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Local artist honors memory of Pleasant Street Theater with marquetry portrait

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  • Silas Kopf in his Easthampton studio.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Silas Kopf in his Easthampton studio.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMHERST CINEMA<br/>A marquetry panel by artist Silas Kopf of the former Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton recently sold on an eBay auction for $5,100.<br/>

    PHOTO COURTESY OF AMHERST CINEMA
    A marquetry panel by artist Silas Kopf of the former Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton recently sold on an eBay auction for $5,100.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMHERST CINEMA<br/>This marquetry panel by Silas Kopf, depicting the former Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, will be auctioned on eBay to benefit Amherst Cinema.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF AMHERST CINEMA
    This marquetry panel by Silas Kopf, depicting the former Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, will be auctioned on eBay to benefit Amherst Cinema. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Silas Kopf in his Easthampton studio.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMHERST CINEMA<br/>A marquetry panel by artist Silas Kopf of the former Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton recently sold on an eBay auction for $5,100.<br/>
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF AMHERST CINEMA<br/>This marquetry panel by Silas Kopf, depicting the former Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton, will be auctioned on eBay to benefit Amherst Cinema.

Fans of the former Pleasant Street Theater are being treated to a unique memento: To honor the legacy of the Northampton movie theater that closed in June, Northampton artist Silas Kopf has created a marquetry panel depicting the theater in its heyday.

The original artwork is being auctioned off this week on eBay, with proceeds benefitting the Amherst Cinema, which for four years had operated the Northampton theater under its non-profit umbrella.

Marquetry is the art and craft of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. Kopf’s piece, a panel measuring 37 inches by 27 inches, depicts families milling about in front of the theater as they get ready for an afternoon of film watching.

“I’m pleased to see the proceeds go to the Amherst Cinema which is still keeping art film alive here in the Valley,” said Kopf, 63. He volunteered to make the panel after Carol Johnson, executive director for the Amherst Cinema Arts Center, approached him about a fundraising effort, looking for items to sell or auction off.

“It’s especially wonderful to have Silas’ support. As an artist, he knows how important the arts are to our Valley,” Johnson said in a phone interview last week. “It’s the first time we’ve been honored to receive a work of this quality. It’s really an extraordinary piece of work. Every little part of the picture is a piece of wood that’s been cut to fit just exactly in where it goes.”

Johnson said she decided to use eBay for the fundraiser because it is an internationally recognized and trusted site, and it will allow people all over the world to bid on the work. The value of the piece is estimated at $10,000. Bidding began on Dec. 9 and will run until Dec. 16 at 9 a.m.

Although Kopf hasn’t sold any of his work via eBay before, he says he is curious to see how it pans out.

“I think this is a creative way of getting more people involved. This way, it could draw non-locals,” he said. “I think it’s a fine idea.”

Ardent fans

The Pleasant Street Theater was founded in the 1970s by Steve Brown and Dennis Curran. It changed hands several times before it closed in 2007. Over the years, the theater served as an important destination for art-film enthusiasts, Johnson said.

Kopf first visited the theater in 1977, when he and his wife, Linda, were deciding whether or not to live in Northampton. They fell in love with it that night, he says, and remained fans of the place until its last day.

In 2007, when then-owner, Bob Lawton, announced plans to close the theater, the Kopfs and another couple, Bruce and Rita Bleiman of Northampton, spearheaded a successful campaign to save the theater. They were instrumental in the theater’s reopening in January 2008, Johnson said.

“Because of that financial support, we were able to keep the Pleasant Street Theater open for over four more years,” she wrote in an email to the Gazette. “The Valley thus had over four more years of quality, independent, foreign, quirky, Academy Award- winning films.”

Now that the theater has closed, Kopf says he’s invested in keeping its memory alive.

“I think we have a great art community here in the Valley and that encompasses all different types of arts: visual, performance, music and film certainly fits into that,” Kopf said. “If we do not have an arts cinema here, I think it will leave a big gap in our cultural community.”

Kopf’s original artwork will be on display from through Dec. 16 at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton. A full-size photograph of the panel is on display in the Amherst Cinema lobby.

For a link to the bidding website, visit http://amherstcinema.org/node/1105. Bidding ends Dec. 16 at 9 a.m.

The Amherst Cinema will also hold another “Movie trivia bee” fundraiser on March 10, 2013. To participate, form or join a team to compete with your knowledge of the movies.

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