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She gave people ‘dignity through art’: Cottage Street artists remember Denise Herzog

  • Halley Philips and Denise Herzog. —Submitted Photo

  • Denise Herzog at the Statehouse. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Charlene Gentes, the president of Riverside Industries, talks about Denise Herzog who was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left Steven Kennedy, Hilda Garcia and Coralie Donohue, clients at Riverside Industries, talk about Denise Herzog who started the art program at Riverside and had a large impact on their art. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Hilda Garcia, a client at Riverside Industries, talks Wednesday about Denise Herzog, who started the art program at Riverside and had a large impact on her art. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a crosswalk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. “She believed in us,” Garcia said. Left, flowers are shown at the crosswalk. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A piece of Pottery made by Denise Herzog filled with brushes and kept on the table in the art room at Riverside Industries. Herzog started that program. She was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A piece of Pottery made by Denise Herzog filled with brushes and kept on the table in the art room at Riverside Industries. Herzog started that program. She was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jana Ugone, an artist with space in One Cottage Street, talks about Denise Herzog. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A photograph of Denise Herzog on the door to the art studio at Riverside Industries. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Radwell, an artist who has a studio at One Cottage Street, talks about Denise Herzog who was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Laura Radwell, an artist who has a studio at One Cottage Street, talks about Denise Herzog who was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. Radwell is talking about dangerous she feels the cross walks have become in that area around One Cottage Street in Easthampton. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Charlene Gentes, the president of Riverside Industries, talks about Denise Herzog who was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • From left, Charlene Gentes, the president of Riverside Industries, Halley Philips, art therapist at Riverside, and Jana Ugone, an artist with space in One Cottage Street, talk about Denise Herzog on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Halley Philips, art therapist at Riverside ,talks about Denise Herzog. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left Steven Kennedy, Hilda Garcia and Coralie Donohue, clients at Riverside Industries, talk about Denise Herzog who started the art program at Riverside and had a large impact on their art. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Halley Philips, art therapist at Riverside , and Jana Ugone, an artist with space in One Cottage Street, talk about Denise Herzog. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Flowers placed at the cross walk in Easthampton where Denise Herzog was struck by a car on Monday and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • left Steven Kennedy, a client at Riverside Industries, talks about Denise Herzog who started the art program at Riverside and had a large impact on his art. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The cross walk in Easthampton where Denise Herzog was struck by a car on Monday and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The cross walk in Easthampton where Denise Herzog was struck by a car on Monday and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Charlene Gentes, the president of Riverside Industries, Halley Philips, art therapist at Riverside , and Jana Ugone, an artist with space in One Cottage Street, talk about Denise Herzog. Herzog was struck by a car on Monday in a cross walk in Easthampton and died on Tuesday. Above Philips describes the set up Herzog created for a client at Riverside to paint. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The cross walk in Easthampton where Denise Herzog was struck by a car on Monday and died on Tuesday. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2018

EASTHAMPTON — Denise Herzog, a potter and ceramicist who helped found the Cottage Street Studios in the 1980s, is being remembered for making sure everyone in the mill building was given the opportunity to pursue creativity through art.

“She had hope in all of us,” says Hilda Garcia of Indian Orchard, a client at Riverside Industries, Inc., which owns the One Cottage Street building. “She told us not to give up — you’ve got it.”

Garcia was among those on Wednesday who were mourning Herzog, who died Tuesday at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. On Monday afternoon, Herzog was struck by a minivan in a crosswalk a short distance from One Cottage Street, just west of the intersection of Maple and Adams streets.

“I’m going to miss her,” Garcia said, observing that one of her favorite paintings under Herzog’s tutelage was a snowman made from different colors of snow. “I had a great time being with her. I have memories after memories of being with her.”

Charlene “Char” Gentes, president of Riverside, said Herzog will be remembered for her “lovely spirit, generosity of soul and the joy she brought.”

Herzog, one of the original artists at what was then known as Cottage Claymakers, porcelain and pottery studio, founded the Riverside arts program in 2006, after beginning a six-week summer program two years earlier in which she taught art to its clients.

