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.
November 26, 2021
Wood sculptor Ken Packie, the man behind Berkshire Mountain Wood Sculpture, is inspired by nature. His artist statement notes that he uses chainsaws, chisels, and fire to “free his creations from their log.” Producer Dave Fraser
Wood sculptor Ken Packie, the man behind Berkshire Mountain Wood Sculpture, is inspired by nature. His artist statement notes that he uses chainsaws, chisels, and fire to “free his creations from their log.”
Producer Dave Fraser visited the Berkshires-based artist recently to gain insight into his creative process and work and brings us this story.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Wood sculptor Ken Pakie's art is inspired by nature. His artist statement notes that he uses chainsaws, chisels, and fire to "free his creations from their log."
Ken Packie, Berkshire Mountain Sculpture: Get ready to work hard. You know, this is not an easy art form.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: On a chilly November day along Route 8 in Otis, Ken Packie is at work, sculpting creatures from the woods.
Ken Packie: I describe what I do is chainsaw, chisels, and fire.
And I use the chainsaw. I'll use some power tools. I'll use chisels and then I burn it. That does two things: it eliminates all the furring from the chainsaw, and it's much less sanding to do.
And then I'll also come back with the torch after I burn it and brush that off to create shading or create patterns in the wings of an owl.
Dave Fraser: His obsession with this unique craft started when he saw someone else doing this type of work at a home show, and his journey began.
Ken Packie: For of my senior year of high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do, which was fairly common, I think. And so, I did this career testing program and my spatial mathematics was off the charts.
And so, they suggested to my parents I should be an architect. And I took a drafting class and I hated the structure, and the straight lines and I forgot about all that.
But when I saw that guy carving at the Log Home Show, it occurred to me that sculpture is spatial mathematics. And if you couple that with a great imagination, you know, that could be the perfect storm.
Dave Fraser: If you live in southern Berkshire County, chances are you've encountered Ken Pakie's work. In Otis alone, where he lives, there are probably two or three hundred of his lively wildlife wood carvings.
As a three dimensional storyteller, Packie says he strives to capture the fine details as well as the interactive dynamics within his sculptures.
Ken Packie: A lot of people ask if I can see what's inside the log. I prefer to say I'm seeking, I'm trying to find what's inside that.
But I start with the heads, especially if I'm doing multiple animals. I want to -- and they're going to be interacting -- I want to start with the heads. After my heads are in place, I can shift down to the shoulders, and shift down to the hips, and I can change things as I go.
So, I don't always have the exact pose in mind. I'm always looking for it.
Dave Fraser: And it's not always animals that Packie is carving. For his most recent commission, he spent 15 days, over the course of five weeks, transforming an old red oak tree into a lifelike rendering of the Holy Family.
Ken Packie: It was probably one of the most challenging things I did. And I did take a lot of pictures along the way, trying to figure out the drapery and to make this look like a stone sculpture, to try to make it look like a different medium, which is more sanding than I've ever done on any other piece to make this look like stone.
Dave Fraser: A lot of the commission work Packie gets includes requests for bears. But whereas other sculptors render wood bears in a cartoonish fashion or what Packie calls square bears, his sculptures employ a very realistic style.
Ken Packie: When I started carving, because of all these square bears I'd seen, I refused to carve bears. And in 2008, I met two extraordinary carvers Jeff Samudosky and Ken Tynan. Jeff Samudosky was the guy I had seen at that Log Home Show, and they knew I was chomping at the bit to go full-time, and they convinced me that bears pay bills.
And so, I wanted to understand the differences between black bears and grizzly bears, and that got me on the journey of thinking of musculature and skeleton and how they move, and that really...carving bears finally really pushed me to start thinking beyond just the picture of what I was looking at and what was underneath and how they act.
It took me probably three years to carve a bear I liked as much as that original black bear, which still sits on my front porch. It's one thing I'll never sell.
Dave Fraser: The work Packie does is physically demanding, moving one hundred pound logs several times as he works, battling the elements of Mother Nature, and the mechanics of chainsaws.
Ken Packie: Every log, every carving out here, I move that in its raw form three or four times: getting it in the truck, getting it out of the truck, picking up the trunks that come off of it.
So yeah, this is not just me standing with the chainsaw creating something fast. It's a lifestyle.
November 26, 2021
November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month and in honor of that, Paper City Clothing Company, in collaboration with Justin Beatty, is presenting a group exhibition entitled, “November Red: Native American Artists.” T
November is recognized as Native American Heritage Month and in honor of that, Paper City Clothing Company, in collaboration with Justin Beatty, is presenting a group exhibition entitled, “November Red: Native American Artists.”
The exhibit, which will be on display through December 18th inside Paper City Clothing Company in Holyoke, features the works of 6 Native artists whose pieces reflect Indigenous culture, contribution, and the ongoing fight for recognition and justice for Native communities.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Carlos Peña, artivist, community leader and owner of Paper City Clothing Company, and artist Justin Beatty to hear more about this exhibition and why Peña is committed to featuring it annually.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: November is also recognized as Native American Heritage Month, and in honor of that Paper City Clothing Company, in collaboration with Justin Beatty, is presenting a group exhibition entitled November Red: Native American Artists.
The exhibit, which will be on display through December 18th inside Paper City Clothing Company in Holyoke, features the works of six Native artists whose pieces reflect Indigenous culture, contribution, and the ongoing fight for recognition and justice for Native communities.
I spoke with Carlos Peña, artivist, community leader, and owner of Paper City Clothing Company, and artist Justin Beatty to hear more about this exhibition and why Peña is committed to featuring it annually.
Carlos Peña, Paper City Clothing Company: I've worked with the Native American community for a very long time and just more of a representation of being part of that community and trying to create a space that is for us, by us, and not having to jump through these hoops to try to get into a space that really doesn't exist for us, you know?
So, in being in this community and being the time that it is -- November -- which a lot of people are very... I don't know, it's it's a weird holiday for me, as it is for our community that it exists and it should be something else.
So, I wanted to represent what it should be; and that's a recognition of a wonderful people that have done a lot for the United States.
Zydalis Bauer: Can you go into a little bit about why it's kind of a weird holiday for people, for Native and Indigenous people?
Justin Beatty, Artist/Odenong Powwow: You know, unfortunately, the history that's been passed down about what the holiday is to the general public is...wildly inaccurate. It was not a situation where the Natives and the Wampanoag folks and Pilgrims decided to sit down and have a meal. That's not what happened.
What actually led to like first Thanksgiving Proclamation was, after a massacre of Native folks, Pequot folks and Wampanoag folks, and the Thanksgiving was for thanking for victory over, you know, a bunch of Native folks that had been killed. That's what -- where it comes about.
But Native folks have always had Thanksgiving feasts, where we are thankful for harvest or thankful for, you know, children being born, or relationships between different Nations. So, the feasting part of it, the getting together with family and celebrating part, is common. But there's also a...it's a national day of mourning for a lot of Native people, as well.
Zydalis Bauer: Speaking of the mourning, November Red is presenting the work of six Native visual artists in painting, sculptures, and graphic works.
But I wanted to ask you both, what is the significance behind the title November Red?
Carlos Peña: Red has become a -- for me -- has become a visual signal for something wrong that's being done. And for me, the reason why I called it November Red was because the big movement that has started now -- I mean, this has been going on for a very long time -- but it hasn't been any awareness 'til now. Whereas Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and also transgender folk, which the Native community calls two spirits.
Everything that's happening just with the Native community and how the United States, as it is today, treats this community is kind of sad, and I wanted to point that out.
And I think the red in it symbolizes, you know, the missing people, the murdered people, not just women, but just the whole group of Indigenous people that has been has been tried to be erased from the globe.
Zydalis Bauer: Justin, you are one of the featured artists in this exhibit, and you have done extensive work and dedicated a lot of your work to taking a deeper look into the cultural, political, and social issues that affect Indigenous communities.
In what ways does art lend itself as an effective educational tool?
Justin Beatty: Well, I mean, art, first and foremost, is an extension of culture, right? Every culture has an esthetic that's developed over years, whether it's the foods that are chosen to be traditional foods or the music or the clothing, and how we express ourselves, what we find beautiful.
The way we express ourselves through art is sometimes meant for other people and sometimes it's meant for just for us, you know? It's a way for us to get out some of the feelings and ideas about our experience and our situations.
And so, I think that as a learning tool, a lot of times art comes from a more intimate place, right? And it can be a bit more raw.
So, it's speaking directly from a person's sense of being to whomever views it or hears it or reads it. And so I think, you know, That value of it coming from directly from people within the community, makes a huge difference than if you see a movie that's not necessarily -- maybe well-intentioned, you know, or a book that's well-intentioned -- but didn't come from folks within these communities.
Zydalis Bauer: We started off this conversation talking about the fact that November is Native American Heritage Month, and I know that heritage months are important to recognize, but some worry that once the month ends, so do the celebrations, so do the conversations.
How do we make sure that the representation for each heritage month continues all year round?
Justin Beatty: I think one of the ways is to connect with various Native organizations and tribal organizations throughout your area. Generally, they're not terribly difficult to look up and find.
There are Native events going on within Native communities year long. You know, powwows generally run from late March into November, depending on the weather and COVID. And then, during the winter months, we have socials which are sort of informal get togethers.
There are art shows, there are arts markets, there are guest speakers, there are Native performances -- you know, musicians and poets and writers. There's always something going on within the Native community.
And so, you know, again, like, us having this, these gallery exhibits in an attempt to raise awareness and visibility, gets people to ask questions like, "Well, what's going on next and how do we find out?"
You know, getting people to understand that, like, you can access the Native community on a certain level in terms of gaining an education and hearing more.
And when you start to understand more about the Native community, it gives you a better understanding of who we are as a country, right? Yes, we have a painful past, but we also have created a lot of beauty out of that painful past.
November 26, 2021
Meet wood sculptor Ken Packie of Berkshire Mountain Sculpture, who uses a chainsaw and logs to craft custom pieces inspired by nature. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Paper City Clothing Company presents “November Red:
Meet wood sculptor Ken Packie of Berkshire Mountain Sculpture, who uses a chainsaw and logs to craft custom pieces inspired by nature. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Paper City Clothing Company presents “November Red: Native American Artists." The multi-artist exhibition features the works of 6 native artists whose pieces reflect Indigenous culture, contribution, and the ongoing fight for recognition and justice for Native communities.
Then, visit NOVA Motorcycles Turners Falls, MA where honor a classic piece of Americana by restoring vintage motorcycles into modern rides. Author Bill Harley talks about his novel “Now You Say Yes,” his career, and why he enjoys being a storyteller.
November 26, 2021
Hal Blaine is one of the most influential figures in rock and roll. Odds are he’s also someone you haven’t heard of—despite Blaine being born right here in Holyoke. Known as the world’s most recorded musician, Blaine’s signature d
Hal Blaine is one of the most influential figures in rock and roll. Odds are he’s also someone you haven’t heard of—despite Blaine being born right here in Holyoke. Known as the world’s most recorded musician, Blaine’s signature drum beats are the back-bone to chart-topping hit after hit from the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel and many others.
Blaine died on March 11 at 90 years old. But as Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman shows us, his legacy here in Western New England—and around the world—lives on.
This story originally aired on April 4, 2019.
Read the full transcript:
Monte Belmonte, WRSI: If it weren't for Hal Blaine, there would be no Wall of Sound. His thunderous, you know, drumming approach.
Jonny Memphis, Former WRSI DJ / Music Journalist: One of the most important things about him was, he was the guy that really pulled back the curtain on the music industry.
David Sokol, Former Valley Advocate Music Editor: The breadth of music that he recorded on over the years is just, it's staggering.
Monte Belmonte: I think he defined early rock-n-roll, for sure, on the drums.
David Sokol: Well, Hal Blaine was, I mean, one of the reasons that I first kind of was interested in him was when I found out that he spent the first seven years of his life in Holyoke.
Monte Belmonte: So, you've got this tiny window of time in the early 60s before the Beatles hit and take over the airwaves and change how rock and roll is done forever.
Hal Blaine, as a studio musician, a hired gun, with a bunch of other hired guns that they colloquially refer to themselves, as The Wrecking Crew.
Jonny Memphis: People just kind of assume that somehow Simon and Garfunkel's band or, you know, all the Beach Boys were playing on all those things, and then it was revealed that no, it's actually this guy from Holyoke, Hal Blaine and a bunch of his talented buddies out in L.A. laying down these perfect tracks.
And it made you kind of realize how music is made.
Monte Belmonte: So, let's say you're the Beach Boys, and Brian Wilson is a genius musical writer, but that Dennis Wilson is not a great drummer.
Jonny Memphis: Handsome surfer, cool guy in the back and you're like, "Oh, who was it?"
And it's this guy, Harold Belsky from Holyoke, you know, Hal Blaine.
David Sokol: Of the beginning of that song, that drum head is just like, it's so iconic. You know, whether he came up with it or whether Brian came up with it, I don't know. But he's there.
So, when you listen to those songs, it's like, "that's Hal!"
Jonny Memphis: It just was an eye opener for people about, you know, the way things are done and also that who's this guy? Hal Blaine.
Monte Belmonte: Hal Blaine actually had a rubber stamp made that said, "Hal Blaine strikes again!"
So, he would stamp the score of music that he had with his rubber stamp and like stamp the wall of the studio, "Hal Blaine strikes again!"
And other studio musicians in that era would say, "No matter what studio I ever went to to perform, I saw the stamp 'Hal Blaine strikes again!'"
Jonny Memphis: So, it's 1991, it's Holyoke Community College, and I see that Hal Blaine's coming. And I know enough at that point that, "wow, he's that great studio drummer who played on like six number one hits in a row."
David Sokol: I'll never forget, like, you know him doing the "Be My Baby" thing that he played on the Ronettes song. It was just like, it's like this guy invented this. It's like, this is where it came from.
And watching him play with this band of really good area musicians, some of those songs that, you know, became classics. It was just staggering.
