Rockwell Museum patrons channel their inner Rube Goldberg

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STOCKBRIDGE — In a scene of stark contrast to the Americana portraits that hang upstairs, the brightly colored kinetic sculptures that lined tables in the basement of the Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday were made of what many would consider trash.

More than 30 adults and children sifted through bins of springs, corks, plastic tops and other doodads to find material they would incorporate into their handmade simple machines and eclectic art that they came to create.

"Most of this stuff is cast away," said mechanical sculptor Steve Gerberich. "But this gives it reinvention."

Gerberich, who has been using discarded surplus materials in his contraptions and sculptures for more than 30 years, hosted a lecture about the life and work of Rube Goldberg.

Goldberg, a cartoonist, became known for his famed "invention drawings" of humorously over-complicated machines — using pulleys, levers and other mechanisms — to fix simple problems.

After the talk Saturday, Gerberich held a workshop during which he assisted guests in creating their own contraptions.

Albany, N.Y., resident Eliot Casucci-Theis, 6, affixed two straws onto a piece of wood and contemplated whether to separate the beads from a plastic necklace and attach them to the contraption.

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Eliot was visiting his grandmother, a retired Pittsfield teacher, for the weekend.

"He's the artist, I'm the teacher," Mari Casucci said. "I have the urge to control, but he's like `Mi Mi, I got it.' "

Rich and Molly Parr packed a picnic basket and drove to Stockbridge from Northampton with their two daughters, ages 6 and 3, to participate in the event.

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"This morning I showed Lilli Rube Goldberg-like machines online," Molly Parr said of her eldest daughter.

The girls, she said, are big fans of domino artists whose work is similar to Goldberg's art, she said.

But the museum's event didn't just draw out families with young children. Adults, too, came to experiment with kinetic sculptures.

"I've always been fascinated with the really silly designs that Rube Goldberg did," said Kyle Miller, a cartoonist and video game designer from Agawam.

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About 20 years ago, Miller created "The Incredible Machine," a puzzlelike computer game that allowed users to build Goldberg-like devices.

"I do the same thing on the computer that this is in real life," he said.

Saturday was the first of many weekends that the museum will be hosting events to inspire guests to create, according to Chief Educator Mary Berle.

The Norman Rockwell Museum is known to be a "contemplative space," ideal for thinking, Berle said.

"This is our doing space," she said of the basement.

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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