Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Celebrating Community Exhibit

The City of Pittsfield Office of Cultural Development, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) African American Biography Project, the Samuel Harrison Society, and the Upper Housatonic Valley African-American Heritage Trail are joining forces to present an exhibition celebrating Pittsfield’s African-American culture and heritage. Celebrating Community: Pittsfield’s African-American Heritage” will be on display at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in downtown Pittsfield from Wednesday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, March 8.

An opening reception will be held Saturday, Feb. 14, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and is free and open to the public. The opening reception will have a special focus on collecting images and stories of love, family and relationship within the Berkshires’ African-American community in honor of Valentine’s Day.

The “Celebrating Community” exhibition is in two parts. First, is an installation designed by MCLA Graphic Designer Leon Peters that serves as a guide to African-American history and sites in downtown Pittsfield. This installation coincides with the release of a new brochure that features African-American heritage sites in Pittsfield. The second half is a collection of photographic portraits of contemporary members of Pittsfield’s African-American community by Pittsfield photographer Ernie Kirk.

“Celebrating Community” also includes the opportunity to collect memories, images, and oral histories from the Pittsfield community by videographer Mati Kin in order to continue and expand the story of Pittsfield African-American community, which has had a history and presence here since the Revolutionary War.

Pittsfield has been home to a number of prominent African-Americans. The city was the birthplace of Ulysses “Frank” Grant, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who is widely considered the best African-American baseball player of the 19th century. Pittsfield also was home to the renowned clergyman and civil rights advocate and author, the Reverend Samuel Harrison, who successfully fought for equal pay for African-American Union soldiers during the Civil War. The city also is the childhood home of astronaut Stephanie Wilson, the second African-American woman in space.

Community, church and school groups who wish to schedule a day to visit the exhibit and/or contribute oral histories are encouraged to send an e-mail to Please include the group or organization name, preferred day and time, as well as a contact name and phone number. There will also be an opportunity to scan family photographs and share family recipes and stories.

No comments: