Editorial: We are an arts destination

  • Silverthorne Theater Company now has an office at the LAVA Center, Local Access to Valley Arts, at 324 Main Street. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 1/16/2020 11:08:56 AM
Modified: 1/16/2020 11:08:04 AM

Franklin County has become an “arts incubator” — a term coined by Lucinda Kidder, the former director of Silverthorne Theater Co.

It’s an apt description. Over the last decade, Franklin County has evolved into a regional arts destination.

This was first pointed out on our pages by Sheryl Hunter, a columnist who writes about local music for Thursday’s arts and entertainment section. In a recent article, Hunter wrote, “The days of having to hop in the car and head to Northampton or another city to hear live music are long over. Nowadays … music fans have the option to not only enjoy the finest in local music but nationally known touring artists as well.”

Thanks to mainstay venues like Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center (which took over the Charlemont Reggae Festival last year) and The Shea Theater Performing Arts Center, The Rendezvous and 10 Forward, it’s easy to find entertainment without driving south of Greenfield.

Last year, our region hosted renowned musicians and bands including indie-pop icons Deerhoof, electronica-hip-hop artist RJD2, the rootsy band Donna the Buffalo, Lori McKenna (nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award for Song of the Year and won Best Country Song for co-writing “Girl Crush,” performed by Little Big Town) and Canadian artist Fred Eaglesmith, who has a global following.

Then, of course, there’s the Green River Festival, which receives national accolades year after year.

From Charlemont to Northfield, Whately to Athol and beyond, small-town music venues abound — to name a few, the 1792 Meetinghouse in New Salem; Watermelon Wednesdays at the Whately Congregational Church; Butterfield Park in Orange, which last year hosted many concerts including one by Tony Funches, a former lead tenor with the 1950s-era The Platters.

It’s not just music that’s seeing a boon.

The visual arts, theater productions, fashion shows (like the annual Fashion Passion in Turners Falls) and poetry readings (such as the Great Falls Word Fest) are also experiencing a major boon. For both artists and those who appreciate art alike, 2020 is a wonderful time to call Franklin County home.

Of course, this rise in local music and art didn’t happen by chance. Behind the scenes, community leaders like Kidder, who helped start Silverthorne Theater Co. about six years ago, have been working tirelessly from a place of passion.

Even in retirement, Kidder continues to promote the arts.

To further promote the burgeoning local scene, Kidder and co-coordinators Vanessa Query and Jan Maher are opening the LAVA Center on Main Street in Greenfield, new performing arts, black box theater and community space for the arts. The space is 3,000 square feet and fully accessible, with a 49-person occupancy. It will house Silverthorn Theater Co., and Dog Hallow Press, among others. There’s another office for rent. When it’s up and running, LAVA Center will host a variety of arts workshops, as well as be a space to display and sell art produced by local artists and craftspeople.

That Franklin County has become a place for the arts is a testament to community leaders like Kidder, Query and Maher (and, notably, Isaac Mass, who recently purchased the Greenfield Garden Cinemas), who quietly invest in their communities with a focus on collaboration that spans competition.

For them, we’re thankful.




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