A First Friday Artswalk earlier this month reached the pinnacle level for me. My husband’s aunt, Cecile Zaik, had died the same week, and the funeral was Friday, Dec. 7. She and her husband, Ernie Zaik, had been married for 60 years. Family had flown in from all over the country, and after the burial at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, uncles, aunts and cousins, upon seeing the flyers, asked about going on the Artswalk. They were looking for something happy to do and hadn’t been in downtown Pittsfield for many years. It was still home to many of them.
Led by retired Judge Rudy Sacco and Tom Wojtkowski, 1944-’45 Pittsfield High School classmates of Ernie, we all walked the Artswalk. Starting at Gallery 25 on Union Street, the Taconic High School chorus sang to us in an angelic presentation we will never forget. They asked Ernie what songs he would like to hear, and when they sang, he finally smiled. Watercolorist Marguerite Bride was the featured artist and seeing all of her Pittsfield buildings brought back memories.
Our parade then walked to City Hall where we met Mayor Dan Bianchi and his wife Theresa. The walls were full of local art and photography. The special attention to detail down to the new hanging system for the art was an affirmation that this program had the blessing of city leaders. Out of the blue we were again treated to the Taconic chorus, which sounded wonderful in those halls.
Our tour guide, Judge Sacco, then directed us to Pittsfield Inc.’s new location at 33 Dunham Mall. With its high ceilings and large windows, it seconds as an art gallery. The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts on Rennie Ave. was equally impressive. In Crawford Square, Judge Sacco bought a print of the Berkshire County Courthouse with the PHS dome in the background and a plaque honoring Judge Quirico that Judge Sacco had a role in placing on the lawn. Steven Valenti welcomed everyone in to his clothing store like it was his living room.
Three 86-year-old men, eight cousins, two siblings and two friends then made their way up the stairs of the 311 North building which had 17 artists showing. This was the grand finale of Artswalk. Each room had artists, snacks and hospitality beyond the norm.
Family was together for the first time in years, and the next question was, "Where is there a place we can go to eat supper in a private meeting?" I quickly made a call to Joyce Bernstein at Spice Dragon next door, and asked her for help. The parade walked over and was greeted with smiles and a warm welcome into a side room with decor equal to any high-end Manhattan restaurant. We were waited on with the utmost professionalism. Wine, great food and a warm atmosphere gave us all fine memories of an otherwise sad day, which we will never forget.
I can’t think of anything that would match the experience we all felt together that night. Thank you downtown Pittsfield for your kind remedy.