Honoring Arts Luminaries and the Best Damn Movie Theater in the Valley
Last night I joined a crowd of about 700 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke where four luminaries and a few institutions were recognized in the 2016 NEPR Arts and Humanities Awards. The sun came out on the terrace as the many guests mingled, and as usual, I found plenty of chums to catch up with, including John Ebbets, of the Fine Arts Center, and Marc Berman who is a board member and radio guru I always enjoy talking with.
A highlight was a short interview with Nick Spitzer, the host of American Routes, a wonderful radio program aired on Sundays on WFCR that’s all about roots music, New Orleans and other great genres. Spitzer was quick to point out that his show is about the people playing the music, not just their most recent release. Like any good interviewer, Spitzer gets right to the heart of his guests, sussing out what they think is important and those little details that everyone wants to know.
Author Tracy Kidder read from his latest book, another non-fiction story set this time in Silicon Valley. As a Pulitzer Prize winner, Kidder is used to being honored, but as Susan Kaplan made clear, he remains ‘one of us,’ a Valley guy through and through, who wrote a book, Home Town, with lots of local insights and quotes from the real people who live there. I’m sure Kidder like everyone in the room is a regular NEPR listener, that’s what we do around here.
Springfield was well represented with the presence of poet Maria Luisa Arroyo, who charmed not only from the stage but also as she made her way around to different tables giving warm hellos to friends and colleagues. She said that she had learned Greek and Latin in Springfield’s public schools, and she continues to bring life to her community with poetry readings, and her open sessions at the Springfield Library– opportunities for people to come share five minutes’ worth of their writing with the audience.
Another honored institution that I personally think has totally changed Amherst’s art scene for the better was Amherst Cinema, and we heard from executive director Carol Johnson. She shared some stats–1000 underprivileged children get a chance to learn about making movies with their education programs, all with scholarships, and last year this wonderful art movie house showed 240 films in 20 different languages! Talk about an arts-game-changer!
From Great Barrington, Community Access to the Arts was honored for their art workshops that have provided arts education and activities to more than 600 disabled people in Berkshire County. The director brought one of her students, Scott Thomas, up on stage, and he did a comedy routine with a Charlie McCarthy like dummy, a parrot in a sock. It took a lot of nerve for that young man to do his routine in the bright lights and his applause was well recieved, and heartfelt.
It was a wonderful evening for honorees and attendees alike!