The traditional part of the calendar

No matter your beliefs, there are many artistic sights and sounds to be thankful for

By Benjamin Cassidy

November and December are months filled with traditions, religious and otherwise. In the Berkshires and Southern Vermont, you can set your clock to certain arts institutions’ offerings, too.

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, for instance, has made a habit of featuring Arlo Guthrie and company in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. It’s one of the few pop music happenings in the Berkshires during November and December. Take a short trip to the Pioneer Valley, and you’ll find multiple venues in Northampton, Mass., offer compelling bookings, including Dar Williams at Iron Horse Music Hall. To the north, Brattleboro’s Vermont Jazz Center annually holds a December fundraising gala, with this year’s event celebrating the late clarinetist Artie Shaw.

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge typically welcomes at least one major exhibition of illustration in November. This year, it houses two, including “Frank E. Schoonover: American Visions.” With classes well underway, Williams College and Bennington College are also reliable hubs for exhibitions. “Kay Sage: Serene Surrealist” is on view through Jan. 13 at the Williams College Museum of Art, and “Scalar,” featuring works by Torkwase Dyson, will be on display at the Bennington College Visual and Performing Arts Center’s Usdan Gallery through Dec. 15.

No matter your beliefs, there is much art to be thankful for this holiday season.

Photo: Ben Garver

Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant Back by Popular Demand Tour

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle St., Great Barrington, Mass.

The Berkshires’ musical landscape has shifted since 1965, with Tanglewood, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center bringing acclaimed popular performers to a county renowned for its classical tunes. But the Berkshires’ First Family of Folk, the Guthries, has been as fixed as the surrounding mountains.

This status is perpetually bolstered by “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” the 18-plus-minute Arlo Guthrie song from 1967 a satirical first-person commentary on the Vietnam War that begins with the now famous incident on Thanksgiving Day 1965 when Guthrie and friend Richard Robbins were fined $25 each for dumping trash down a hillside in Stockbridge, Mass. It is often played around turkey time, including at the Mahaiwe, which Guthrie has made a November haunt.

The singer-songwriter will return to the Great Barrington institution Nov. 17, as part of the Alice’s Restaurant Back by Popular Demand Tour that is scheduled to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the “Alice’s Restaurant” film shot in the Berkshires. Arlo’s daughter, Sarah Lee Guthrie, will open a Guthrie-dominated show that has become both a family and county tradition.

Postmodern Jukebox

Nov. 2, 8 p.m.

Creator Scott Bradlee and company provide vintage and viral presentations of contemporary hits.

Arlo Guthrie: Alice’s Restaurant Back By Popular Demand

Nov. 17, 8 p.m. Arlo Guthrie returns for another pre-Thanksgiving concert celebrating “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and the film it spawned.

John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey “Radio Deluxe” Live

Dec. 22, 8 p.m.

Jazz musicians will record their American-songbook program, “Radio Deluxe.”

Kay Sage’s “Page 49,” 1950. Photo provided by the Williams College Museum of Art.

“Kay Sage: Serene Surrealist”

Williams College Museum of Art, 15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Williamstown, Mass.

Though Williams College recently ushered in a new class of students that will help direct its future, the institution has also been engaging in a bit of nostalgia recently. At the Williams College Museum of Art, “Kay Sage: Serene Surrealist” strives to mirror the artist’s 1950 show at the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York City. Running through Jan. 13, the exhibition features 12 of the original exhibition’s 14 surrealist paintings; a fire ruined one of the absent and another went missing after a private sale.

Sage’s attention to scaffolding provided the mechanical grounding for much of her painting. Another element, naturally, was the dreamlike quality to her pieces that characterized many surrealist works during the meat of the 20th century. Sage was among the movement’s most prominent female artists. Some Williams College students won’t need to be reminded of that context; the elite liberal arts school offers a robust art history program. All the more reason that this revived show should call Williamstown home.

“‘The Field is The World:’ Williams, Hawaiʻi, and Material Histories in the Making”

Through Jan. 2, 2019

Collections are mined to examine the multifaceted relationship between Williams College and the kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

“Kay Sage: Serene Surrealist”

Through Jan. 13, 2019

A storied surrealist’s 1950 exhibit in New York City is re-created.

“Diana Al-Hadid: Delirious Matter”

through March 24, 2019

Four sculptures installed across campus combine aluminum, fiberglass, steel, polymer-modified gypsum, concrete and pigment.

Frank E. Schoonover’s “Abe Catherson Pursues Masten Across the Desert, 1916.” Illustration for “The Range Boss” by Charles Alden Seltzer. Photo provided by the Norman Rockwell Museum.

“Frank E. Schoonover: American Visions”

Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Glendale Road, Stockbridge, Mass.

An adventurous spirit attracts many people to roam the Berkshire Hills, but a Norman Rockwell Museum show might draw those types indoors.

Opening on Nov. 10 at the Stockbridge institution, “Frank E. Schoonover: American Visions” not only celebrates the life of a late “Golden Age of Illustration” painter, but also the thrill of embracing the wild. Inspired by teacher Howard Pyle, Schoonover trekked to places such as Canada and Alaska and the American West, finding terrain and dramatic situations that served as pillars for much of his work. “To Build a Fire,” for example, features man and dog sitting across from one another, flame and smoke between them.

