate music room that Miss Belle Skinner had built in 1914 housed a rare collection of instruments and welcomed guests to enjoy both their beauty and sound. On that musical note, we welcome Richard Perlmutter into Belle’s Music Room. His 4-time Grammy nominated “Beethoven’s Wig” is a fabulous introduction to classical music for children of all ages. Perlmutter was inspired by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and the rhythmic phrase “Beethoven’s Wig is very big.” He has continued creating silly lyrics and has many an album’s worth of classical songs with added humorous lyrics. Bring your family, your friends and have a great time on the lawn and in the Music Room this coming weekend at Wistariahurst Museum.

Saturday’s Victorian Game Day and Sunday’s Beethoven’s Wig Concert are FREE! Wistariahurst Museum is located at 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke, MA.  For more information call 413-322-5660 or visit online at

[Image courtesy Wistariahurst Museum via BBC Primary History.]

Hear the Tales of Local History at the Wistariahurst Museum

History Comes Alive in Holyoke

Students and families have a great opportunity to learn about local history by taking a tour of the Wistariahurst Mansion with the last living Skinner descendant to call Wistariahurst home on Sunday, June 19th @ 4pm in Holyoke, MA.

Marjorie Latham of Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA writes:

For most people, Wistariahurst is a museum. But when Allerton Kilborne enters the home on Cabot Street, it is like entering a time machine. On Sunday, June 19th at 4pm, Allerton will return to Holyoke to offer a tour of Wistariahurst as he remembers it as a child and will share intimate stories about the family not often told. Allerton lived at Wistariahurst with his grandmother, Katharine Skinner Kilborne, and a full staff, whom he remembers in detail and with great affection.

Two years ago, the Springfield Republican wrote the following about following Kilborne on a tour of the house: “Allerton Kilborne has given tours before at Wistariahurst according to museum executive director, Melissa Boisselle, and each time, the tours have been extremely popular. Last week’s tour was no exception. More than 40 people attended the event…Kilborne began the tour by talking about the well known history of the Skinner family. . . But it was the lesser known, intimate stories about the Skinner family that seemed to keep the audience spellbound.” Read the rest of this entry »

A Day at the Children’s Museum in Holyoke

Children’s Museum in Holyoke

It’s winter here. The ground is cold, but not yet snow-covered. The days have been getting shorter and we’ve hit the point at which they will grow longer again. We spend our time at home with playdough, legos and K’nex. My two older kids, Henry and Isaac, are at school. Weekends have been filled with cookie-baking and holiday traditions of many kinds. Henry is tired from school. Isaac is busy with friends and homework. I still have a preschooler home most of the time, even while I learn to parents a soon-to-be adolescent. It’s my youngest son, Theo who requires keeping busy during these winter months. He wants and needs to run, jump, climb, crash, spill and splash. At a friend’s house, he begged for the pool so he could float some boats. The thermostat said 17 degrees. I shuddered to think of it, but I do see his point: cabin fever.

I’ve been looking for a few spots worthy of the preschooler’s outing: either in the morning before his afternoon preschool starts, or on Fridays, which for Theo are currently school-free, stay at home with mom days. The Children’s Museum at Holyoke is a fantastic winter spot for preschool aged kids looking to get out some energy. Henry is on the younger side for 1st grade, and I will absolutely return during one of our vacation weeks because I think he’d enjoy it as well.

The first thing to know is that the museum is not big. You can take a preschooler there for an hour or so, so you don’t have to wait for the weekend when it may be more crowded. We picked up our library passes from the Forbes Library in downtown Northampton so it was a free visit for the two us.

What Theo loved the most was the over-sized water table. It is really more like a water-course with multiple levels. He is at an age where engineering the course of the flowing water was interesting to him and he set about it very diligently in a scientific way. I am at an age in which I am pleased to sit down on the bench and take out my knitting while he did that for as long as he liked (about 25 minutes – I counted just out of curiosity.)

There is a 2-3 story indoor climbing structure. As a playground, it isn’t much — but in the dead of winter, while stuck inside, it really captured my little guys’ attention. I kept sending him back up over and over to see how long I could keep his body moving — again, me with the knitting and verbal encouragement from the bench.

There were some areas for pretend play such as an ambulance, a restaurant and grocery store. Theo buzzed through these a bit in favor of more physical activities but if your toddler or preschooler is deep into pretend and dress-up, they’d be very satisfied.

Other exhibits that attracted Theo were anything that he could call science. He has learned from his brothers that science is cool. He played with the gravity maze for such a long time — arranging and rearranging tubes to make ping-pong balls travel down a complex path — that I began to wonder if I should make one whole wall of his bedroom magnetic. We’ve bumped into that same gravity maze at the Cup and Top Cafe in Florence, MA where it will entertain him while I chat with grown-ups and drink my tea before it gets cold.

The Children’s Museum at Holyoke is open Wednesday – Saturday from 10-4 and on Sundays from 12-4. There are bathrooms, water fountains and the ground level has indoor picnic tables that look like you could pack a quick bite if there is no birthday party or field trip taking up the spot. In warmer weather, we will go back and hit the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round as well. It was a lovely trip and a sweet reminder to me that I still do have a very young child at home and taking him on his own adventure is very satisfying for both of us.  For m0re information visit:


Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT TICKET GIVEAWAY: Willie Nelson & Family at Mountain Park

Like This!

Willie Nelson & Family at Mountain Park
Holyoke, MA
Sunday, August 8th, 2010 @ 7pm

Deadline to enter to win: August 4th

Hilltown Families and Iron Horse Entertainment Group have partnered up to offer a chance to win free tickets to see adult venues in the Pioneer Valley for a PARENTS’ NIGHT OUT! You pay for the sitter, we’ll pay for the tickets!

This month we are pleased to offer a chance to win a pairs of tickets to see Willie Nelson & Family at Mountain Park in Holyoke, MA on Sunday, August 8th, 2010.

Win the tickets and take your spouse, partner or good friend for a night out. Deadline to enter to win is Wednesday, 08/04/10 @ 7pm (EST). More details below.


Following its opening in 1894 as a picturesque retreat on the side of Mount Tom, Mountain Park expanded and evolved into one of the most beloved amusement parks in New England. At the beginning of the 20th century, Holyoke was the most prosperous community in the state and the first planned industrial city in the United States. The city’s progress drew crowds of visitors to Mountain Park, and the park gradually developed into a bustling destination. Although the park closed its gates in 1987, the echoes of laughter from generations of visitors still reverberate throughout the Pioneer Valley. Today, Mountain Park evolves into the next millennium as a new host for music, entertainment and outdoor family fun.


Willie Nelson played a vital role in post-rock & roll country music. Although he didn’t become a star until the mid-’70s, Nelson spent the ’60s writing songs that became hits for stars like Ray Price (“Night Life”), Patsy Cline (“Crazy”), Faron Young (“Hello Walls”), and Billy Walker (“Funny How Time Slips Away”) as well as releasing a series of records that earned him a small, but devoted, cult following. During the early ’70s, Willie aligned himself with Waylon Jennings and the burgeoning outlaw country movement that made him into a star in 1975, as recognizable in pop circles as he was to the country audience. In addition to recording, he also launched an acting career in the early ’80s. Willie has never played it safe musically. Instead, he borrowed from a wide variety of styles, including traditional pop, Western swing, jazz, traditional country, cowboy songs, honky tonk, rock & roll, folk, and the blues, creating a distinctive, elastic hybrid. Nelson has gone back to his roots for his new album Country Music, produced by T-Bone Burnett and featuring a collection of vintage country standards played by Nashville’s top flight bluegrass musicians.


Your chance to win a pair of tickets to see Wilie Nelson and Family at Mountain Park on Sunday, August 8th at 7pm is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. SHARE YOUR FAVORITE COUNTRY OR BLUEGRASS SONG BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 08/04/10 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win you should still go. Check out the Mountain Park music line-up here. Tickets are available at the Northampton Box office, online at, or by calling 413-586-8686.

Festive Food of Ireland

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Festive Food of Ireland by D. AllenSt. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, responsible, we are told, for converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He used the shamrock to illustrate how three separate leaves united by one stem resembled the Trinity. To this day the shamrock, the emblem of Ireland, is proudly worn on March 17th.

Patrick’s Day, Ireland’s principal feast day, came as a welcome break during Lent in the days of austere fasting. As children we were all expected to ‘give up’ something for Lent. Our beloved sweets and sticky toffee bars were the most obvious if reluctant choice and any that came our way were carefully hoarded so we could have a mighty feast on St. Patrick’s Day.

Children still wear little green badges and the girls sport green ribbons in their hair. In many parts of the country people go to a ceili of traditional Irish dancing in the evening. Men who ‘take the pledge’ and forswear alcohol for Lent) still a surprisingly common occurrence) often celebrate on the feast day by drinking the Pota Padraig.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by Irish people both at home and abroad. In farflung corners of the world the Irish come together on this day to tuck in to corned beef and cabbage or boiled bacon and cabbage, the traditional emigrants’ meal.

(Excerpt from The Festive Food of Ireland by Darian Allen)


As you slide down the banister of life,
May the splinters never point in the wrong direction!

Free Cone Day!

Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival ’07

Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival
March 10th – March 31st, 2007

Through collaborative community effort, the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival will be offering a spectacular array of award-winning, entertaining films from around the world this month. Hilltown families and filmgoers of all ages can enjoy compelling drama, comedy, documentary, and shorts from the best film festivals.

The PVJFF runs for three weeks and includes discussions with filmmakers and other speakers, social receptions, art exhibits, and concerts. Film venues range from the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Showcase Cinema, to the Smith College Museum of Art and the Pleasant Street Theatre. Click here for a complete list of venues and film schedules.

Amy Dryansky from the festivals steering committee, has suggested two film programs that may be of interest to hilltown parents:

Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day ’07

%d bloggers like this: