Murals bring city pride to Pittsfield

September 11, 2023 : The Berkshire Edge, Shaw Israel Izikson

A celebration of the public art project “Let It Shine!” was held on Saturday, September 9. The event, organized by Downtown Pittsfield Inc., was a celebration of the murals that were created throughout the city as part of the project, and included a block party at Palace Park.

“The ‘Let It Shine!’ partnership is a group of artists and local entities who decided that they wanted to bring murals into our downtown area,” Downtown Pittsfield Inc. Managing Director Rebecca Brien told The Berkshire Edge. “We made a call for submissions from artists for this project, and a panel decided which ones would be going up in our downtown area and on the west side as well.”

Brien said that the eight murals featured in the “Let It Shine!” partnership “bring a great shine to the downtown area.” She explained, “The murals bring a vibrancy to the downtown area. It brings the downtown area to a new level.”

According to Brien, four of the murals are still in the process of completion. One such mural still in the process of being completed during the September 9 event was Trinity Rivard’s “Young Legends” mural on the Howard Building at 41 Federal Street.

Another mural in the process of completion on September 9 was “Making Wishes” by Pittsfield resident Cara Petricca, located at 348 North Street.

“These murals all across the city not only give people an instant mood lift, [but they als0] beautify our community,” Petricca said. “I think the topics that the artists are covering are very diverse. In a lot of ways, we’ve been sort of locked into this ‘Norman Rockwell’ mentality. As much as we love him, I love seeing these multicultural murals that cover important topics in our community.”

“These murals bring vibrancy to the city, and it is very much needed,” Marvin Purry, member of the organization Westside Legends, said about the murals. “These murals actually affect commerce in the city because people are slowing down to observe the art. People then see the businesses that surround this area.”

“When the city looks good and feels good, it becomes good,” Westside Legends member Tony Jackson said. “Tourists can come down and have something to look at. This brings pride to Pittsfield that has been missing for such a long time.”

Northampton artist Jasmine Sade said she wanted to capture the feeling of nostalgia in her mural, “Memory Lane.” The mural debuted at the Riverside Sitting Park as part of the events on September 9. “I worked with the West Side Legends who told me a lot of stories about their childhood,” Sade said. “They wanted me to incorporate that into the mural. I hope from my mural people can remember their childhood when they grew up in this beautiful community.”

Maurice “Pops” Peterson’s mural, “Two Colors of Water,” also debuted at the Riverside Sitting Park as part of the September 9 event. “These murals bring joy and pride to the area,” Peterson said. “Art makes people feel. Art is a way for people to communicate and bring people together.” Peterson previously created the mural “Walk With Her” (AKA “Rainbow Ruby”), which is located on College Way.

“The ‘Two Colors of Water’ piece is based on a Gordon Parks photograph from the Jim Crow era in the South,” Peterson said. “I took those two water fountains, one for Blacks and one for whites, and I staged it where the white boy was helping the Black boy reach the water fountain. It shows that people are stronger together and they all should work together. It’s about brotherly love. The children understand, but it’s the grown-ups who put these hateful customs and laws into place.”

“This is our community,” Petricca said. “Our community is something that we all have to be invested in. When we take care of our community, not only in supporting its people and having activities downtown, I think it really brings people together.”

According to Brien, the “Let It Shine!” project was funded through a grant from MassDevelopment and the Barr Foundation. For more information about the “Let It Shine!” project, go to the Downtown Pittsfield Inc. website.

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