The Mastheads

"We must add to our heritage or lose it..."

Pittsfield, MA Arts Education Community Placemaking

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Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area is a Registered 501(c)(3), Tax ID 06-1613798.


"We must add to our heritage or lose it." 


The Mastheads

The Mastheads writers-in-residence project is a part of In Motion: Pittsfield, a city-wide initiative. The initiative is a means to promote Pittsfield's history through new creative projects within the contemporary city.

The Mastheads project will construct five writing studios in Pittsfield, each designed after a member of the literary community of American Renaissance authors who produced work here--including Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. The studios will create physical markers in the landscape of the city's literay history, and provide venues for writers and local residents to engage with their surroundings through the written, sung, or spoken word.

The Mastheads project will kick off its inaugural season in July 2017, turning Pittsfield into a platform for the production of new creative work that continues the strong literary history of the area.  

The five writing studios will serve as working spaces for selected writers in residence and will be located at key public sites throughout the community. The visibility and access to the studios, coupled with programming throughout the community, will ensure that strong place-specific creative works will continue to be produced in Pittsfield.  

City as Site

For the inaugural year of Mastheads programming in 2017, the studios will be sited at locations specific to the five American Renaissance authors. 


  • The Melville and Hawthorne studios will be on the grounds of Arrowhead, the historic home of Herman Melville where he and Hawthorne discussed their work in the great red barn, and the current home of the Berkshire Historical Society. 
  • The Longfellow studio will sit in front of Pittsfield High School, where his wife's childhood home once stood, in the heart of downtown Pittsfield. 
  • The Thoreau studio will be perched atop Springside Park, situated along Thoreau's path from the top of Mt. Greylock to the train station in the center of town.
  • The Holmes studio will be at the Mass Audubon Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, on land that was once a part of his estate where he planted 700 trees.

The studios are designed to be easily moved, allowing for opportunities to frame and engage with new viewpoints throughout the city each year of the residency program.

A Community Network

In addition to the writers working within the studios, the studios will act as hubs of creative expression and literacy throughout the Pittsfield landscape. As the studios move each summer, they bring energy to new parts of the city, inviting curious visitors and passersby to learn more.

Public programming surrounding the project will be led by Professor of English Jeffrey Lawrence from Rutgers University and will include a weekly community conversation and weekly public lecture to be held throughout the city of Pittsfield each season.

PROGRAMMING PARTNERS

Further programming is coordinated by The Mastheads partners, which include the City of Pittsfield's Office of Cultural Development, the Berkshire Athenaeum, the Berkshire Historical Society, the Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield Public Schools, Berkshire Community College, and Berkshire-born architects Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson.


The Power of a Creative Voice 

1840 through 1860, the time period in which Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Pittsfield, was the historical moment that saw Pittsfield begin to transform into the diverse community it represents today.

For these American Renaissance writers, Pittsfield was a lens through which to interrogate a changing America leading up to the Civil War. Former agricultural communities like Pittsfield began to morph into new urban centers through the arrival of the railroad, introduction of factories downtown, and the churning of paper and textile mills along the Housatonic River. 

In their time, these writers reflected on the moral and societal implications of these changes, questioning working conditions in the mills, recording changes to North Street as a result of the growth in population of workers in the center of the city, and deploring housing conditions along the railroad lines. 


At the same time, reflections on the unique and powerful natural landscape of Pittsfield shaped their work. Mt. Greylock loomed large for these writers, and it is said, served as a symbol of the great white whale when covered in snow, viewed from Melville's study window as he wrote Moby Dick.

The Mastheads recognizes Pittsfield as a site that fostered nation-defining reflections on a changing world through the works of the American Renaissance, and uses this history as a platform for the production of new creative work in the city.

Inside the Studios

The five writing studios that comprise The Mastheads are designed as "fragments" of the five structures from which Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes each wrote while in the area.


They will be constructed of Cross-Laminated Timber, a monolithic wood material that will be CNC-milled to exact size and dimension, then assembled as a series of panels once in Pittsfield. This system of construction will allow the studios to be durable and flexible, enabling them to move throughout the city year after year.

How YOU can Help Build The Mastheads!

The Mastheads project was jump-started by an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2014. We need your help with the final push to build the five studios, the backbone of this project, and a platform to reflect and shape the world around us. 

Please SUPPORT this exciting endeavor for Pittsfield and the entire Western Massachusetts region!  Every dollar counts, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $1,000... if everyone in the regions gives just a bit we'll have more than enough to complete the Mastheads!  

Please SHARE the Mastheads with friends, family and coworkers on social media, email, or even WRITE, just as the great American Writers we honor with this program would have done in their day.  

Thank you for your support of THE MASTHEADS!  

To Apply to the Residency Program

Applications to The Mastheads residency program will be open from December 15, 2016 through February 15, 2017, and available at themastheads.org. 


Campaign by:
Tessa Kelly
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Give $10 or more

2 claimed

Team Electric

Thank you for helping us outfit each studio with sufficient battery power for a laptop, a coffee maker, and an LED light!

Give $25 or more

12 claimed

Team Furnishings

Thank you for helping us make each studio cozy with a built-in desk, a chair, a rug, and an upholstered cushion for the "thinking bench" -- a place to look out the window, nap, and imagine!

Give $50 or more

15 claimed

Team Doors and Hardware

Thank you for helping us fabricate five handsome CLT doors for the writing studios!

Give $100 or more

14 claimed

Team Roofing

Thank you for helping us waterproof and seal the roofs of the studios, keeping the writers nice and dry on days of summer storms.

Give $250 or more

2 claimed

Team Safety

Thank you for helping us preserve the integrity of the studios by coating them with an anti-graffiti and water-repellent coating.

Give $500 or more

2 claimed

Team Windows

Thank you for helping us outfit each studio with framed openings, that will focus the writers' views on the city of Pittsfield.

Give $1000 or more

5 claimed

Team Substructure

Thank you for helping us keep The Mastheads mobile from year to year, building five custom steel substructures on wheels!

Give $2000 or more

0 claimed

Team CLT

Thank you for helping us invest in the Cross Laminated Timber that acts as the primary structure of the studios--forming the walls, roofs, and floors. This monolithic wood material will be durable enough to withstand The Mastheads studios moving throughout the city of Pittsfield for years to come.

Give $5000 or more

1 claimed

Pequod

Your contribution will pay for 25% of an entire studio! WOW!

Give $10000 or more

3 claimed

Moby Dick

"Sing out for new stars!" Your contribution will pay for half of an entire studio, to serve as a platform for writers in Pittsfield for years to come.

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