Learning Ahead: Agricultural Fairs

Local Traditions & Cultures: Agricultural Fairs

As summer winds down and signs of autumn appear, annual agricultural fairs throughout Western Massachusetts mark the season with celebrations of local culture through the lens of farming traditions. Beginning as early as August, these annual fairs honor the unique character of towns throughout our region, fostering community pride, and strengthening intergenerational relationships through a shared interest and experience. With a stroll through exhibition halls on the fairgrounds and experiencing both traditional skills, crafts, and customs, visitors can support their interests through various learning opportunities while cultivating relationships and strengthening a deeper sense of place.

With many exhibition categories reserved specifically for youngsters, exhibition halls offer families the opportunity to share their own work, projects, and produce with others – and the opportunity to share the active role that they have in preserving local culture. See our post, Youth Participation at Agricultural Fairs Learning about History, Agriculture, Science & More.

Agricultural fairs help to preserve our local history by showcasing the skills, crafts and home-grown produce unique to rural life that have been cherished and passed on for generations. Through participation in these rich traditions we support the preservation of culture, local history, and a connection to place.   The agricultural fair’s long-standing presence in New England history reminds people of the importance in gathering to celebrate and share, even during difficult times, in order to foster a sense of community and collaborative spirit.  Many fairs are over 150 years old and have even taken place during some of our country’s most difficult economic periods and war time.  These generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities afford families opportunities to participate in intergenerational community-based traditions while offering a myriad of entertainment and skill-sharing experiences inspired by a shared interest in traditional crafts, history, land, and art.

These annual community-based events give learners great insight to the past through current day traditions. Take the time to learn about the long and rich history of our agricultural fairs and you’ll have a renewed way of viewing the many traditions found at each fair. Historical society museums are at some fairgrounds, open during the fair for families to view primary source artifacts and antique equipment displays. Come curious and bring your questions!

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Agricultural Fairs Support a Sense of Place & Interest in Domestic Arts

Domestic Arts at Agricultural Fairs

Agricultural fairs are a great way to explore the domestic arts and understand the quality of items made by hand. Exhibition halls are filled with different handmade crafts and culinary arts, such as quilts, preserves, knitwear, canned goods, and pies – all tokens from our past that still have a place in our present today.

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Learning through the Lens of Quilts: Featured Exhibits & Events

3 Community-Based Events Support Interests & Education Through the Lens of Quilting

Karen Pratt Exhibit
BINGO! Gallery at Shire City Sanctuary
September 2016

The BINGO! Gallery at Shire City Sanctuary is proud to present the Karen Pratt Exhibit, which features the work of local quilt artist Karen Pratt during the month of September. Each year, Hoffman California Fabrics hosts a world-wide quilting contest. The quilt collection on display represents a chronological journey of Pratt’s entries into the Hoffman Challenge, which she has participated in since 1997 and uses to challenge herself as an artist. The exhibit supports the work of a local artist while introducing textiles as a distinct and practical form of art. The exhibit will be on view throughout the month of September 2016 at the BINGO! Gallery at Shire City Sanctuary. 40 Melville Street, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

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Why Quilting?

Quilting Offers Multidisciplinary Exploration of Math and Art

Often, math and art are seen as opposites: structure and the lack thereof. At the intersection of the two, however, lies quilting: an art form that is inherently mathematical. Families can explore everything from shape identification to tessellations by learning to create quilts together! Read more in our post, Quilting Offers Multidisciplinary Exploration of Math and Art.

Why Knitting?

Knitting Supports Explorations of History, Agriculture & Mathematics

An age-old skill, knitting provides us with some of our most treasured warm clothes. Learning the art of knitting can not only help to provide warmth, but can lead to explorations of local history, local agriculture, and complex math – and families can even engage in service-based learning by donating hand-knitted goods to help support people in need! Read more in our post, Knitting Supports Explorations of History, Agriculture & Mathematics.

Community-Based Education Resources: Explore Your Interests in the Domestic Arts

Learning through the Lens of Textile Arts: Featured Events

Western MA Landscape: Farmers’ Castles by Robert Strong Woodward

Castles in Western MA

Agriculture has it’s influence in all facets of food, habitat, and culture in New England. Artists often reflect back to us this influence in their art work, finding inspiration in the landscape that agriculture has shaped in our region. An exhibit in Deerfield, Farmers’ Castles, showcases the work of western Massachusetts artist Robert Strong Woodward (1885-1957) with a selection of paintings that celebrates our landscape and the castles that dotted the horizons… barns!

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