The museum’s show is a tribute to Schoonover’s robust connection to literary history. He illustrated classics such as “Robinson Crusoe,” “Ivanhoe” and “Swiss Family Robinson.” He was also known for his depictions of Hopalong Cassidy.

If Schoonover’s pieces aren’t enticing enough, gallerygoers’ minds can also chew on “Gregory Manchess: Above the Timberline.” Manchess’ illustrated novel imagines a future in which snow covers the Earth. Winter is coming, indeed.

“Frank E. Schoonover: American Visions”

Nov. 10–May 27, 2019

A late illustrator’s daring travels produce pulse-pounding works that capture the great outdoors and more.

“Gregory Manchess: Above the Timberline”

Nov. 10–Feb. 24, 2019

A polar future presides in the illustrator’s painted novel.

Photo courtesy of Torkwase Dyson. Photo by Arthur Evans for Usdan Gallery, Bennington College.


Visual and Performing Arts Center Usdan Gallery, Bennington College, One College Drive, Bennington, Vt.

For decades, Bennington College has been emphasizing the “arts” in liberal arts college. The school is known for producing accomplished pens and brushes such as Bret Easton Ellis and Helen Frankenthaler. These creators’ works often reference the school; Donna Tartt’s novel “The Secret History,” for instance, is set at a college that resembles her alma mater.

Torkwase Dyson didn’t attend Bennington College, but “Scalar,” her exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculptures on view at the college’s Visual and Performing Arts Center Usdan Gallery through Dec. 15, draws inspiration from a Bennington instructor and the school itself. Dyson studied the geometric formations of late artist and architectural designer Tony Smith to generate her own explorations of scale and dimension. Abstraction reigns.

A 12-foot-by-20-foot diptych conveys the artist’s interest in environmental issues and other global concerns of the moment. With a penchant for such examinations, Dyson and her work fit right in on this progressive campus.


through Dec. 15, VAPA Usdan Gallery gallery open Tuesdays-Saturdays

A contemporary artist’s paintings, drawings and sculptures raise questions about the environment and other global matters.

Poetry Reading: Cynthia Cruz and Sandra Simonds

Nov. 14, 7 p.m., Tishman Lecture Hall

Two contemporary poets taking part in the “Poetry at Bennington” series of multi-day residencies share some of their verse.

Poetry Reading: Don Mee Choi

Nov. 28, 7 p.m., Tishman Lecture Hall

The author of poetry collections “Hardly War” and “The Morning News Is Exciting” closes out the fall reading series slate.

Photo: The Associated Press

Vermont Jazz Center’s Annual Big Band Gala: A Tribute to Artie Shaw

Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, Brattleboro, Vt.

The Vermont Jazz Center doesn’t let the cold or the snow chill its final month of the year. Each December, the Brattleboro institution hosts a big band gala to raise money for its scholarship program. In the past, the event has paid homage to Ella Fitzgerald and to Terry Gibbs’ Dream Band. This year’s gala is a tribute to clarinet virtuoso Artie Shaw, who is also known for his band leadership.

Four current and former Artie Shaw Orchestra members will join the Vermont Jazz Center Big Band, which is directed by Rob Freeberg: clarinetist Matt Koza, vocalist Sarah Hayes, trumpeter Kerry MacKillop and trombonist John Wheeler. They will play a host of swing tunes, including “Deep Purple,” “Stardust,” “Frenesi” and “Begin the Beguine,” the last of which is a famous Shaw recording. It will be a dancing affair, one that should provide plenty of heat as winter nears.

Vermont Jazz Center’s Annual Big Band Gala: A Tribute to Artie Shaw

Dec. 7, 8 p.m.

This year’s fundraiser focuses on the swing era clarinetist’s work.

Photo provided by Iron Horse Entertainment Group

Dar Williams

Iron Horse Entertainment Group, Northampton, Mass.

During the summer months, performances by acclaimed singer-songwriters are about as common to the Berkshires and Southern Vermont as rolling green hills. Once the cold sets in, though, regional music lovers often gaze longingly at the Pioneer Valley and, specifically, Northampton, where multiple venues regularly book top performers.

Iron Horse Music Hall is a sturdy source of such tunes. On Dec. 28, Dar Williams will visit the Iron Horse Entertainment Group spot, bringing her celebrated songwriting to the region yet again. Williams used to live in Northampton and has been a frequent performer in the area. Recently, she played with reunited folk trio Cry Cry Cry, a project that also includes Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell, at Northampton’s Calvin Theatre.

Those looking for a little more rock will find it at the Calvin on Dec. 1, when Melissa Etheridge plays The Holiday Show. Etheridge was at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in June. It’s no surprise that, as winter approaches, she and others tend to move their gigs to this Pioneer Valley arts hub.

Melissa Etheridge: The Holiday Show

Dec. 1, 8 p.m., Calvin Theatre

The rocker behind “Come to My Window” and “I’m the Only One” stokes the holiday spirit.

Dar Williams

Dec. 28, 7 p.m., Iron Horse Music Hall

The singer-songwriter returns yet again to the town where she once lived, her political tunes in tow.

Benjamin Cassidy is the arts and entertainment reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. A graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Michigan, Benjamin now lives in Dalton, Mass.

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