JANUARY 19, 2021
A Photo and Interview Series by Barry Goldstein
In America, the inauguration of a Commander In Chief is traditionally a time of celebration. Politicians, special guests, and everyday Americans converge on the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol building to mark the swearing in of the next President of the United States. Full of pomp and circumstance, inaugurations are an important democratic ritual and a symbol of the peaceful transfer of power.
July 23, 2021
The Springfield Museums recently unveiled a new exhibit entitled “Ai Weiwei: Tradition and Dissent.” The exhibit will be on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts through January 2nd, 2022. It features rare work spanning thre
The Springfield Museums recently unveiled a new exhibit entitled “Ai Weiwei: Tradition and Dissent.” The exhibit will be on display at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts through January 2nd, 2022. It features rare work spanning three decades of internationally renowned artist and social activist Ai Weiwei’s career.
The exhibit features artwork representing the artist’s engagement with traditional Chinese materials, methods, and artifacts. Weiwei’s work addresses social justice, while also exploring how the cultural present is informed by the past.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Maggie North, Curator of Art for the Springfield Museums to learn more.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The Springfield Museums recently unveiled a new exhibit entitled Ai Weiwei: Tradition and Dissent, which will be available for viewing at the D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts through January 2nd, 2022.
It features rare works spanning three decades of internationally renowned artist and social activist Ai Weiwei's career, presenting artwork that represents his engagement with traditional Chinese materials, methods, and artifacts.
Weiwei's work addresses social justice while also exploring the cultural present that is informed by the past. And I spoke with Maggie North, Curator of Art for the Springfield Museums, to learn more.
Maggie North, Springfield Museums: Ai Weiwei is an artist as well as a social activist whose work has international renown, and also, I think, international importance.
He works across media and he's been described as a filmmaker, as an installation artist, a conceptual artist, a political dissident and a provocateur. But as folks who come to the exhibition will see, his work speaks to issues of universal importance. Issues like climate change, like human rights, the importance of free speech.
And so these are issues that I think viewers from Beijing, China to Springfield, Massachusetts, can relate to.
Zydalis Bauer: This exhibition was curated exclusively for the Springfield Museums and features rare works.
How were you able to decide which pieces of artwork to include in this exhibit?
Maggie North: Oh, it is always so challenging to make those decisions, especially with an artist who has been so prolific.
And we really chose them based on the themes that are highlighted within the exhibition, the theme of tradition, especially Chinese materials, traditional Chinese ideas about art making, which Ai Weiwei is constantly recontextualizing,repurposing sometimes in really radical ways, like painting a Coca-Cola logo on a Han Dynasty vase.
And so we were driven by that interest in this aspect, this really multifaceted aspect of his practice, but also interested in his role as a dissident artist. He has been really targeted by Chinese authorities due to many of his expressions of free speech, his ideas about human rights, which were not always in line with the government under which he was working.
And his art, as he has said, is really inseparable from his life. He's constantly playing with these traditional materials and motifs to prod at history, but also to prod at politics and the way in which we are always living in the present, but we need to get to know our past.
Zydalis Bauer: As you were just describing, Ai Weiwei makes the old new again using his traditional Chinese heritage.
In what ways will we experience this throughout the exhibit?
Maggie North: Great question. Many of the artworks on view in the exhibition use porcelain or wood joinery or jade. These are materials that have been used in China for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Porcelain in particular is a medium that visitors will see throughout the exhibit. And in English, it's colloquially referred to as China. So, it has this incredible allegorical power to stand in for the country of China itself. So, visitors will see a lot of porcelain within the exhibit, but porcelain that's being used and really new and different ways, for example, to represent oil spills in order to generate conversation about the impact of industry on the environment or porcelain being used to create tiny sunflower seeds, which are popular snack food, but are also a loaded symbol in China, because during the Cultural Revolution, the citizens of China were described as sunflowers and their leader was described as the sun.
So, these sunflower seeds help us speak to the relationship of the individual to the collective and of really prodding questions about how we all operate within our societies. Also, as I mentioned, there are traditional actual artifacts that Ai Weiwei uses as his raw materials for constructing artwork.
Maggie North: So, a Chinese table that he has turned into a sculpture or using marble to craft a surveillance camera, something that is totally of our contemporary era. So, bringing that clash of that past and present together.
But in addition to using old materials to make new statements, Ai Weiwei uses new materials to make different statements about older motifs. So, within the exhibition, visitors will also see a stunning and really, really colorful set of 12 zodiacs that are made out of bright Legos. So, our visitors of all ages are going to recognize these as Legos, but again, it's a multilayered work.
It speaks to that tradition of the Chinese zodiac, as well as to a history that is involved with a particular set of zodiac heads that was on view at an Imperial palace but was eventually sacked during the 1860s. And so, this is a work that it's fun, it's magnetic, but it's also really, really layered and speaks to ideas about international politics.
Zydalis Bauer: So, that zodiac these that you were just referencing is the one that caught my eye naturally because it's visually appealing, and as a child, I grew up playing with Legos, right?
With so many thought-provoking pieces, which one is your favorite?
Maggie North: Oh, my goodness. It's always a hard question. One of my favorite works in the exhibition, or at least one of the pieces that I find most provocative, it's a Han Dynasty based on which Ai Weiwei has painted the Coca-Cola logo.
It's a controversial piece because, of course, he is adjusting a piece of cultural heritage and an ancient object. But, it brings our attention back to the fact that this object was once not so unlike a Coca-Cola bottle, a functional object, something that would have been used to hold liquid, something that would have been produced en masse.
So, his work is, as we discussed, sometimes provocative, it really pushes the boundaries, but it begs us to ask these really interesting and important questions which are incredibly relevant to society today.
Zydalis Bauer: What do you hope that people in our region take away when visiting this exhibit?
Maggie North: I hope that the visitors who come to this exhibition will walk away with a new understanding of Ai Weiwei's work and the ramifications of the ideas that he presents to us.
And the last part of the exhibition, as you're walking through, actually includes an area where visitors are invited to respond to some really important questions, questions like, "what is the purpose of art?" and "how can art promote social change?" Or 'if you had the chance to change something, what would you change?"
So, I hope that visitors are able to engage beyond the museum walls and into the community, to really take some of these ideas home and think about how they apply to all of our lives.
July 23, 2021
It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza s
It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
By 1976, the rest of his family joined him stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the Greenfield institution that it is today. This year, two of George’s grandchildren organized a block party to not only celebrate the restaurant’s sixty-year anniversary, but also to give back by donating their profits to the Greater Western Mass Foodbank and the Shriners' Hospital.
Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan bring us the story.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: It was 1966 when George Balis first arrived in the United States from Greece with his sights set on achieving his American dream. Eight years later, after working several jobs and putting in countless hours, he purchased a pizza shop in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Two years later in 1976, the rest of his family joined him here stateside and helped to make Village Pizza the institution that it is in Greenfield today.
This year, two of George's grandchildren organized a block party to not only celebrate the restaurant's 60 year anniversary, but also give back by donating their profits to the greater Western Mass Food Bank and the Shriner's Hospital.
Connecting Point's Brian Sullivan brings us the story.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: It was a rainy and drizzly Sunday in a summer seemingly full of days that looked just like this one. But on this particular Sunday of July 11th, 2021, no amount of moisture falling from the sky was about to dampen the spirits of anyone at the Bank Row Block Party in Greenfield.
This was, after all, a celebration of 60 years for the little pizza shop that could. George Balis and his sister Vicki, the son and daughter of Chris Bayless, who is part owner of Village Pizza, organized this event, bringing in countless local businesses to chip in one way or another.
But, in spite of being a tight-knit community here in the heart of Franklin County, combined with the popularity of the local pizza place that stood the test of time for six decades, it was still an element of surprise to the overall turnout.
George Balis, Village Pizza: I got goosebumps thinking about it. I really do.
You know, I didn't expect this many people to come, especially this many businesses on a day like today. I would have expected a phone call in the morning saying, "I'm sorry, I can't make it."
Brian Sullivan: But they did. And several of those businesses had tents set up for the block party, whether it was the local gym, the farmstand, coffee, and everything in between.
