'Drive-Walk-Bike-By City Art Show': Innovative outdoor community exhibit 'liberates the art'
Local artists will take to front lawns to show their work
Pittsfield artist Jesse Tobin McCauley's colorful works have brightened galleries and homes in the Berkshires for years. Now, she's taking her work to her front lawn.
Tobin McCauley, along with other local artists, will flood the front lawns of Pittsfield with artwork Friday, July 3, as part of a new night celebrating local artists, "Drive-Walk-Bike-By City Art Show." With museums and art galleries shuttered through at least mid-July due to COVID-19, Tobin McCauley, one of the main organizers of the grassroots community event, said she was looking for something fun to channel her energy into while sheltering-in-place at her Dawes Avenue home with her husband and soon-to-be 5-year-old son.
"In May, a friend of mine sent me an article about a drive-by arts show happening in Long Island," said Tobin McCauley in a phone interview. "I thought, 'This is awesome.' Because First Friday Arts Walk has been on hold or stalled through all of COVID, she sent me this article. I realized this could definitely happen in Pittsfield; its seems like a simple thing we can do."
From a simple idea grew an event with more than 25 stops along the streets of the city — from North Street and Maplewood Avenue to many in the Southeast section of Pittsfield where Tobin McCauley lives. She said while many of the stops are in her sidewalk-heavy neighborhood, this is an event for all of Pittsfield.
The artists participating also don't have to be from Pittsfield, Tobin McCauley said. Many residents have offered their homes as hosting sites, including Jennifer Carlo, who lives just down the street from Tobin McCauley and is hosting two artists — Mike Carty and Gail Downey — who will both be doing live demonstrations during the evening.
"It's such a brilliant idea to liberate the art currently stuck in galleries and studios and bring it outside to the lawns of our neighborhoods," Carlo said. "It's also a great reason to get outside. You can literally walk your dog or ride your bike through an art exhibit. How fun is that?"
Artist Michael King, of Lenox, will be showing his 4-foot sculpture "Core," on a host's lawn on Putnam Avenue. King, a retired veteran from the Army who works at the Berkshire Veterans Outreach Center in Pittsfield, said he thought of the sculpture when Tobin McCauley reached out to him to see if had anything he'd like to show.
The piece is a black, anatomically correct heart made of concrete and spray foam with a chunk missing from it, opening up a doorway to the inside of the heart where the rainbow colors of Pride shine through. King said he created the piece for the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death. King said he hopes the work, "gets people to think; to take them a little bit outside of their comfort zone to open our hearts to fellow human beings."
Mary Beth Eldridge, a retired art teacher who still teaches at IS183, will cover her own lawn on Commonwealth Avenue with her works on canvas. As of late last week, she was still trying to decide which pieces she was going to show, and how she was going to go about the tricky business of propping up the her small pieces of artwork. Perhaps, she said, with some old preschool chairs she bought long ago. But the curating and lawn "mounting," was part of the fun, she said.
"It's a great idea for Pittsfield; having something that weekend when we don't have our traditional First Friday Artswalk, don't have the Fourth of July parade, or Tanglewood, or the things we would normally do that weekend," she said.
Tobin McCauley said she hopes this becomes a yearly event, pandemic or not.
"People have been emailing me about [the event] and the response has been really wonderful," she said. "They are thankful that I've organized it, that something is going on."
Some artists may be selling their work Tobin McCauley said, but it's up to each individual artist how they present their work and what the show. As for those walking, driving or biking around Friday evening, she said people are encouraged to wear masks, keep socially distant but still find ways to engage with the artists and your neighbors.
Eldridge, who has been spending her time in quarantine painting a lot of still life out of necessity, said she is looking forward to the event, seeing her neighbors, some artwork and maybe some new faces walking the streets.
"I hope this brings a smile to people's faces," she said. "And you're getting to see something new without taking a risk of walking inside a building; you can easily socially distance, so can we, the artists. ... It would be great if I met some new people; that's always great."
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