Matt Bialer reads poetry at YBar on North Street in Pittsfield as part of the bar’s 10x10 poetry series last year.
Matt Bialer reads poetry at YBar on North Street in Pittsfield as part of the bar's 10x10 poetry series last year. (Eagle file photo)

PITTSFIELD -- Smartphone film festivals, teen art shows, an event described as "show and tell for grownups"? Eclecticism returns to downtown Pittsfield on Thursday with the opening of the second 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival.

This year's festival, which takes place over the course of 11 days, features artists, writers and comedians participating in a variety of events at venues in the city's Upstreet Cultural District, located between the Barrington Stage Company's Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center on Linden Street and the Colonial Theatre on South Street.

The 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival begins Thursday with a show featuring works of art by Berkshire County teens. The art show takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at City Hall and is followed by an opening reception from 4 to 6.

The number of events, 75, this year is 31 more than were held during last year's inaugural event.

"This year we did a call for submissions, which we didn't do last year because it was so seat of the pants," said Megan Whilden, who co-chairs the 10x10 festival's steering committee.

The vast majority of the events, including the teen art show, are free of charge, although some come with caveats. Events at the Berkshire Museum, for example, require an admission fee to the museum. Four other events ask for either "suggested" or "freewill" donations. Prices range from $10 to $25 for the 25 events that require an admission fee, according to the event calendar.

Some 3,000 people attended last year's 44 events, Whilden said. Although that number seems small for the number of events, the organizers said most of last year's events took place in small venues like art galleries.

"Last year was a big success," Whilden said. "This was in a month when there is very little is happening in the Berkshires except for skiing, and last year there wasn't any skiing pretty much.

"We had pretty good weather, which was a plus, but at the same time we didn't have any ski visitors, which was a minus," she said. "So we're interested to see how it goes this time."

Last year's festival was known as 10x10 on North, but Upstreet was added to this year's title based on the state's 2012 recognition of the Upstreet Cultural District, the first state-designated cultural district west of Boston.

"Last year we didn't know what we were going to handle, what the events would be, and if anybody would show up," said steering committee co-chairwoman Laura Roudabush. "This year with the state designation of the cultural district, we thought it was a great way to rebrand and expand the festival."

This year's event also has 10 more sponsors than last year's festival, according to Whilden.

Some of this year's more eclectic events include the Smartphone Film Festival that takes place at the Beacon Cinema on Thursday, Feb. 21, and Sunday, Feb. 24, and PechaKucha, which Whilden describes as "show and tell for grownups," at the Berkshire Museum on Tuesday, Feb. 19. PechaKucha features adults talking in front of a projection of slides that change constantly, Roudabush said,

"You get 20 seconds to talk, and the slides run automatically, so you just stand up there and talk about your favorite subjects," Roudabush said.

The Storefront Artist Project and Berkshire Arts Association will also be holding a fundraiser at the Berkshire Museum to raise funds for Berkshire County art students. More than 100 artworks have been donated for the event by local artists.

For a full listing of 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival events, visit www.discoverpittsfield.com/10x10 or find them on Facebook.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.