But judging by the number of people waiting for a slice, or even the size of the crowd that surrounded the pizza eating contest, it was clear that Village was the main attraction, with so many in attendance having some kind of special memory about the family-run restaurant.
Ann Foth, Former Greenfield Resident: When he first opened up here 60 years ago, I was one of his customers. They made the best pizzas around that I've ever had. And they're very wonderful people, you know, to deal with, to buy from.
It was just wonderful.
David Kells, Greenfield Resident: This is a place that people just come to and people have been coming to for years. You know, for me, back to -- back through middle school and high school and college. And every time you came back from college, the first place you went to on the weekend was Village.
Danny Dennett, Montague Resident: Mid 70s, I went to Alaska for a vacation and decided never to come back. My baby sister Michelle would go to Village Pizza, buy me pizzas, and she would freeze them and send them to me in Alaska.
Brian Sullivan: And if someone is willing to have pizzas mailed to them across the continent, then waiting a few minutes in line is child's play.
This here is the line for pizza, and I think it really speaks volumes about just how popular Village Pizza is in this town. But this whole event is about a lot more than a 60 year anniversary.
This is a celebration of the American dream, which for people like me who were born in this country and are still chasing it, may still feel elusive. But to talk to Chris Balis, it's an entirely different story.
Chris Balis, Village Pizza: We are the American dream. You know, my father came here in '66, worked very hard. He had three full -- almost three full time jobs. He worked one hundred and twelve hours a week. Then we followed, came here in '74 -- '76, I'm sorry, '76.
And ever since then, we've been here working and living the American Dream. It's what you put in it. You know, the opportunity I think is here for everybody that wants it.
Brian Sullivan: The Balis Family may not be the original 1961 owners, having purchased village in 1974, but the 400-pound mixer? That's original. As is the scale. And while we're at it, so is the work ethic that brings this family to the shop every morning at 5:30 to prep and keeps them here all day to make time with their customers.
Now, all of those years of service have culminated in a one day celebration, a chance for father and son to soak in the moment side-by-side, while donating the day's profits to two worthy causes.
Chris Balis: It means the world to me. It means giving back to the community. I want to thank the people that were part of this place that supported us, the town and the whole country that gave us the opportunity to better our lives.
July 23, 2021
The Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst and the Serious Play Theatre Ensemble in Northampton have teamed up to present Moving Water. The production explores climate change and the global water crisis. Moving Water will premier
The Ko Festival of Performance in Amherst and the Serious Play Theatre Ensemble in Northampton have teamed up to present Moving Water. The production explores climate change and the global water crisis.
Moving Water will premiere live to a sold-out crowd on July 22nd and will also have an online option available for viewing beginning July 30th. This multimedia physical theater production is designed to bring audiences a deeper understanding of our relationship to water.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Sabrina Hamilton, the Artistic Director of the Ko Festival of Performance and Rosalyn Driscoll, Dramaturg for Moving Water, to learn more about the piece.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The Ko Festival of Performance and the Serious Play Theater Ensemble have teamed up to present Moving Water, a theater piece centered on climate change and the global water crisis.
The production will be premiering live to a sold out crowd on July 22nd and will also have an online option available for viewing beginning July 30th.
This multimedia physical theater production is designed to bring audiences a deeper understanding of our relationship to water. And I spoke with Sabrina Hamilton, the Artistic Director of the Festival of Performance, and Rosalind Driscoll, Dramaturg for Moving Water, to learn more.
Rosalyn Driscoll, Moving Water: It occurred to me that with all the bad news, people need the good news. They need to connect to their relationship to water. Everybody loves water.
And I think if you're reminded of what you love, you work to save it, to protect it, to conserve and cherish it. So, that was the original impulse.
Zydalis Bauer: Rosalyn, your fine art inspired the creation of Moving Water, and a lot of your work has focused on the inner experience and physicality of the body.
Where did this interest in sensory perception begin for you and how did you channel that for this piece in particular?
Rosalyn Driscoll: I think it came from being a child in the woods and the streams of where I grew up in Minnesota, that that was a natural part of growing up. And there became a point at which there was a separation through my education between mind and body and I felt it was time to bring that back together.
And that led to the engagement with water on a sensory basis, because that's where we live, and that's really the way we know water most intimately.
So, this production has all the dimensions, all the sensory dimensions, the sound and the light, and even -- there are moments when the sound vibrates the body so that it becomes a visceral experience of what's going on, on stage.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, upon exiting the performance, attendees will be met with a hand washing ritual that's designed to invoke the relationship that all beings have to water.
What other ways throughout the performance will people be reminded of this relationship?
Sabrina Hamilton, Ko Festival of Performance: Either you literally see water in that there is a water tank on stage, which came from some of your earlier experiments that in some of the earlier phases, where you were working with tanks of water and reflecting it up onto a large projection screen. So, we have water projections, but a tank of water that moves, and then you see in that image, it's in the text.
So, different audience members sort of have different primary senses, I think. And I think we just hit just about all of them in this piece.
Zydalis Bauer: Now, climate change is disputed by some. And in fact, you have even included a character in the performance that is a climate change denier.
Why did you want to include this character? And what do you say to people who take this stance on the matter?
Sabrina Hamilton: It's important to remember that we don't all come to a theater as one and that it's important to represent lots of different voices. Otherwise, it's sort of a pitch piece, and instead it needs to to really bring all the voices to the table it can.
And then we will also be having discussions with members of the creative team, of course, but also some guest experts or people who really had water central in their work for a long time.
Zydalis Bauer: Recently, I witnessed firsthand the water crisis out west at Lake Mead, where the reservoir has reached its lowest point, according to The Washington Post. And it honestly really resonated with me, just witnessing that in person.
What are some ways that humans can be really mindful of their water consumption?
Rosalyn Driscoll: I think it's partly a matter of being aware of the implications of one's water views. So, it's about balancing. It's about about being responsible for your own family and your own perhaps your own community.
But then each of us is part of a watershed that we can be responsible for. Each of us can learn where our water comes from and how to protect that.
Sabrina Hamilton: It's so much a part of the local legislative process right now, especially as we're looking at a lot of this massive solar installations. So many towns are having to rethink their solar bylaws because what's happening is that they're clearcutting.
There's a right across the road from me, they were proposing clearcutting 40-acres of land on a fairly steep grade, right about above a river that is a brown trout hatchery. And the implications for this are just huge in terms of how that will affect it.
So, every single one of us is finding it, in small or large ways, is cropping up.
Zydalis Bauer: How have you found theater to be an effective medium to create and present performances that bring awareness to these social issues?
Sabrina Hamilton: I think it's because it touches the heart. And that it creates -- I always like to think of it as said, like dropping a pebble in a pond and you have rings that spread out.
And my metric is not how many or how much, it's how sticky can we make the experience? How long can those ripples reverberate?
And I think reading an article can be terrific at that, but getting into somebodies -- when you see the hairs on people's arms rise up during your performance, you know that that image is going to stay.
July 23, 2021
Over the last few years, buildings, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists. This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the
Over the last few years, buildings, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed into public art displays with murals and messages created by street artists.
This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School teamed up for the Trust Transfer Project. The program partners with artists to bring messages about public health to the city’s South End and Metro neighborhoods.
Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spent the day with artists participating in Trust Transfer Project’s first endeavor — Chalk for Change — and shares the messages they are bringing to the city.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Over the last few years, many of the buildings, streets, and sidewalks in Springfield have been transformed with murals and messages created by street artists.
This summer, the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School partnered to form the Trust Transfer Project, a program that will see artists bring messages surrounding public health to the city's South End and Metro neighborhoods.
Their first project is called Chalk for Change and Connecting Point's Ross Lippman spent the day with participating artists and shows us the messages they're bringing to the city
Ross Lippman, Connecting Point: On one of the hottest days of the summer at Springfield South End Community Center, street artist Ramiro Dovaro-Comas has a challenge ahead of him.
Ramiro Dovaro-Comas, Street Artist: I'm glad you're here.
Ross Lippman: With temperatures reaching the 90s by nine a.m., the Dovaro-Comas is starting his first of three chalk art pieces.
