Women in the sky in vivid color — #berkshireweekend

Two women holding each other, relaxed and smiling in a swirl of color — they look like the kind of world I want to live in. And they’re vivid and tall as trees in the middle of North Street. Sylvia López Chavez, I want to thank you for bringing life to where we live.

I’m walking through downtown on a sunny afternoon, and I’m looking out for the newest mural in the city’s Let It Shine project. And here they are, her women gathering the eye in blue and red and yellow and green, and they are luminous. Chavez has created commissions around the world. A Dominican-American artist, she lives and works in Boston, and she knows the Berkshires as an artist in residence at Mass MoCA.

She describes her work as a conversation in community with the people who live where her murals will come into being, and I wonder about all of the people and spirits she invokes here in her two women, one of them laughing and looking outward, one of them with a rainbow of highlights in her hair looking poised to kiss the sky.

Two women hold each other in a painting a building high, as Sylvia López Chavez' mural Sisterhood brings vivid color to North Street in Pittsfield.

Two women hold each other in a painting a building high, as Sylvia López Chavez' mural Sisterhood brings vivid color to North Street in Pittsfield.

And a block farther on, Berkshire artist and scholar Dashima Boyd reminds me where
they and I are standing. In a window, her display traces local stories, some I have never seen before, or only in passing. She tells me I’m looking across at Persip Park, dedicated to a family who have lived here more than a century. Alfred Persip was the first Black man in the Berkshires to enlist during World War I.

A few steps away a family is sitting in the sun outside Pancho’s, relaxing over lunch, and I can look across to the market and café at Placita Latina and the sign for the incoming Brazilian bakery.

People are resting in the park and talking on the sidewalks on a sunny day, and
Boyd and Chavez are tracing the stories of people around me, now and in the past, and I feel them tangibly alive.

Boyd tells me enslaved people lived in the Berkshires at least as early as the 1740s, more than 40 years before Elizabeth Freeman risked her life to prove her liberty and theirs. People walked on the underground railroad through Lanesborough and Pittsfield and Becket and rode hidden in wagons of sand —‘Cheshire Harbor sheltered people, not boats.’

Beside her work, Martin Luther King Jr. looks out from a painting with the sky reflected in his eyes, and National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman is speaking at an inauguration only a few years ago.

‘And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it …
so we can reach out our arms
to one another …’

Events coming up …

Find more art and performance, outdoors and food in the BTW events calendar.

Finnish illustrator, writer and visual artist Marika Maijala stands on the coast in a hooded jacket on a windy day.
Sep 28 2023 @ 5:00 pm
Before her appearance at the 2023 Brooklyn Book Festival, Finnish illustrator, writer and visual artist Marika Maijala joins Mass MoCA for an artist talk on Rosie Runsand hands-on silkscreen with Gary Lichtenstein.
Pastries topped with nuts and frosting gleam at the Break Room cafe in GreylockWorks, in North Adams.
Oct 1 2023 @ 9:30 am
GreylockWorks brings a mini makers market with a rotating array of local artisans, open studios and thoughtful food and drinks from The Break Room.
In kelli rae adams - Forever in Your Debt, bowls fill the hallway at Mass MoCA, some filled with coins and sme empty, considering the weight of student loans.
Oct 6 2023 @ 6:00 pm
Artist Kelli Rae Adams invites visitors to sample her freshly baked sourdough breads as she reflects on past work and shares insights into both current and future projects.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

If you’d like to see the website grow, you can join me for a few dollars a month, enough for a cup of coffee and a cider doughnut. Members get access to extra stories and multimedia, itineraries a bookmark tool. Let me know what you're looking for, and we’ll explore together.

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