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Northampton Art Scene
By Ian Winship
Northampton is a funky little town in Western Massachusetts that has a surprisingly cool art scene. With a variety of galleries, museums, and music venues Northampton offers a little bit of everything for artsy people. It makes sense that Western Massachusetts has been home to a number of famous artists.
First, let’s start with the music. A surprising number of musical acts come through this little town. The four most well known venues are The Iron Horse, Pearl Street Nightclub, The Calvin Theatre, and The Academy of Music.
The Iron Horse:
The Iron Horse, an enchanting smaller venue, offers an intimate setting where you can either sit down and enjoy some food and drink or rock out with a small group of Northamptonians inches from the stage. If you want to get up close and personal with your favorite (lesser known) band then you better make sure to come early. The locals fill this venue quickly.
Pearl Street, a little bit bigger yet, no less cool, offers a more elbow room as long as you don’t mind standing. The venue is split into two sections. “The Basement” located in the low-ceiling-ed, dark, and dank bottom level of the establishment. Years of bands flyers and stickers coat the windows blocking the outside world. This area is home to more grungy showings and themed dance parties throughout the week. “The Ballroom,” located up what once was a glamourous stairset, is where the big shows happen. Rain or shine the ballroom floor fills up and everybody gets down. You will always have fun at Pearl Street.
The Calvin Theatre:
The Calvin Theater is a classic style theatre. Don’t let the ceiling mosaic and long red curtains fool you, while this venue does offer music for older crowds, all sorts of bands come through that anyone could enjoy. Stadium style seating with a balcony offers you a place to rest your weary dancing legs or simply somewhere to sit down and enjoy the show.
The Academy of Music:
If live theater, film, and dance are more your style you will want to check out The Academy of Music. As the oldest theater in Northampton this venue boasts not only spectacular shows but, a little piece of history too. The town received the deed to the the venue from builder Edward H.R. Lyman back in 1892.
Art Galleries and Museums
Art is a big deal in Northampton. The area surrounding the town, called The Pioneer Valley, is full of artists, authors, and creative individuals. Below are some of my favorite art destinations.
Smith College Museum of Art:
Smith College is an acclaimed all women’s school full of bright interesting students and its fair share of talented artists. It makes sense that they have a top of the line Art Museum. With four floors for exhibition, permanent, and ever changing galleries this museum will never get old. They have any kind of visual art you could think of.
R Michealson Gallery:
Set in an architecturally stimulating building (look at those arches) this gallery offers two floors of classic paintings, illustration, art from Northampton itself, and a permanent Dr. Seuss gallery. He was from just down the road in Springfield, Massachusetts.
William Baczek Fine Arts:
This classy little gallery offers a few rooms filled with modern paintings. It takes no time at all to cruise through this gallery and I always make it a point to stop by when I am in town.
Foe Store and Gallery:
Foe is weird and we like it that way. I am consistently surprised by the amount of unusual contemporary exhibitions they have to offer. From ceramic toys and monster masks to dripping murals and wacky illustration Foe has it all in terms of new contemporary art.
Arts Night Out
A cool feature of the town is Arts Night out. Every second Friday of the month these galleries and a great number more open their doors to the town showing new exhibits, artist meet and greets, and fun for the whole family. When it is cold outside ice sculptures line the sidewalks. Arts Night Out is always a fun way to get out of the house, apartment, or dorm and check out what the local artists have been up to.
Western Massachusetts is home to a great number of famous people. From guys like Bill Cosby to famous poets of old like Emily Dickinson and even comic book creators like Kevin Brooks Eastman and Peter Alan Laird, the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it all makes you think, who else is from the weird side of Massachusetts?