“She transformed a lot of lives here, and she herself was such a bright light and believed in everyone’s ability to be creative and express themselves,” Gentes said. “Denise was highly instrumental in really aiding and guiding individuals we serve to find their artistic ability.”

Joining Garcia in reflecting on the impact Herzog had on their lives were Coralie Donohue of Northampton and Steven Kennedy of Belchertown.

“She’s the one who got me into art, and taught me how to get my art to where it is now,” Donohue said. “She taught me how to do trees and mountains, and how the sky should be in the middle of the canvas.”

Gentes said Herzog worked with then state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg to have works of Riverside clients displayed at his office in the Statehouse for two months in 2011. The artists, she said, took pride in getting the showcase for their talents, and for many it was their first opportunity to visit the Statehouse.

Even after Herzog left as art director, retiring in 2015, she came back to volunteer, including for this year’s 50th anniversary, where she helped to make videos of the clients, filmed at the Millpond, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories with integrity and respect, Gentes said.

“We remember Denise with the love, light and beauty she gave to so many people,” Gentes added.

Halley Philips, Riverside’s art therapist who worked with Herzog and then succeeded her, said she has tried to model her instruction after Herzog, who often paired clients with other local artists to lend their expertise and mentoring.

“She made people love her,” Philips said. “Denise saw their potential and offered a creative outlet.”

‘A contagious smile’

Herzog also was able to make contraptions so anyone, no matter their physical challenges, could do art, Philips said. For instance, Kennedy, who has cerebral palsy, has been using oil sticks to make his paintings.

Artists whose studios are in the building say Herzog’s passing is a big loss.

“When she walked into the room, she had a contagious smile,” said Janna Ugone, who has owned Janna Ugone & Co lighting and home decor in the Cottage Street Studios since 1987.

Herzog was warm, calm and engaged, but also a hard worker, a solid businesswoman and generous with her time, Ugone added: “She was always willing to chip in and get the job done, no matter what. She was a quintessential team player.”

Ugone reflected on the first open studio 31 years ago, the Cottage Street Seconds Sale, with six artists setting up in the front hall, which has continued with open studios in the building, including ones this month. The next one is this Saturday.

Herzog’s husband, Michael MacTavish, is among the numerous artists with studios.

“She was one of the people who felt like an angel put here to put a smile on everyone’s face,” said Laura Radwell, a painter with a studio in the building.

There is tangible sadness in the building over the tragedy, she said. “Its a real loss for the building and the community,” Radwell said.

“I can’t imagine a world without Denise in it, and there are a lot of people who feel that way,” said Evelyn Snyder, a friend to Herzog and a studio neighbor. “This is an unfathomable loss to all of us.”

Snyder said Herzog will be remembered as a champion for the Cottage Street cultural district, and for repeatedly telling people that Easthampton was an up-and-coming place.

“Her enthusiasm and energy sparked a lot of what is still happening in Easthampton,” Snyder said.

Snyder said she met Herzog after coming to from graduate school, and they served together on the Cultural Chaos Committee. Snyder said Herzog had the spirit of doing what was needed to get the job done.

“She’s an incredible soul who will be missed, but her uniting power remains,” Snyder said.

A corridor filled with art by Riverside clients shows how her generous spirit transformed both the building and the people inside it, Snyder said. It’s a legacy that will remain.

“She saw people as human beings and gave people dignity through art and the need to focus on positive transformation,” Snyder said.

Mary Lou Mistark, who works in Ugone’s electrical department, said Herzog was a sweet person. “She’s always been a light in the world, always happy and always smiling,” Mistark said.

Even those who didn’t know Herzog well had something to share about her.

“She was always positive about everything,” said Ed Socha, who handles the Information Technology systems at One Cottage Street, adding that he will miss passing by her in the building’s hallways.

Safety concerns renewed

Some of those based at One Cottage Street said Herzog’s death raises anew concerns about pedestrian crossings and safety in the district as it becomes a busier place.

“That intersection has been an accident waiting to happen,” Socha said.

“It’s a very bad area traffic-wise,” Mistark said.

Radwell said vehicles quickly approach the crosswalks. “The design is not appropriate for pedestrians or drivers,” Radwell said.

Ugone said ideas for improvements have been made in the past and will be made again.

“This is a call for attention,” Ugone said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.