Looking back on it, and thinking about, it was like 350 songs that reached the top 10. I've listened to a lot of those records many, many, many times. But I think after he passed away, played some of them again and I said, it just...they just sounded different to me. They just sounded bigger, you know?
They weren't -- those drums parts were just really, I mean, they were just perfect for what he was doing.
Monte Belmonte: Every little kid who's learning the drums right now and is doing de de de de de de de de de de de de de de dah! on their trap kit, they're, you know, that's Hal Blaine, who is doing that first and foremost in rock-n-roll.
Jonny Memphis: I think it's always about the song, and that's what he got, and you know that music is a team sport, you know. And you have to play together and support the song and the singer.
And it doesn't mean that you don't do anything as a drummer, but it's really keeping the groove. And then we're where it needs a little something, then you put in a little something.
David Sokol: His talent was just remarkable and his ability. I mean, I can't get over saying just how he worked in service of the music.
November 26, 2021
The first American-made motorcycle was produced by a Waltham, MA factory in 1898. Since then, motorcycles have become a part of Americana, embodying for some the freedom that can only be found on the open road. In Turners Falls, t
The first American-made motorcycle was produced by a Waltham, MA factory in 1898. Since then, motorcycles have become a part of Americana, embodying for some the freedom that can only be found on the open road. In Turners Falls, that spirit is still alive at NOVA Motorcycles. NOVA brings out the best of old motorcycles by restoring them into new rides. Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman takes us to their shop to see how they take a vintage ride and give it a modern spin.
This story originally aired on September 12, 2019.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Did you know that the very first motorcycle produced in America was way back in 1898 at a factory in Waltham, Mass? Since then, motorcycles have become a part of Americana, embodying for some the freedom that can only be found on the open road.
In the village of Turners Falls, that spirit is still alive at Nova Motorcycle, which aims to bring out the best of the old motorcycle in new rides.
Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman takes us to their shop to see how they take a vintage ride and give it a modern spin.
Sayre Anthony, NOVA Motorcycles: I think motorcycling is an activity that puts you very much in the moment. You know, you have to be very, very present to do it right. Whether you're working on it or riding it,you, you can't take anything for granted.
Peter Chilton, NOVA Motorcycles: Well, I grew up on two wheels, you know, my whole childhood was about bicycles. So, I think there's a big portion of my psyche that's associated like the freedom of just going anywhere we wanted to, even as a kid, with transportation on two wheels.
Sayre Anthony: If you're in a large SUV, you have a super barrier between you and the world when you're driving around. You don't really see other people as real, you know, coequal beings in the world, so to speak.
On a motorcycle, you do. It's been motorcycles for a long time for me, in varying states. One thing that's really great about Pete and I are, we have separate skill sets. He does so many things that I can't do, and I do things that he can't do.
Peter Chilton: I was like, "Hey, we should start a motorcycle company and I'll design them and you can like, repair them."
And he was like, "OK!" So that's how that's how NOVA started.
Sayre Anthony: From end of April, beginning of May, until end of September, we're doing pretty much repairs, which I considered, for the most part, shorter term stuff.
And the other seasons winter, fall-winter, and early spring, we're doing more deeper restorations. That's when we try to do our motor work, and that's when we do most of our custom work.
Peter Chilton: My designs are always based on simplicity, making the most complicated parts of the motorcycle as simple as possible. That's -- that's what I'm always trying to do.
If all the bikes we built were actually mine, I would be really excited. I think none of them are perfect. There's still things I'm like, "OK, on the next one, we'll do it this way." Or, you know.
But I think they're all nice. I just love them.
Sayre Anthony: It's a bit hectic in repair season, in a good way, like -- not like not unlike a restaurant. Where people are coming in and the phone's ringing emails are happening, a lot of just on-the-fly in the moment. Questions and answers and got to get this done. Got to get it back out the door.
We all do this because we love the work, and when you can work like that, it's really the best. You know, that's that's our ideal.
Peter Chilton: I dream about foot pegs and headlight mounts and things like that.
Yeah, I tend to drive a lot. I drive, you know, I commute an hour each way ,and no radio on, just like my brain's always processing. Like, What's the next thing? What's the next step?
The other thing that we wanted to get into is motorcycle tours. We live in a great area of the Pioneer Valley. Western Mass, southern Vermont has some of the best roads in New England. And people that have ridden out here with us know that, and we would like to sort of share that a little bit more.
Sayre Anthony: I have worked desk jobs and not been happy. So no, I can't. It's yeah, it's pretty good. So it's we're --- yeah. Um. No, I can't.
It's hard, it's hard to spend your life doing something that you don't care about. I -- the chances, the moments I've had doing that, I don't think that's something I want to do, you know?
And so no, I'm very glad to be where I am.