Breakfast with the Eagle

No room for 'Debbie Downers' at Jennifer Glockner's positive table

City of Pittsfield's Office of Cultural Development Director talks about upcoming 10X10 fest, public art and her answer to people who say there's nothing to do in Pittsfield

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PITTSFIELD — "I always come in and say, `I'm going to try something else. I'm going to try something else,' and I never do," Jennifer Glockner said before placing her usual Naked Burrito Bowl order at Dottie's Coffee Lounge on Wednesday morning.

With avocado, shredded cheddar, fried egg and Cholula Hot Sauce atop a rice-and-beans bed, the breakfast bowl features ingredients that generate a swirling array of color amid white surrounds. The 10x10 Upstreet Arts Festival presents a similarly stark contrast. Pittsfield's annual multi-week array of artistic events arrives in the gray of Berkshire winter, a flush of activity aimed at stirring a sleepy cultural scene. As the City of Pittsfield's Office of Cultural Development Director, Glockner ensures that the festival's participating organizations contribute to a diverse menu of offerings.

"It's so cliche, but I say it anyway: There truly is something for everyone," Glockner said after settling into a chair, 10x10 brochures at her side.

Primarily running from Feb. 14 to Feb. 24 this year, the festival includes the first "Big Chill" at Hancock Shaker Village and "Showtime with Shakespeare: A Magic Tree House Adventure" at The Colonial Theatre. Glockner is most excited for the installation of three ice sculptures near Hotel on North, Barrington Stage Company's headquarters and the Berkshire Museum, beginning on Wednesday. She and other festival organizers have discussed commissioning ice sculptures in past years, she said, but finally worked out the logistics this time.

"We just ripped the Band-Aid and said we're going to do it," Glockner said.

Planning for the festival typically begins with meetings in mid-October, shortly after the season's final Third Thursday. The city's cultural development office organizes the street fair, which is held monthly from May through September, and helped start First Fridays Artswalk. Operating out of the city-owned Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, the office curates art shows in the building and is the "first point of contact for artists of all stripes, cultural organizations, event organizers and creative businesses in Pittsfield," according to the city's website.

"We are connectors and collaborators," Glockner said after digging into her meal. "People and entities call our office with questions, and we have answers. A lot of times, it's as simple as, 'Oh, there's someone already doing what you're looking for. Here's their name and number. Here's their email,' or an introduction via email."

She mentioned working with Enrico Spada on Pittsfield Shakespeare in the Park and Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson on The Mastheads to bring those projects to fruition.

"[Former] Mayor [Daniel] Bianchi and Mayor [Linda] Tyer call this the 'Department of Fun' because, for the most part, that's what we try and do. We try and put on lots of cool events and happenings to benefit the citizens of Pittsfield. The ripple effect is that the visitors get a benefit, too," Glockner said.

The Pittsfield resident assumed her current position in June 2014 after serving as tourism administrative coordinator under director Megan Whilden. But her professional background isn't confined to one office.

"This is like my fourth career, basically," Glockner said, later adjusting that number to five.

Her first was in TV news. After graduating from Michigan State University in 1997, the Port Sanilac, Mich., native worked as a morning news producer for the CBS affiliate in Kalamazoo, Mich. She later took a job at Denver's NBC station.

"Get there at 11 p.m., work overnight, produce the 5 a.m. show and be done by 7:30," she said of her routine.

During the morning, the crew could get away with more fun segments. One time, an anchor ascended a climbing wall.

"You can't do that at the 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. newscast," she said.

She met her husband, Ted, at a wedding in Colorado. Ted lived in Pittsfield. The couple dated long-distance initially before Glockner decided that she was tired of overnight production duties. She uprooted to Berkshire County in 2003.

"I had never heard of the Berkshires before I met him," Glockner said, "and now I can't imagine living anywhere else."

Glockner worked at CBS 6 Albany for three months before the commute wore on her. She subsequently landed a position in advertising sales at The Berkshire Eagle — career No. 2.

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"That was an amazing way to get to know people in the Berkshires because I got to go visit all the businesses, explore what there was, but also get to know people," she said.

Her next stop was at Winstanley in Lenox, where she was the firm's public relations director, authoring pitches instead of receiving them. But when twin boys Ben and Sam arrived in 2008 ("We are a three-letter family," Glockner quipped), it was time to scale back. She started selling memberships for the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce in a part-time capacity. By then, she was well-connected in the area.

"It was easy to approach businesses and say, 'Hey, why aren't you members of the Chamber?'" Glockner said.

Her first cultural development office position was also part-time. In 2014, with Whilden leaving for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in 2014 and Ben and Sam heading into kindergarten, Glockner sought greater professional responsibility. The director job provided it.

"It made sense for me to be ready to move into a full-time position," Glockner said.

The office currently consists of Glockner and Shiobbean Lemme, with interns assisting. She knows that the city is fortunate to have a line item dedicated to cultural development.

"I sit at the table with the building and maintenance director, the treasurer, purchasing, the personnel director, the public works director," Glockner said. " ... That's pretty cool."

Moving forward, the office aims to add more public art to the city.

"It probably has been a hot topic for years, but it seems like more people are talking about it," Glockner said.

She cited North Adams murals and Artscape's Pittsfield Paintbox Program as positive examples.

"There is public art happening in Pittsfield, but I think murals are a big topic. We've been trying to work with private businesses to do things," she said, mentioning the alleyway beside the Beacon Cinema as a potential canvas.

Glockner has been encouraged by support for new projects in the city. She often encounters some of their backers at Dottie's, meeting with some of them over coffee.

"It's like office hours from Dottie's," she said.

But Glockner is also quick to acknowledge the presence of Pittsfield naysayers.

"The people that drive me crazy are the ones that say there's absolutely nothing to do in Pittsfield," she said.

She has a counter for them, though.

"We want to flood the Debbie Downers with the enthusiasm," she said.

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.


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