Creativity visible through the mud

As winter wanes, this is no time to be stuck in the house

By Benjamin Cassidy

By March, winter has long since passed the fluffy and cute stage for arts buffs in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. At this point, you’ve revisited collections at your favorite local museums, attended your friends’ coffee shop concerts, made some headway on your bookshelf. You’re ready for things to ramp up.

While mud season won’t evoke those halcyon days of summer music festivals, major art exhibits and ongoing theater productions, the arts slate in March and April isn’t as bare as the surrounding trees might suggest, especially March 9. That day, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art hosts funk icon George Clinton, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center opens a handful of new visual art shows, including Amy Bennett’s paintings of three-dimensional models, and HopRidge Farms and the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce throw the third annual Southern Vermont Winter HomeBrew Festival.

If you’re busy March 9, don’t despair; the exhibitions in Brattleboro will be up for three-plus months, and Mass MoCA has Punch Brothers, the High Mud Comedy Fest and “Fishing” to keep you occupied. This is no time to be stuck in the house.

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Photo: Jenny Risher Photography

Hunter Center, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has attracted pioneers in art and music to North Adams, Mass., since it opened in 1999, but it undoubtedly still surprised some to learn that sonic trailblazer George Clinton would be navigating his way to the Berkshires for a Hunter Center show March 9. After all, the 77-year-old funk legend has suggested that he will be retiring from touring in 2019, and the tour dates sandwiching his Mass MoCA appearance — one in Robinsonville, Miss., the other in Pocola, Okla. — don’t exactly signal a Western Massachusetts concert.

So, Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic aren’t stopping by out of convenience, which probably bodes well for the show’s quality. And that can mean a whole lot of quality, both sonically and visually.

Influenced by James Brown and Sly Stone, Clinton’s brand of funk has been revered by rockers and rappers over the years; “Atomic Dog” is one of his classics. Meanwhile, Clinton’s stage garb is worthy of its own museum exhibition.

Before the High Mud Comedy Fest has Mass MoCA spectators busting their guts, you can bet that Clinton and company will have more than a few of them moving their hips.

  • George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Hunter Center, March 9, 8 p.m.: A funk master makes North Adams one of his final stops on tour.
  • High Mud Comedy Fest, Mass MoCA, March 29-30: Judah Friedlander headlines the annual laugh bonanza along with Michelle Buteau and Dulcé Sloan.
  • “Fishing,” Hunter Center, April 6, 8 p.m.: A work-in-progress theater, music and dance project featuring actor Jon Hamm trains its lens on desire.

“Amy Bennett: Nuclear Family”

Amy Bennett “Anniversary” (2018), oil on panel, 10 x 14 inches, courtesy of Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, N.Y.

Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, Vt.

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is the type of museum that you can return to in every season. Founded in 1972, the noncollecting institution has made a habit of keeping its contents fresh, presenting a host of new exhibitions every few months.

This mud season brings, among other exhibitions, “Amy Bennett: Nuclear Family.” The Cold Spring, N.Y., artist bases her narrative paintings off three-dimensional models. She uses foam, cardboard, paint, wood, glue and model railroad miniatures to build these structures, constructing scenes and playing with light in the process. Sometimes, she generates vast landscapes. Other times, as in “Doghouse,” she offers an aerial view of suburbia. A lake, doctor’s office and church have featured in some of her recent pieces.

Probing human relationships and, naturally, awkwardness, Bennett’s works are richly detailed, the kind that require multiple viewings. Nobody said you couldn’t visit twice in one season.

• “Amy Bennett: Nuclear Family,” March 9 to June 16: Three-dimensional models serve as inspirations for this painter’s narrative works.
• “Joseph Diggs: Proud 2 be American,” March 9 to June 16: Patriotism, baseball and a Cape Cod jazz club are at the fore in this painter’s nod to his roots.
• “Sandy Sokoloff: Emanation,” March 9 to June 16: 6-by-9-foot acrylics from the painter’s “Sephirot (The Quabalistic Spheres)” series explore the artist’s relationship to spirituality.

Third Annual Southern Vermont Winter Homebrew Festival

HopRidge Farms and Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, 239 Main St., Bennington, Vt.

Creativity isn’t just for the page or stage. For cooped-up New Englanders, the kitchen — or the basement — can quickly become a place for experimentation and imagination during the colder months.

Now entering its third year, the Southern Vermont Winter HomeBrew Festival on March 9 in downtown Bennington celebrates the types that aren’t content with just plopping down at their local bars and accepting whatever hoppy offerings are presented to them. The event, which is hosted by HopRidge Farms and the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, has requested that some of the area’s best homebrewers submit their top beers, ciders, braggots, meads and wines for a chance to be named “Best Home Brewery.” Restaurants also will vie for “Best Regional Wings,” a title that Ramunto’s has claimed in each of the first two festivals.

The competitions present opportunities to indulge for ticketholders, who will vote on the winners. With 100-plus drinks being advertised, it just might be time to leave the house.

  • March 9, 1 p.m.: Ticketholders vote on the region’s best homebrewers and wings.

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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