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Pittsfield 'Shines' With 8 New Murals Through MassDevelopment Partnership
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:41PM / Sunday, September 17, 2023
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Four of the artists involved in the mural grant attend last week's celebration.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city has been painted with an assortment of murals that are meant to bring joy and inspiration and provoke thought.

A block party was held last weekend in Palace Park to celebrate the eight new works placed throughout the downtown and West Side as part of the "Let It Shine!" public art partnership.  

"The partnership itself is with local artists, Downtown Pittsfield Inc, MassDevelopment and the (Transformative Development Initiative) program that is in our downtown," DPI’s Managing Director Rebecca Brien said.

"We applied for what is called a Creative Catalyst Grant and they actually provided the funding through a private funder called the Barr Foundation to help us bring all of these to life."

The $65,000 grant funded the mural program and two other initiatives that will be announced soon.

"The process of envisioning these murals is part of a larger initiative to imagine our downtown as a place of opportunity that nurtures us and evokes curiosity and joy," Pittsfield TDI Fellow Julie Copoulos said.

"This envisioning process is not easy. It takes commitment and a lot of compromise. I think it also takes knowing when not to compromise and it takes deep love for the community and partnership."

One of the artists, Pops Peterson, said these works brings joy and pride to the community.

"Art makes people feel, art makes people love, art communicates," he said. "It brings people together and gives them something to remember and think about and inspires people."

The new murals join 14 others in the downtown area that are part of a self-guided tour. They can be found on the sides of buildings and in Riverside Sitting Park. Most are within a short walking distance.

  • "Sisterhood" by Silvia Lopez Chavez on the Shipton Building at 146 North St.
  • An original mural by Cara Petricca on the north-facing side of 348 North St. (the alleyway facing St. Joseph's Church)
  • "Young Legends" by Trinity Rivard on The Howard Building at 41 Federal St.
  • An original mural by qwynto on Carr Hardware at 547 North St.
  • "Wings" and "Two Colors of Water" by Pops Peterson at the Riverside Sitting Park at the corner of Columbus and Dewey Avenues (in partnership with the Westside Legends)
  • Memory Lane by Jasmine Sade at the Riverside Sitting Park at the corner of Columbus and Dewey Avenues (in partnership with the Westside Legends)
  • Seven Stars for Renne Avenue by Huckleberry "Huck" Elling on the east side (facing Renne Avenue) of The Cooper Center at 1 Fenn St. 

Peterson has three murals in the area including the two new ones. 

"Wings" is inspired by severe burns that he sustained while playing with fire as a child and his process of growing up and realizing that they give him strength and character. "Two Colors of Water" shows a white child helping a black child reach a "white only" segregated drinking fountain to show that people are stronger together and should work as one towards equality.

His mural "Walk With Her," which features civil rights activist Ruby Bridges Hall, was installed on College Way in 2021.

Peterson reported that the mural has been heavily impactful, even making a man want to live in Pittsfield.  

"A man actually told me that it changed his life," he said.

"He came out to the dedication with tears in his eyes and he said he was going to leave town because he came to be a banker here and because they were short-staffed with COVID and they said, 'Well if you don't like Pittsfield, you can leave,' and he said it was just too much of a challenge to really make a dent into Pittsfield. He was leaving and he drove past the Ruby mural and he burst out and he said, 'I can't leave.’"

Elling, who helped plan the mural collection, said that art is for everybody and it is important for it to be accessible with no barriers so that it can be enjoyed equally.

"Seven Stars" was a collaboration between her and the building owner.

"They were looking for something that really fit the architecture and the colors already on Renne Ave," Elling explained. "So it's made specifically for that building."

She added that she loves seeing the fresh color in Pittsfield.

Petricca has been a working artist in Berkshire County for many years and owns an animal sanctuary.  When the request for a pig or a rooster mural came through, she knew she was the perfect person for the job.

"My theme that runs through my work, because I can't really separate my rescue from my art, is just benevolence and kindness and really opening people up to the inner world of animals and what that has to offer communities as far as stress relief and love and kindness," Petricca said.

"It's something very close to my heart and I think it will give something for the community to just take a break with, to just enjoy and to feel happiness and love when they see it, hopefully."

The work is currently in progress, as the wall needs to be resurfaced to take the paint. 

Sade thanked the Pittsfield community for helping make her mural "Memory Lane" a reality. It depicts three smiling children holding black and white photos of varying scenes.

"This mural would not exist without your amazing stories and love for your hometown, which deeply inspired me," she said.

The Westside Legends nonprofit organization was among the many collaborators in the project.

"This only happens with people who want to work together to see the future and collaborate," Legends founder Tony Jackson said. "Partnership is easily said but not easily done."

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