Committing a monument to paper

Wednesday July 11, 2012

Growing up in Pittsfield, Edmund Rucinski enjoyed the short trip to visit Chesterwood, the Stockbridge country home, studio and gardens of the sculptor Daniel Chester French.

So when Rucinski, now of Halfmoon, N.Y., heard about a call for submissions to an art show and fundraiser for one of French's works in nearby Saratoga Springs, N.Y., he raced to Congress Park and started sketching pieces.

"I sort of jumped at the chance to continue a Berkshire connection with the fundraiser," Rucinski said. "I think my heart is still in the Berkshires."

French designed the Spencer Trask Memorial and "Spirit of Life" sculpture that has become an iconic image for Saratoga Springs. Installed in Congress Park in 1915, the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation is working to raise an additional $250,000 to repair the memorial.

The fundraiser was held on June 28 and featured more than 100 works of art up for auction. More than half were sold, including Rucinski's up-looking sketch of the "Spirit of Life" sculpture's visage.

Rucinski, 67, is a violinist by trade, but he has always worked in other artistic media.

Donna Hassler, Chesterwood executive director and honorary co-chair of the fundraiser, called the sculpture one of French's greatest works, adding that it has a "buoyancy and effervescence." She said the image of the sculpture can be found all over the Saratoga Springs.

"It's everywhere and it's great," Hassler said. "It just shows that the monument is timeless. It still has significance in the 21st century."

French is best known for his sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the president's memorial in Washington, D.C.

Not only are the hills alive with the sound of music here in the Berkshires, but so are some town parks and other sites.

Just announced is the third series of free summer concerts at Lilac Park in downtown Lenox, featuring local and regional performers offering a range of down-home, roots music. The Wednesday performances start at 7 p.m. The rain location is the Town Hall auditorium.

Concertgoers at the family-friendly gathering can bring picnics or buy popcorn on site.

Sister City Ambassadors perform tonight. Upcoming bookings include Sweet Adelines (July 18); Wang Dang Doodle (July 25); Eagles Band (Aug. 1); Housatonic Philharmonic (Aug. 8); Moonshine Holler (Aug. 15); Eli Newberger Jazz Trio (Aug. 22); and folksinger Bernice Lewis (Aug. 29).

The talented high school-age students spending the summer at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute also are getting out and about. They're featured at a new Sunday morning series offered at the Lenox Library's Reading Park beginning at 10 a.m. Delicacies from Patisserie Lenox are sold, along with coffee, tea and bagels, but the music is free.

In addition to their regularly scheduled concerts at Ozawa Hall on the Tanglewood grounds, groups of BUTI students also entertain off-site at locations such as Lenox Commons, where they'll perform at the gazebo tonight and next Wednesday at 7:15. They will also perform on three Thursday evenings, July 26, Aug. 2 and Aug. 9 at the same time.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.

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