ID: Al Williams

Last modified: Friday, December 19, 2014

Al Williams, executive director of Northampton Community Television, has spent most of his life in western Massachusetts. Born in Detroit, he moved here when he was 4, when his father’s work brought the family to the area. He grew up in East Longmeadow and lived in Northampton, Springfield and Chicopee before moving to Holyoke.

Besides his work for community television, he is a visual artist, and says he believes that expression is a necessity of life.

“My work is very process-based and the medium is largely spray paint on various materials such as Masonite, plywood, canvas and insulation,” Williams said. “I use a lot of stencils made out of the sprues from board games as well as handmade stencils, materials such as jigsaw puzzles, champagne glasses, harmonicas, plates, rain, tape, just about anything depending on the piece.”

Williams is on the national board of the Alliance for Community Media and is involved with the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. He says he’s also been involved on the national level in imagining what new public media means.

He says he loves beets, community media, public art, new medium story crafting, legal graffiti, philosophy of action, telecommunications policy issues, The Commons, his family and Kathy Bisbee.

Full name: Peter Albert Williams

People know you as: Al

Date and place of birth: April 21, 1973, Detroit

Town of residence: Holyoke

Who lives under the same roof as you? Kathy Bisbee, my life partner

Children: None

Education: Bachelor’s degree in philosophy, Boston College, 1995. I also attended (and dropped out on the first day) law school at Lewis and Clark Law in Portland, Oregon, in 2003

Pets: My cats, Thian and Chai

Hobbies: Painting, playing music, reading, cooking, thinking, rambling

Book you’d recommend to a friend: “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas Hofstadter

Favorite movie/TV show/musical group: Movie — “Dead Man”; TV show — “The Wire”; group — Ozomatli

Five items you can’t live without: Towel, shoes, cellphone, Red Sox hat, bathtub

Last thing you purchased just for fun: Airplane tickets to Peru — to see Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and Cusco, with my partner. I just got back! It was fantastic. Horseback riding, ruins, kind people, cooking classes, awe-inspiring nature and my first time below the equator

Life ­changing experience: Birth

Strangest job you ever held: Baking and curing printed circuit boards

Your current Facebook status: Gathering up our share from the local CSA on a crisp autumn day. Beautiful light, beautiful woman. And scissors

A little­ known fact about you: My great­-great-­great-­great­-great-­great-­great uncle was Benjamin Franklin

Dumbest thing you ever did: At moments, I have failed to appreciate how precious life is

One product you’d like to see return: Presto Magix — a create-your-own scene toy from the ’70s and ’80s. It contained scenes and a sheet of characters/items/etc. that you would scratch off with a pencil onto the scene. There’s something nostalgic I feel about them. I never hear anyone talk about them, and they had a tactile aspect to them that is so missing from a lot of experiences in 2014. They were simple but unique

What really sets you off? Misrepresentation

If you could spend the day with a celebrity from any time in history, who would it be? The first alien or AI an order of magnitude more intelligent than humanity, in the future, to appreciate a sense of what that means

Best advice you ever got: From my father, watching him stare out a window and talk of the grass growing, from a seed, with light and water, into beautiful grass, taken for granted, and to see him rear back his head and laugh loud and wild and say, “That is a miracle”

Favorite place to get a bite: Santiago, Spain, for fresh, simple delicious, fresh local chiperones a la plancha, pulpo a la gallega, olivas, pimientos de padron, rioja and crema de herba

Favorite team: The Boston Red Sox

What does your ideal weekend look like? With my partner on a 100 days-­long, multi­-country adventure with exotic food, intermittently interrupted by soaking in hot springs, reading novels and making plenty of art

One thing you would change about yourself: I’d be smarter

What gives you the creeps? Needles and leeches, because they are awful

People who knew you in high school thought you were: Intelligent, radical, respected

Whom do you most admire? My father, because he is the most genuine, authentic and world-enamored person I have ever had the honor of knowing

Parting shot: Go live. All life is art. Make mistakes. Be true. Forgive. Listen. Race to extinction in unfettered joy

— Compiled by Brenda Nelson

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