Arts Briefs: An arts festival at Smith College, a theatrical version of an iconic 1920s novel, and more

Work by artist and writer Allen Fowler, on view at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery, has been inspired by compositions by Jazz bassist and UMass Amherst music teacher Fumi Tomita

Work by artist and writer Allen Fowler, on view at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery, has been inspired by compositions by Jazz bassist and UMass Amherst music teacher Fumi Tomita Image courtesy A.P.E. Gallery

Jazz bassist and composer Fumi Tomita and his quartet will play music from his album “The Elephant Vanishes” at the A.P.E. Gallery on April 12 from 6 to 7 p.m.

Jazz bassist and composer Fumi Tomita and his quartet will play music from his album “The Elephant Vanishes” at the A.P.E. Gallery on April 12 from 6 to 7 p.m. Image from Bandcamp

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel “The Great Gatsby” comes to the stage at Holyoke Community College on April 11-13, with backing by a jazz ensemble.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel “The Great Gatsby” comes to the stage at Holyoke Community College on April 11-13, with backing by a jazz ensemble. Image courtesy Holyoke Community College

MARTÍN ESPADA

MARTÍN ESPADA MARTÍN ESPADA

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer 

Published: 04-12-2024 8:40 AM

Modified: 04-12-2024 10:13 AM


Editor’s note: The performance at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery tonight with Fumi Tomita has been canceled. However, Tomita and Allen Fowler will be present for the artist’s reception at the gallery from 5-8 p.m.

​​​​​​A new arts celebration

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College will celebrate its artistic and creative spirit today and tomorrow (April 12-13) with an extended series of events including art-making workshops, music, theater and more.

The first-ever Smith Arts Day, which is open to the public, kicks off April 12 at 4 p.m. with some free special events at the Smith College Museum of Art, including workshops for children that link art and nature.

The April 13 events, most of which are free, begin at 10 a.m. and run to 9 p.m., and they take place at various locations on campus. There are 40 events and exhibitions, a mix of works in progress, performances, installations, and even some dance parties.

Leigh Fagin, who last fall became the first director of the Smith Office for the Arts, says she discovered the arts were a huge part of campus life and believed it was important to raise the visibility of those activities.

Smith Arts Day, Fagin said in a statement, “is not meant to be a comprehensive look at everything, but a snapshot of the kinds of activities that make the arts at Smith unique.”

Along those lines, participants can take a tap class, make prints from Legos or make a collage bookmark, contribute to a community mural, and more.

A few events are limited to a first-come, first-served basis due to space limitations. Details are at smith.edu/SmithArtsDay.

A busy Arts Night Out

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NORTHAMPTON — The city’s monthly Arts Night Out, which takes place this evening (April 12) from 5 to 8 p.m., will have a full schedule in particular at 33 Hawley and the A.P.E. Gallery on Main Street.

At the gallery, an artist’s reception is being held for Allen Fowler and his exhibit, “The Elephant Vanishes: Full Circle,” a series of works — some on canvas, some assemblage, some a combination of the two — that were inspired by an album composed by jazz bassist Fumi Tomita, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Tomita, in turn, based the 10 compositions on his album on short stories by Japanese author Haruki Murakami — and as part of the artist’s reception, Tomita and a quartet including piano, saxophone, and drums will play his compositions from 6 to 7 p.m. at A.P.E.

At 33 Hawley, meantime, art from two exhibits will be on view: “Off the Walls,” collected works by Valley muralists, and “Revelry at 33,” a group show of over 30 local artists.

In addition, fiddler Lily Sexton, who’s known for her work with local bluegrass favorites Mamma’s Marmalade, will provide free music at the community arts center.

The smash hit of 1590

FLORENCE — Arcadia Players, the Valley ensemble that specializes in historically informed performances of Renaissance and early classical music, will be at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity April 14 to play compositions inspired by a popular and controversial drama of the late 16th century.

Giovanni Guarini’s 1590 play “Il Pastor Fido” (The Faithful Shepherd) was a pastoral tragicomedy set in, well, Arcadia, with a narrative involving two star-crossed lovers: a shepherd and a nymph. The play in turn inspired musical works by many composers over the years.

Arcadia Players, led by artistic director Andrew Arceci, will present a related program including madrigals, a cantata by Bononcini, instrumental works by Van Eyck and Chedeville, and music from an opera by Handel.

The performance, at 4 p.m., also features mezzo-soprano Christina English, recorder virtuoso Aldo Abreu, and Cantabile Vocal Ensemble.

Tickets are $35 at the door or online at arcadiaplayers.org.; it’s $10 for student with a valid ID.

The Roaring Twenties at HCC

HOLYOKE — F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel “The Great Gatsby” comes to the stage at Holyoke Community College this weekend in a student production that’s boosted by a five-piece jazz band as part of the ensemble cast.

That live soundtrack provides an additional element to Fitzgerald’s tragic tale of the mysterious, nouveau riche Jay Gatsby and his pursuit of love with the beautiful but unattainable Daisy Buchanan.

This theatrical version of “The Great Gatsby,” which plays at the Leslie Phillips Theater April 11-13 at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on April 13, was written in 2006 by playwright Simon Levy, according to HCC Theater Professor Patricia Sandoval.

“It’s well written, it was approved by the Fitzgerald estate, and it uses a lot of Fitzgerald’s language in it,” Sandoval, the play’s director, said in a statement.

Sandoval said she also liked that Levy’s stage directions include music, but that the cues don’t call for specific songs or even that the music be live. That enabled Sandoval, choreographer Tiffany Joseph, and guitarist and HCC Music Professor Bob Ferrier, the play’s musical director and band leader, to choose the songs.

Renowned poet wins further honors

AMHERST — Poet, essayist, and National Book Award winner Martín Espada, a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is one of four recipients of this year’s Governor’s Awards in the Humanities, which recognize significant contributions to civic and social life in the commonwealth.

The awards, made in partnership by Mass Humanities, the Northampton nonprofit organization, and Governor Maura Healey, will be presented Sept. 26 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

Espada, who has published over 20 books, including some as a translator, has won numerous other honors for his work, including the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

In his work, Espada, who lives in Shelburne Falls, has focused on using writing and storytelling to address pressing issues and reclaim historical narratives, including those of the Puerto Rican community in Massachusetts.

Also winning Governor’s Awards in the Humanities are Jackie Jenkins-Scott, a Boston-area leader in higher education and public health; Bob Rivers, CEO of Eastern Bank in Boston, who’s been recognized for philanthropy and contributions to the humanities and social justice; and Cheryll Toney Holley of Worcester, a researcher, writer, and speaker specializing in the histories of African American and Indigenous peoples of New England.

“These individuals reflect the incredible ecosystem of the humanities in Massachusetts,” Brian Boyles, executive director of Mass Humanities, said in a statement. “Our world is better due to their creative genius and commitment to serving our  commu nities.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.