Poetry & Place in the Hilltowns

Poetry & Place: Exploring the Hilltown Home of 19th Century Poet William Cullen Bryant

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Kindred Spirits was commissioned by the merchant-collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift for William Cullen Bryant in gratitude for the nature poet’s moving eulogy to Thomas Cole, who had died suddenly in early 1848. It shows Cole, who had been Jonathan Sturges mentor, standing in a gorge in Catskills in company of a mutual friend William Cullen Bryant. Painting is by artist Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886).

Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscapes and natural settings. Since April is National Poetry Month, the spring season is a great time to explore some of the homes and writing places of local poets from the past, such as the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an editor, abolitionist, conservationist and poet. He grew up in Cummington, MA and later purchased his childhood home and converted it to a country house. Known for his poems inspired by nature, Bryant was also well acquainted with prominent Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. The three of them used their artistic talents in painting and writing to champion the American landscape and helped to inspire the American conservation movement. You can read more about Bryant and his life here: www.poetryfoundation.org.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, now a property of The Trustees of Reservations, houses a wonderful collection of items from Bryant’s lifetime as well as interesting objects from later decades left by Bryant’s descendants and those that lived there. The property also boasts an old growth forest and a trail system that follows a rivulet – a water feature Bryant wrote about in 1823 in his poem The Rivulet. Read this poem and his most famous, Thanatopsis.

This spring and summer, The Trustees of Reservations have a variety of activities planned for folks at the homestead where visitors can volunteer, experience history and learn more about this interesting place and its antique objects. These events offer a variety of opportunities to engage your local community through different interests such as community service, local history, poetry, food traditions, and ecology, and hiking.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration

The Art of Clean Water: A Family Celebration

What do storm drains have in common with art, watersheds, and poetry? They’ll all be a part of The Art of Clean Water celebration put on by Enchanted Circle Theater and their community partners on Saturday, November 8th from 10am-11:30am at the Holyoke Public Library! The celebration will feature an unveiling of new artwork inspired by Holyoke students on several of the storm drains in downtown Holyoke. The event will be focused on education and advocacy around water for youth and local families and will have activities and opportunities to learn for the whole family.

Bring your children to investigate microscopic critters with the Hitchcock Center, create trash art and poetry with the Connecticut River Watershed Council, and learn about rain gardens with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission… to name just a few highlights! Read the rest of this entry »

Photography of Ansel Adams Comes to Western MA!

Ansel Adams: Masterworks on View
Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA
February 9th – June 2nd, 2013

Berkshire Museum presents the special photography exhibition Ansel Adams: Masterworks from February 9 to June 2, 2013. An opening reception will be held Saturday, February 9, from 5 to 7pm. The exhibition features forty-eight works by Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984), about two-thirds of a selection Adams made late in his life to serve as a succinct representation of his life’s work. He himself felt these photographs were his best. The images are from the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.

The Berkshire Museum welcomes their newest exhibit this week!  Beginning February 9th, “Ansel Adams: Masterworks,” will be down in the museum’s galleries.  The show contains 48 pieces of Adams’ most striking nature photography, on loan from the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.  Titled, “The Museum Set,” the works feature scenes from across the country – Yosemite National Park to groves of aspens in Colorado, Cape Cod to the Sierra Nevada.

Known for his breathtaking landscapes, Adams’ work also represented his commitment to the preservation of the natural world.  In photographing beautiful places in nature, he shared with others a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for the natural beauty of the world.  Not only is his work unique and beautiful art, but it sends a message to viewers – one that is difficult to forget.  The photographs are moving, and remind all who see them that nature is a precious resource.

A visit to the exhibit is perfect for young, budding photographers – they can learn about the scale upon which photography can take place, and will see classic examples of nature photography, not to mention a great supplement to art studies.  They can also learn to appreciate photography the way it used to be – when film and darkrooms were used, and digital point-and-shoot had yet to be thought of.  Non-photographers can learn from the exhibit, too – after viewing the images, think about the message that they send for conservation and the role that art plays in helping to create cultural change.

The exhibit is open during the Berkshire Museum’s regular hours, 10am-5pm Monday-Saturday and 12noon-5pm on Sundays.  For more information, call the museum at 413-443-7171. berkshiremuseum.org

[Image credit: Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958. Photograph by Ansel Adams. ©2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust]

Mass Audubon’s Annual Bird-a-thon: Where the Wild Things Are

Mass Audubon’s Annual Bird-a-thon Blends Birding Fun and Funds: May 14th-15th, 2010

Create a team with family and friends and together count the bird species in your neighborhood. A fun way to raise money for Mass Audubon! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On May 14th and 15th go where the wild things are with Mass Audubon’s Bird-a-thon. This fun annual event, for people of all abilities and ages, offers birders and nature enthusiasts the opportunity to participate in friendly competition while raising funds for Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries and programs. In fact, the Bird-a-thon pledges that you earn through your birding, or collect from donors, directly benefit birds. So, flock together with your family, friends, and neighbors to create a team, or make a pledge to help Mass Audubon protect the nature of Massachusetts.

Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries in Western Mass include:

The statewide Bird-a-thon, now in its 27th year, has grown to 25 teams and nearly 700 staff and volunteers who help raise thousands of dollars to benefit Mass Audubon’s efforts to protect wildlife. The 24-hour competition starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 14, and runs through 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 15. But you don’t have to participate the entire time—rotating shifts among teammates is encouraged! The 24-hour timetable allows flexibility in schedules and the chance to locate nocturnal birds.

Read the rest of this entry »

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