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.

John Singer Sargent captures a meeting in a Spanish Street.
Mar 3 2024 @ 1:00 pm
The Clark invites the community to lift the curtain on a day of art, creativity, and fun — transform a box into a miniature theater using special images from the Clark’s collection and more.
Parents and their young daughter laugh and exclaim over the art in Kidspace at Mass MoCA.
Mar 7 2024 @ 10:30 am
Families with children up to 6 years old are invited to join Mass MoCA museum educators for a storytime and related exploration in the galleries.
People gather among the local restaurants, taco truck and microbrewery in the Mass MoCA courtyard at night.
Mar 10 2024 @ 10:00 am
On the day of each new moon — believed by many to be a time of rebirth — visitors to Like Magic at Mass MoCA are invited into Grace Clark’s 'In a new light (Healing Dirt).'

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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