Arts Briefs

  • “Redemption of Breath,” a painting on view at the recently reopened Taber Art Gallery at Holyoke Community College. Image courtesy Holyoke Community College

  • The Pioneer Valley Symphony will return with a streaming performance on Oct. 9.  Image courtesy Pioneer Valley Symphony

  • A retrospective exhibit on the work of Amherst artist Sally Dillon is now on display at Leverett Crafts and Arts. Image from Leverett Crafts and Arts

  • Nigerian writer Uchenna Awoke, seen here at a Vermont arts colony in 2019, will take part in an online discussion Oct. 24 with the Pioneer Valley Writer’s Workshop. Image courtesy Joy Baglio

Published: 10/9/2021 11:37:36 AM
Taber Art Gallery reopens

After being shuttered for over 18 months because of the pandemic, the Taber Art Gallery at Holyoke Community College has reopened and is now hosting the exhibit “Cosmology of the Body” by Northampton artist Anna Bayles Arthur.

The 27 paintings and drawings by Arthur, who earned an Master of Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, represent work she created in the last few years, including since 2020, when the pandemic, climate catastrophe and other serious problems began dominating news coverage, she says.

“We live in a media-saturated culture, are daily bombarded by images, sounds, symbols, and stories,” Arthur said in a statement. “Yet somehow, the ancient drive to create remains — the impulse to channel whatever it is, and to reveal it to the world.”

Taber Gallery Director Amy Johnquest, after arranging some online shows through the gallery during the past year, says she’s grateful to welcome people back to the space and to host Arthur’s work: “[T]here is nothing like seeing the art in person.”

“Cosmology of the Body” runs through Dec. 9.

Pioneer Valley Symphonyback with streaming concert

Easing back into performance with a series of online and in-person concerts, the Pioneer Valley Symphony will launch its 2021-2022 season this Saturday, Oct. 9 with “Prelude to a New World,” a streaming concert featuring Franz Liszt’s tumultuous “Les Préludes” followed by Antonin Dvořák’s masterpiece “From the New World (Symphony No. 9).”

The performance, which begins at 7 p.m., will be prefaced by talk at 6:15 p.m. with Professor David Schneider, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Music at Amherst College.

PVS, now in its 89th year, was recently filmed at the Northampton Community Arts Trust for the concert, using the building’s spacious, unfinished 3,800-square-foot Workroom to navigate the challenge of having a large group of musicians performing amid the continued health concerns of the pandemic.

Symphony leaders are planning two more online performances this year and have scheduled three in-person shows for late winter and spring 2022.

Tickets for the Oct. 9 concert are by donation, with a suggested gift of $15. To register for the concert, which can be viewed on a smartTV or other Internet-connected device, or via Zoom (with a community watch party and a post-concert talk-back), visit

Exhibit features decades of work by Amherst artist

Leverett Crafts and Arts Center this month is featuring a retrospective exhibit on the art of Sally Dillon, who’s known in particular for her fiber art but who has worked in a number of mediums dating back to the 1960s.

Dillon began with bronze casting in the 1960s and moved into fiber art in the 1970s, making stuffed sculptures. She later took up felting, painting on silk, and designing wall art; during the past decade she’s focused on watercolor and oil painting.

Many of her subjects are drawn from natural settings and activities: hikes in western Massachusetts, rafting in the Grand Canyon, visits to the Virgin Islands.

There will be an artist’s reception Sunday, Oct. 10 at the Crafts and Art Center from 1-5 p.m. The exhibit runs through October; visiting hours are noon-4 p.m Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Mass Humanities provides funding to cultural orgs

Mass Humanities, the state’s affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has awarded over $84,000 to eight organizations in the Valley through the federal American Rescue Program, an effort to help arts and cultural organizations that have suffered economic losses during the pandemic.

Among the local groups receiving help are the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Foundation of Hadley, the Jones Library in Amherst, the Amherst Historical Society, the Nolumbeka Project in Greenfield, and Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke.

Known as SHARP grants — Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan — these funds were specifically targeted for small organizations, with over half going to recipients with budgets of $300,000 or less, according to Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities.

Some 90 SHARP grants totaling almost $1 million were made statewide, according to Mass Humanities, located in Northampton.

Writers’ association launches ‘across borders’ program

Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop (PVWW) is starting a new project designed to promote dialogue between writers across cultures and continents by hosting discussions with talented emerging writers from politically or socially unstable parts of the world.

The Writing Across Borders series, which will work with one writer each fall, aims to offer featured writers a platform for sharing their work and personal story, and in certain cases will also support writers seeking asylum and/or trying to flee dangerous parts of the world.

Joy Baglio, the founder of PVWW, says the literary association, located in Northampton, is currently working with Nigerian writer Uchenna Awoke, who she met in 2019 when both were fellows at Vermont Studio Center, which hosts a range of fine arts and writing residency programs, notably for international artists.

Awoke, Baglio said in a statement, is “an immensely talented writer” who had just finished his first novel when the two got to know one another and “was gearing up” to begin querying agents.

But she says the rural area of Nigeria where Awoke lives has since been wracked by conflict between semi-nomadic herdsman and crop-raising farmers, leading to economic disruption and poverty in communities reliant on farming. Awoke, his wife, and his sister have now gone into hiding following attacks and threats in their community made by militant herdsman, Baglio says.

“His hope is to flee Nigeria for a safer country,” she said. This fall, all donations made to PVWW’s free monthly community writing program will go to a fund to help him and his family flee Nigeria and relocate, very likely to Northampton.

To help facilitate that, PVWW will host a free online reading and conversation Oct. 24 at 4 p.m. with Baglio and Awoke; the Nigerian author will share his fiction and discuss his journey from self-educated writer to MacDowell Fellow. More information is available at You can also Baglio directly at

— Compiled by Steve Pfarrer

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