Dovaro-Comas, along with seven other artists, are racing against the clock, creating new messages throughout the city for the Trust Transfer Project.
Vanessa Ford, Trust Transfer Project: The Trust Transfer Project is an incredible initiative that allows for artists to be, from the beginning, part of messaging -- health messages for the community.
And so we're hoping that, one artist at a time, one message at a time, we can fill our city with hope, inspiration, and encouragement to come back out as we enter into this new life after COVID-19 has impacted the community so, so greatly.
Ross Lippman: Each artist has been commissioned to design temporary chalk art installations, from Dovaro-Comas' "I'm Glad You're Here" in the South End to Marc Austin's "Message of Love "outside the Community Music School.
Marc Austin, Street Artist: Well, when they said that they were going to allow artists to kind of use their art to kinda convey how they feel with the coronavirus and everything going on, I jump right on. I felt like it was great.
Colors are really vibrant. I hope it brings a lot of life.
Eileen McCaffery, Springfield Community Music School: About two years ago, the Mass Cultural Council asked the Community Music School to be a design partner for something called Culture RX Initiative. It's basically this big idea that artists -- centering artists' voices is critical to improving public health outcomes in communities.
Karen Finn, Springfield Cultural Partnership: You may hear a song or see an image, or you're -- a piece of poetry, and you think, "I'm not alone," which is so important right now because we've all felt so alone and you can identify with art.
So, I think putting artists at the forefront of public health messaging -- or any messaging for that matter -- is incredibly important.
Nero, Street Artist: Speed is the name of the game today.
Ross Lippman: Timed projects aren't new --
Nero: Rain is coming.
Ross Lippman: -- to street artists like Nero. As the heat wave peaks in the morning, thunderstorms are on the way for the afternoon.
Nero: I got two more to do. Yeah.
Ross Lippman: Commonwealth Mural's partnered with the Trust Transfer Project to find artists. You've likely seen their work across Springfield. It's a city filled with larger than life murals.
Mural Artist: You could kind of start filling that in.
Ross Lippman: In total, 20 installations were completed in just a few hours, each a reflection of the artist's experience during the pandemic.
Mural Artist: That's going to be more graffiti-esque.
Ross Lippman: Trust Transfer organizers hope by giving artists the freedom to create their own designs, it'll allow Springfield residents to better connect with each message.
Eileen McCaffery: That's very different than having somebody tell you you should do something, right?
It's your own internalizing of it, your own artistic expression of it, and then being able to share it on a platform that allows people to really see the power of the arts to transform.
Vanessa Ford: If you kind of take a step forward and do this for your neighbor, do this for your family member, we can look at tomorrow as a brighter day. We can come out of this and in a more hopeful way.
And so, we believe that if you can use positive messages to spread health information, that it has a different impact because people kind of are motivated by joy.
July 23, 2021
Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community M
Trust Transfer Project Centers Artists’ Voices in Public Health Messaging
Can centering artists’ voices in messaging can improve public health outcomes? It’s a big idea that the Springfield Cultural Partnership and the Community Music School are trying to tackle in the City of Firsts.
TTP’s first project is called Chalk for Change. Using streets as a canvas and chalk as the medium, local artists are creating chalk murals to bring public health messaging to residents in Springfield’s South End and Metro neighborhoods.
We’ll meet the artists behind the murals and learn what messages they're bringing to the city through their colorful designs.
And more western Mass stories tonight....
Moving Water is an in-person and virtual performance that tackles climate change and the global water crisis through the lens of theater. Ko Festival of Performance's Sabrina Hamilton and Moving Water’s Rosalyn Driscoll share more about the piece and the important messages it explores.
Then, Village Pizza in Greenfield is celebrating 60 years in business. The Greenfield institution is throwing a big block party to mark the occasion — and giving back to the community by donating their profits to two local charities.
Finally, the work of internationally acclaimed artist is on display in the Springfield Museums’ new exhibit, “Ai Weiwei: Tradition and Dissent.” Curator of Art Maggie North discusses the exhibit and how Weiwei’s work addresses social justice issues while also exploring how the cultural present is informed by the past.