Arts Briefs: Open art studios and a 1980s play revival in Easthampton, a Native American exhibit in Springfield, and more

Acclaimed guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson will be one of the featured performers at the Back Porch Festival when the roots music festival returns to Northampton in March 2024.

Acclaimed guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson will be one of the featured performers at the Back Porch Festival when the roots music festival returns to Northampton in March 2024. Photo by Ron Sleznak

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be one of the featured performers at the Back Porch Festival when the roots music fest returns in March.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be one of the featured performers at the Back Porch Festival when the roots music fest returns in March. Image from Preservation Hall Jazz Band website

Emily Fuller, left, and Erin Ferrentino are the directors and producers of “Bar Dykes,” a revival of a 1980s play that comes to CitySpace in Easthampton Dec. 8-10.

Emily Fuller, left, and Erin Ferrentino are the directors and producers of “Bar Dykes,” a revival of a 1980s play that comes to CitySpace in Easthampton Dec. 8-10. Image courtesy of CitySpace

A new exhibit at the Springfield Museums, “Ways of My Ancestors,” explores the history and heritage of the Nipmuc people as well as the lives of the Nipmuc living in southern New England today.

A new exhibit at the Springfield Museums, “Ways of My Ancestors,” explores the history and heritage of the Nipmuc people as well as the lives of the Nipmuc living in southern New England today. Photo by Scott F.L. Foster

Cara Taylor, a ceramic artist at Cottage Street Studios in Easthampton, is one of close to 50 artists who will open their doors to the public for the building’s Open Studios event Dec. 2, 3 and 9.

Cara Taylor, a ceramic artist at Cottage Street Studios in Easthampton, is one of close to 50 artists who will open their doors to the public for the building’s Open Studios event Dec. 2, 3 and 9. Gazette file photo

The Parker Quartet, an acclaimed string ensemble based at Harvard University, will perform at Amherst College Dec. 1 as part of the school’s annual music series.

The Parker Quartet, an acclaimed string ensemble based at Harvard University, will perform at Amherst College Dec. 1 as part of the school’s annual music series. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Published: 11-24-2023 7:05 AM

Back Porch Festival is coming back

NORTHAMPTON — Signature Sounds’ Back Porch Festival, which underwent a dramatic expansion earlier this year, is set to return next March in a similar format, with 50 performers playing in 10 different venues over three days.

Among the highlights at what will be the 10th annual edition of this roots music showcase will be appearances by Richard Thompson, the revered guitarist and songwriter, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which — lineup changes over the years notwithstanding — has been a New Orleans institution since the 1960s.

The 2024 festival, which takes place March 15-17 2024, will also offer what’s become an especially popular part of the annual event: an evening dedicated to the songs of a celebrated roots musician, in this case Willie Nelson, performed by varied artists.

Past Back Porch festivals have similarly featured the music of Doc Watson, Dolly Parton, John Prine and others.

Weekend passes for the 2024 festival are now on sale at the Academy of Music, one of the venues for the event. Additional artists will be announced later.

 

Open studios, again

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EASTHAMPTON — Artists at One Cottage Street will open their doors to the public for their annual winter open studios event next weekend, Dec. 2-3, and they’ll be back at it Dec. 9, giving visitors lots of options for holiday gifts.

Just under 50 artists and craft makers, such as Janna Ugone & Co., which makes home furnishings such as lighting, will be showing their work from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days.

Much more will be on display and for sale: paintings and prints, ceramics, glass art, graphic designs, fiber art, mixed media work, even soaps and lotions crafted from goat’s milk, courtesy of Sage Meadow Farm.

Open studios weekend at Cottage Street dates to 1986, making it the longest running open studio event in the area, and since 1993 artists there have also hosted a spring open studios weekend.

More information can be found at cottagestreetstudios.com.

 

Some women walk into a bar …

EASTHAMPTON — In a look back to the cultural legacy of gay bars in the 1950s, lesbian playwright Merril Mushroom wrote the one-act play “Bar Dykes” in the early 1980s — a play that will now be restaged at CitySpace Dec. 8-10.

The new staging of the play, featuring a queer cast and crew, is by theater artists, producers, and directors Emily Fuller and Erin Ferrentino, who are both part of this year’s “Pay It Forward” program at CitySpace, which offers financial help and rehearsal and performance space in the building for artists to develop and stage their work.

In a statement, Fuller calls “Bar Dykes” a “snapshot of queer cruising culture of the 1950s — an era and space that is seldom represented in media or theater.”

In an age now dominated by dating apps that allow people to meet online, “We feel it is important, as queers, to understand and hold this history in the context of our present moment,” Fuller added.

“Bar Dykes” has been recently republished and staged “in community venues and spaces by queer casts and crews,” Fuller noted. “We hope to carry on this tradition of creating art outside the margins of mainstream culture.”

The play will be performed at the Blue Room at CitySpace at 7 p.m. on Dec. 8-9 and at 4 p.m. on Dec. 10. Tickets are available at cityspaceeasthampton.org.

 

Honoring Native Americans

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Science Museum has opened a new exhibit, “Ways of My Ancestors: We Are Nipmuc. We Are Freshwater People,” that’s designed to recognize both the history and the current lives of the Nipmuc people of central and western Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The exhibit, on view through Feb. 25, 2024, features the dress, tools, and traditional arts of the Nipmuc people. It’s been guest-curated by Andre StrongBearHeart Gaines, Jr. and features photography by Scott Strong Hawk Foster, both members of the Nipmuc nation.

“We needed to create this exhibit for both public education and cultural revitalization,” Gaines said in statement. “The goal … is to create a space where people can not so much observe a display, but rather feel a presence of our people.”

“The objects, along with the pictures, paint a story of past, present, and future, and when we had balance with the earth,” Gaines added.

Foster, based in Marlborough, says his photographs reflect his travels in Massachusetts and “the ancestral homelands of the Native American Peoples of New England … my passion has become highlighting the resilient, rich, and diverse cultures and history of the Indigenous Peoples that are still here and all around us.”

According to Springfield Museums, this is the first exhibit featured in the Science Museum’s Native Hall that focuses exclusively on the Native people “who historically occupied this land.”

“I’m thrilled that, thanks to Andre and Scott, the Science Museum can offer an exhibit that shows traditional arts being practiced by living Native people in our community and region,” said Jenny Powers, director of the Science Museum. “This is one step toward improving Native Hall and elevating Native voices throughout our exhibits.”

 

Classical music, then and now

AMHERST — The Parker Quartet, a Grammy Award-winning ensemble affiliated with Harvard University, will come to Amherst College Dec. 1 to perform their program “Homeland,” which includes works by famed past composers and some noted contemporary ones.

The four musicians, on violin, viola, and cello, are Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard, where they serve as professors of practice in the university’s Department of Music. They earned a 2011 Gammy for best Chamber Music Performance, and they’ve won acclaim for what the Washington Post calls their “exceptional virtuosity (and) imaginative interpretation.”

The quartet first began playing in 2002 when the members were students at New England Conservatory in Boston.

Their Amherst College concert, in Buckley Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m., will include work by Beethoven, Haydn, Irish composer and conductor Donnacha Dennehy (age 53), and Ukrainian composer and pianist Valentyn Silvestrov (age 86).

Tickets for the show are available at amherst.universitytickets.com.

— Compiled by Steve Pfarrer