March 05 2021 Edition
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By the Way
I'm looking for a word that should exist in English ... it's about how you get involved with a new set of ideas. It’s the way you get excited when something pulls at you and you want to know more. Something about it hits home for you. You find yourself playing with it in your mind and talking with a friend while you’re walking through a snowstorm.

It’s the way you get excited. You learn and tell the story, and challenge it, and grow from it, and create something entirely your own. It's an active and curious relationship. It's about listening. It's about respect and honesty and glee. It's about knowing something intimately.

I was talking this week with Gaia DeNisi, a vibrant writer for BTW, about artist and curator Wendy Red Star coming for a roundtable with MCLA and the National Museum of the American Indian, and Gaia was reminding me how deeply and vividly Wendy Red Star tells stories.

She will look at a historic moment, as she does at Mass MoCA: She gathers photographs here from the in the 1880s, when leaders of Apsáalooke nation came to Washington D.C. as ambassadors for their people. And she draws out their stories and sets them in the present, beside and within her own art.

She showed me the expression in their eyes. They were generals, veterans and ambassadors, thousands of miles from home. She showed me the way these posed photographs tried to constrain them — and she looked clear through to their courage and vision.

With her guideance, I saw a man who had gone to war in his teens and become a leader. He lived in the high mountains and meadows in Montana, and he came to a hostile capital to protect his people. He was walking city streets in the cold and drawing sketches of animals in captivity. His name is Peelatchiwaaxpáash, and he had brilliant dreams.

Red Star changes the images she touches. She shows them in a new light. She saves understanding that could have been lost, and she creates new worlds. I wanted a word to explain her relationship with these stories and photographs, histories and contemporary imaginings. But ... what word?

It can be vital to challenge records like this, and she does, powerfully. And she upholds the human strength in these people. What she’s doing is more openly challenging than exploring, larger than contending, more generous and many-sided than debating … and if we don’t have a word for it, how can we learn to do it?

While I was wondering, Berkshire Museum introduced me to another woman who challenged expectations and found passion in the life of the mind, and walked in the mountains. A few years after Peelatchiwaaxpáash came east, Florence Bascom would hike up here in the river valleys in sturdy boots, studying rock formations.

She has a crater on venus named for her, and a vanished glacial lake that once covered the Hoosic River Valley. She was the first woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in geology, and she grew up here. And she put some part of what I was thinking into words: “The fascination of any search after truth lies … in the pursuit, where all the powers of the mind and character are brought into play and are absorbed by the task.” — By the Way Berkshires


Wendy Red Star draws out stories in a portrait of Peelatchiwaaxpash / Medicine Crow (Raven). Photo Courtesy of the artist and Mass MoCA.

Wendy Red Star re-imagines care of Native stories

Artist and curator Wendy Red Star, Mass MoCA and MCLA host a virtual roundtable exploring the ways museums can re-think care for Indigenous objects.

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Mike Zabian tries on a tie and an orange vest at Zabian's, his family business in Lee. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Zabian family builds businesses and trust on Main Street

Mike Zabian cuts a striking figure as he strolls in front of the Main Street building that bears his name, wearing dark gray slacks and an orange wool sweater-vest, smiling at people passing by.

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Oyster mushrooms flourish on a log.

Medicinal Mushrooms

January 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Explore the healing properties of mushrooms with herbalist Hannah Jacobson-Hardy, owner of Sweet Birch Herbals, and Berkshire Botanical Garden.

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Pleasant Valley beeches in snow H

Winter Ecology: Snow and Ice

January 30 at 10 a.m.

Mass Audubon teacherand naturalist Dale Abrams will explore the beauty and physical properties of New England winter.

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BodySonnet, a collective of dancers and choreographers, performs new work.

An evening with Bodysonnet dancers

January 30 at 8 p.m. (online)

Bodysonnet, a collective of young contemporary dance makers and performers in the Berkshires, will welcome the New Year at a virtual cocktail club, to watch dance and celebrate the future.

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A globe-like metal sculpture stands outside the United Nations in New York City.

Samantha Power: The Education of an Idealist

February 2 at 6 p.m. (online)

Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and Academy Award-winning actress Laura Dern get together for a wide-ranging conversation on Power’s critically acclaimed memoir, 'The Education of an Idealist.'

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A hand holds out an open book in evening light.

Online Poetry: Mary Jo Salter

February 3 at 1 p.m. (virtual)

Online Poetry: Medicine for the Soul welcomes Mary Jo Salter — poet and professor, editor, essayist, playwright, and lyricist — for a virtual reading.

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Cedar waxwings forage for berries in winter. Photo by Zachary Adams, naturalist at Pleasant Valley Sanctuaries.

Birds in the Landscape

February 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Naturalist Zach Adams and the Berkshire Botanical Garden explore native New England landscapes and the birds that call them home.

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