PITTSFIELD -- The shaping of Pittsfield's arts and culture scene is shifting from the hands of adults and city officials to the eager palms of its children.

The lineup for this year's 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival, which launches Thursday, not only includes more family-friendly events than last year, but features more people under the age of 30 as leading talent.

"I think it's absolutely wonderful," said Megan Whilden, Pittsfield's director of cultural development.

"We've been doing this cultural revitalization work for about eight years now. That means kids who were 6 when we started are now 14. They grew up with exciting times, events and things happening around them and feel like they want to be a part of it. And yes, they can be a part of it," Whilden said.

At Pittsfield City Hall, a group of juniors from Miss Hall's School will be installing "The Teen Ten" an exhibit of 10 art pieces juried and selected by a public online voting system. High schoolers from across the county were encouraged to submit their work for the voting period.

"There is limited opportunity for high school artists to display their work. The Teen Ten presents a great way for Berkshire County residents to see art created by the many talented students in the schools across the county," said Miss Hall's studio art teacher Ellie Kreischer.

Eleven-year-old Shea McIlquham of Hinsdale and Craneville Elementary School in Dalton said he's proud to have the distinction of being the lone youth in Barrington Stage Company's 10x10 New Play Festival. He has been cast in a new work titled "Higher Ground." The play follows a family's journey in New York in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

"I just think it's a very cool experience because I'm working with a ton of people who are older than me who are really good actors," said McIlquham.

He said the festival is a "good start" for any youth sharing their talents and that the events should be "very entertaining."

When words are art

As part of the festivities, the WordXWord Festival will be sponsoring 10x10 Poetry, a series of poetic events.

Kicking off the series at Y Bar on Feb. 17 is a Young Poets event, featuring eight high-school aged students from six Berkshire County schools. WordXWord Festival founder Jim Benson said the youth poets night is part of the ongoing mission of WxW.

"We want to see impact delivered across all ages," noting that the WxW Festival has previously attracted students for youth poetry slams, elementary school programs and April's 30x30 poetry challenge. "For youth, it's an outlet that's not a school function or program," said Benson.

For the younger crowd, Pop-Up Adventure Play team members Anna Housley Juster and Morgan Leichter-Saxby will support the Berkshire Museum's installment of "WeeMuse: 10 Days of Play."

"Ten Days of Play revolves around the notion that you buy your child an expensive gift, and they end up playing with the cardboard box instead," said Craig Langlois, the museum's education and public program manager. "It's all about children leading playtime as they see fit."

In addition to these events, other events featuring youth contributions or are family-friendly include: a singer-songwriter series at the Marketplace Café featuring 10 performers under age 30; 10 craft workshops at Bisque, Beads & Beyond; a historical photography exhibit entitled 10x10 Shaker Faces presented by Hancock Shaker Village and Treehouse Children's Boutique; 10x10 on 10 art and theater exhibit by Alchemy Initiative and WAM Theatre, and a series of coffee house performance sets featuring 10 student and faculty members of Berkshire Music School.

For a full listing of 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival events, visit http://discoverpittsfield.co
m/10x10 or find them on Facebook.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink