Arts Briefs: Comedy in Northampton, striking visual art in Amherst and Easthampton, and more


Staff Writer

Published: 01-20-2023 10:36 AM

Laughing for a good cause

NORTHAMPTON — A number of regional comedians, joined by another who’s worked the national circuit, will host a fundraiser Jan. 21 at Northampton’s Academy of Music for The Literacy Project, the western Massachusetts group that offers free basic education and high school equivalency classes to adults.

“Comedy Cause 4: Teacher’s Night Out,” which takes place at 8 p.m., is produced by local comedian Tim Lovett and his group Comedy as a Weapon. The Literacy Project fundraiser is returning for its fourth installment after the pandemic forced a hiatus for a few years.

Headlining the show will be Frank Denson, an Atlanta-based comedian who has opened for Jamie Foxx, Amy Schumer, Cedric the Entertainer and others; he’s best known for his viral #payteachersmore movement.

Joining Denson and Lovett will be Kim “Boney” Deshields, an Amherst native, and Rhode Island comic Maya Manion, both of whom have been featured on Nick At Nite’s “Funniest Mom” competition.

The Literacy Project, founded in 1984, helps about 200 students each year complete their high school education and prepare for college and careers. “We’re excited to shine a light on the great work of our courageous students and our dedicated teachers,” says Judith Roberts, the group’s director.

Lovett says the group helped get him on the road to college and a successful career as well: “I know firsthand the great work they do and am thrilled to bring Hank Denson to Northampton to support this important cause.”

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Tickets for “Comedy Cause 4” are $20 and can be purchased at

Money for the arts

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton Arts Council has awarded 32 grants totaling $27,094 in support of art projects and programming in the city, with funds allocated to the city by the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Local Cultural Council (LCC) program.

“I am pleased to continue Northampton’s long tradition of support for the arts community,” said Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra. “I look forward to enjoying, along with our city residents, the outcome of these exciting projects.”

Among the recipients are Translate Gender, Inc., which received $3,000 for a transgender youth community theater project; Grow Food Northampton, which earned $1,500 to produce music for its seasonal downtown farmers’ market; and photographer Florian Marschoun, who received $2,500 for a community photo project.

The Arts Council says it received 91 applications for $151,422 in requested funding. Grants were awarded in several categories, including dance, literature, multidisciplinary arts, music and theater.

“I wish we could have funded them all,” said Brian Foote, council director. “The caliber of applications this round was extraordinary, which made the process extremely competitive among many worthy projects.”

Twenty years of Gothic prints

EASTHAMPTON — Printmaker and illustrator Daniel Danger has built a considerable audience over the years for his brooding posters and prints: abandoned houses being overtaken by weeds and vines, crumbling urban locales, a post-apocalyptic shoreline where giant human figures gaze at the ruins.

The Easthampton artist, who’s also been a rock guitarist, has also designed posters for a range of TV shows and movies, from “Star Wars” to “The Town” to “Lost,” as well as for bands such as The Pogues and The Decemberists, giving him a strong online footprint through his business, Tiny Media Empire.

But Danger says parenthood and COVID-19 have cut down on opportunities to show his work in the last couple of years. So on Jan. 28 and 29, in recognition of 20 years in the business, he’ll stage a retrospective exhibit in a large gallery space, No. 245, in Eastworks, with 100 framed works from his career on display. Hours will be 4 to 10 p.m. on Jan. 28 and 12 to 5 p.m. Jan. 29.

In an email, Danger said he staged a similar event in Worcester in 2019 that “was an absolute blast,” and hopes for a repeat at Eastworks: “I’ve got fans and collectors coming in from all over.”

‘Portraits in Red’ at UMass Amherst

AMHERST — The Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst will open a new exhibit this month that’s designed to shed light on the violence faced by many Indigenous women and girls.

“Portraits in Red” is a long-term project by Athol painter Nayana LaFond to profile Native women and girls, predominantly from the western U.S. and Canada, who have been murdered or gone missing, or who have survived violence and are active in helping other victims; family members of victims are also depicted.

LaFond, who has mixed Native ancestry, began the project to keep busy during the isolation of the pandemic and has since seen it blossom into exhibitions in numerous locations, including out of state.

Her large, mostly black and white portraits often depict women with hands, usually red, painted across their mouths or faces, which LaFond says represents the voices of women being silenced. That imagery comes in part from a movement known as MMIW, or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Today she says she continues to receive photos and information from people who hope she’ll paint additional portraits, and as such she has 20 to 30 people “in the queue.” Her goal, she says, is to keep raising awareness of the issue and make sure the missing and dead are never forgotten.

The UMass exhibit opens Jan. 30, with an artist’s reception from 5 to 7 p.m. LaFond will also give a galley talk Feb. 8 at 6 p.m.

Hot book, grim subject

SOUTH HADLEY — Novelist Stephen Markley will read from and discuss his acclaimed new novel, “The Deluge,” at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m.

In his new book, Markley profiles an America of the near future that’s increasingly ravaged by climate disasters and extreme politics. The story’s characters — a scientist, a broken drug addict, a religious zealot, an eco-terrorist and others— cross paths in a narrative in which each person faces a critical reckoning: What will they sacrifice to salvage humanity’s last chance at a future?

Publisher’s Weekly calls Markley’s new book a “brilliant dystopian epic,” while Stephen King says it’s “A modern classic … Prophetic, terrifying, uplifting.”

Markley will be joined for his talk by Camille Washington-Ottombre, an associate professor of environmental science & policy at Smith College. To register for the event, visit

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at