Art and social responsibility are no strangers to one another, as a recent show at Real Eyes Gallery in Adams, Massachusetts demonstrates.
Four artists working under the banner of North Adams Contemporary wanted to do something to give back to their community. Their show “A Sense of Place” aims to raise awareness of housing insecurity, with some of the profits benefiting Louison House, an organization that tackles issues of homelessness in the Northern Berkshires.
Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan brings us the story.
Learn more about the artists that make up the North Adams Contemporary in this digital exclusive interview.
A group of North Adams, MA artists highlighted housing insecurity in the Berkshires through “A Sense of Place,” on display at Real Eyes Gallery.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Art and social responsibility are no strangers to one another, as a recent show at Real Eyes Gallery in Adams demonstrates.
Four artists working under the banner of North Adams Contemporary wanted to do something for their community. And so, their show, entitled “A Sense of Place,” aims to raise awareness of housing insecurity with some of the profits benefiting Louison House, an organization that tackles issues of homelessness in the Northern Berkshires.
Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan brings us the story.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: It’s early Saturday evening in the northern Berkshire town of Adams. The date is June 4th, 2022, and it’s the opening night of the benefit art exhibition for the Louison House Transitional Housing Program in North Adams.
The event was the brainchild of four local artists known as the North Adams Contemporary, and the idea seemed to go from concept to reality within the blink of an eye.
Kathy Keeser, Louison House: Sara Sutro, I’ve known as an artist locally for a long time. She emailed me at one point saying, just talking about their artists collaborative, and that they were thinking of doing fundraisers for different nonprofits. Would we be interested? And I said, “Sure, we’d like that. That would really be great!”
And later on, I heard back from her saying, “We’re going to do it and we’re going to do Louison House and we’re going to do the whole project.” I don’t even know if she had the name at the time.
Brian Sullivan: The name of the exhibit is A Sense of Place, and while each artist involved offers up her own unique style and medium, their collective aim is to raise awareness of the growing homelessness and housing insecurity issues that lurk beneath the Norman Rockwell veneer of places like Adams and North Adams.
For anybody wondering how the idea about raising money for the Louison House here can originate within the dwellings of four different artists that are living here at the old Eclipse Mill and then eventually end up here at the Real Eyes Gallery in Adams, well, to ask the artist themselves, it’s actually not all that complicated.
Debi Pendell, Artist: These last couple of years have been very difficult for everyone. So, in sitting around we said, “Well, we’re artists, we’re not politicians, we’re not activists, we’re not economists. What — what can we actually do? What can we do without leaving our careers?”
And so, we decided that we would sell our art and give donations half, 50%, of whatever we sell to a cause. Why not right here, North Adams, Adams and so… Louison House.
Sarah Sutro, Artist/Writer: I’ve known about Louison House for a long time, and when we thought of doing a benefit show, we thought about some larger organizations in other parts of the Berkshires, but it seemed more connected to us to focus on right where we lived.
Brian Sullivan: All four women are accomplished artists, and we were fortunate enough to get a fly-on-the wall-view from each of their studios.
Debi Pendell’s offerings are a cross between representational and abstract art, where she puts combinations of symbol systems in landscape space to see what people read from it.
Sarah Sutro started her career as a realist figurative painter and has moved on to painting watercolor landscapes or using inks for abstract, like she was when we dropped in.
Outside of Betty Vera’s studio, several of her works can be seen, and at first glance they give off the illusion of being paintings. But from inside the studio, we see the industrial setup needed for her to create that illusion.
Betty Vera, Artist: I have always loved painting and was always a painter, and then that changed for me when I got my hand on threads, as a way of painting. And so, that’s probably why my work is unique compared to the others I’m exhibiting with.
And we each have a little different background, different training, different interests in mediums to use. But we all appreciate and like each other’s work.
Brian Sullivan: Diane Reed Sawyer is able to use the view outside her window as her muse, as she worked with pastels during our visit.
Diane Reed Sawyer, Artist: Well, I’ve always loved painting what I see outside. There’s something about the light, the way it changes during the day, the way that things just are illuminated at dusk and at dawn. And it’s something that I’ve really treasured is being able to just sit there and absorb what I’m seeing.
You know, it’s sort of like a, I don’t know, sort of like a meditation without meditating, you know?
Brian Sullivan: Whatever methods and mediums each artist had several works on display for the benefit, some recent and others dating back more than a decade or two.
The hope now is to sell some art, raised some money for the Louison House, and raise awareness of the growing housing insecurity in the region.
Kathy Keeser: I’m just hoping that this really just helps more public awareness of the issues for people, not just Louison House, but a lot of us who are dealing with housing and homeless issues.
And something like a group of artists is a whole different kind of world, so to speak, and that they thought it was important enough is really saying a lot.
Diane Reed Sawyer: It’s really actually been incredibly inspiring to feel like we can actually work with people and change something, or hopefully we will.