Easthampton innovates with new performing arts space in pandemic

  • A Department of Public Works employee paints dots as part of the creation of the outdoor performance venue at the Municipal Building on Payson Avenue in Easthampton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2020 8:58:20 PM

EASTHAMPTON – A different kind of performing arts space is being created in the city in the COVID-19 era – and it’s in the parking lot of the Municipal Building on Payson Avenue. 

“We are in a time that is completely unprecedented,” said Pasqualina Azzarello, the city arts coordinator for Easthampton. “Our artists are having to navigate new ways of creating and sharing their work.”

The Department of Public Works painted 11 dots in the parking lot of 50 Payson Ave. on Tuesday, spaces where audience members will be able to watch future public performances.

“We’re not going into arts construction,” said DPW Director Greg Nuttelman. “We’re just helping out because we had the skills and equipment to paint.”

Nuttelman said that the same machine used to paint crosswalks was used to paint the dots. And he gave a chuckle when he confirmed that he hadn’t worked on the construction of an arts venue before.

For the performances, people in the same household will be able to stay on the dots, which are designed to aid in social distancing. Attendees will also be able to eat takeout there, Azzarello said.

A space has been designated for the venue’s stage area, although it has not been marked out with paint. In keeping with state regulations, performers will have to keep 10 feet away from one another and 25 feet away from audience members.

Counting performers, staff and audience members, no more than 50 people will be able to be in the parking lot for performances at a time.

Azzarello said that Bri Eichstaedt, the city’s health agent, worked with them closely in the setting up of the performance space.

“We are doing everything we can to be as safe as possible,” Azzarello said.

Eichstaedt said that it was really fun helping to set up the space.

“I’m excited about it,” said Eichstaedt. “I think it will be a good asset for the community in the fall time.”

The first performance in the new space will be on Oct. 3 starting at 3 p.m. and will feature the Irish folk music group New Leaf and the Jazz duo of Carl Clements and Shigefumi Tomita.

“We are really thrilled to be able to support artists in this way,” Azzarello said.

Both groups have received funding through the Easthampton City Arts’ Artist Grants Initiative. The rainout date for the performances will be Oct. 4 at 3 p.m.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle expressed gratitude for the work of the city departments that made the venue possible.

“I can’t wait to be in a polka dot with my lawn chair,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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