Trombones and Temptations: The Whitney Center for the Arts
42 Wendell Avenue
April 2, 2016
Who the hell is that man with the trombone and why’s he standing in the portico of that building, I say to myself as I look for a parking space on Wendell Avenue. I’m delivering my tax return papers to the accountant I’ve known since my days in Pittsfield, my home town.
I’m twenty minutes early. I park the car.
First surprise: Aha…it’s actually a mannequin holding that shiny brass trombone and by then I’ve seen the sign announcing The Whitney Center for the Arts.
So here I am nodding hello to the trombone man and walking into an Italian Villa style mansion built in 1865. Crystal chandeliers cast a warm glow on three sumptuous Grier Horner paintings in the foyer. French yellow ochre walls, burnished wood crown moldings and parquet flooring, replete with a deep jade painted ceiling are an enticing point of entry.
Gallery W, the larger of The Whitney's two galleries, off the right side of the foyer is well-illuminated, the artwork strategically hung to give proportional space for viewers to enjoy groupings or individual work.
This month’s exhibit is entitled “Temptations.” The subject matter loosely lives up to the title. Paul Graubard leads the parade with a puckish sense of humor in his collages and oil paintings of frolicsome figures. With spring in the air, a little nudity, expressed with levity and exuberance, probably resonates in our DNA. With “Eat, Drink, Be Merry,” his quirky mixed media drawing on black background (photo below), he’s created his own Garden of Eden with familiar earthly enticements.
Julian Grey’s two seductive black and white photos will be an intriguing surprise when you check out his web site.
Tom McGill’s “push and pull” looks like a tour de force of that combine subject matter and treatment that stir his pot. The 77”x49” piece is actually 24 12”x12” panels, all created with acrylic and enamel on un-stretched canvas and hung together on grommets. My guess is that this collection could be rearranged in any random order and still pack a punch.
Twenty minutes has zipped by in a flash.
“We present chamber music programs, cabaret nights, opera nights, both with food and beverage service, theater events, and a new art exhibit every month,” Gallery director Leo Mazzeo says as I walk out the door.
"The Whit" is a little gem with facets that sparkle with energy and purpose. It appears to have figured out a way to engage the community with a broad range of visual and performing arts, a vibrant example of the re-energized arts/culture scene in Pittsfield.
Pittsfield has been staging a renaissance. Twenty years ago, a drive up the main drag, North Street, was depressing. Boarded up store fronts and a general sense of seediness had overtaken what was a bustling commercial district before GE pulled out of town in the mid 2000s. Honestly, I thought it was a death spiral and that I’d stop chirping about the fact I spent the first part of my life anchored here.
The esteemed Barrington Theater Company bought a dilapidated movie theater and set up camp in 2005. It seems to have been an elixir that revived the city. A raft of playhouses, museums and theaters followed suit.
3:30 PM. Time to cross the street to another re-purposed building on Wendell Avenue, my CPA’s office. If the arts scene in Pittsfield continues its growth, it’s going to need more than one lone trombone player to herald its ascension.
PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS
The main gallery in this enterprising arts center - the creatively leveraged space is perfect for exhibits, cabaret seating with tables (with catered food!), theater style seating for plays and readings and yes, Opera Night! The arts center is way ahead of the curve by multi-purposing the space to increase its audience, contributor, and client base.
Works by Tom McGill, Paul Graubard, Julian Grey on the theme of "Temptations".
"The artists participating in 'Temptations' include Nayana Glazier, Paul Graubard, Julian Grey, Tom McGill, Sara Farrell Okamura, Joan Rooks, and Karen Schiltz. Glazier, Okamura, and Schiltz have work in the larger Gallery W space only. Rooks has work in the smaller Colt Gallery room only. Graubard, Grey, and McGill have work in both rooms," Leo Mazzeo tells me in an email after my brief visit.
Glazier is from Athol, MA, Graubard, Rooks, and Schiltz are from Pittsfield. Grey and McGill are from North Adams, MA, McGill is from Hudson, NY.
The Colt Gallery, a smaller gallery across the foyer from the Gallery W (visible through doorway) contains the rest of the "Temptations" offerings. Joan Rooks painted the linoleum tiles here and in the W Gallery.
Multi purpose main gallery, versatile setting for classic and contemporary music, staged readings, lectures, and vocal music.
iPhotos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.