Get Out: Pioneer Valley Summer Arts & Culture Preview 2017

The Valley is home to a wealth of arts and cultural events. So many, in fact, that the Advocate prints four seasonal arts preview editions every year — and really we could do one every month. This edition is all about what you can expect to see in the Valley, plus the Berkshires, this summer. We picked some of the biggest, best, and potentially overlooked events happening from now through September. We couldn’t list everything, so keep checking back with the Advocate and online at to see what new events and things to do and see are popping up every week.

— Kristin Palpini, editor

Hanging with Picasso

An in-depth exploration of Cubist powerhouse Pablo Picasso at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown will reveal how Picasso collaborated with other artists and that he didn’t create his wondrous surrealist artwork in a vacuum. To find out the answer to this burning question do attend the first free lecture, “Picasso’s Creative Collaborations” for the institute’s summer exhibit, “Picasso: Encounters,” which is on display from June 4 until Aug. 27. The exhibit includes Picasso’s experiments with large-scale printmaking, including a “Self Portrait (1901),” on loan from the Musee National Picasso in Paris, and 35 other artistic works by Picasso. Learn about Picasso’s many muses who fueled and strengthened his art from a discussion with Jay Clarke, manton curator of prints, drawings, and photographs.

Picasso’s Creative Collaborations: Sunday, June 11 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.; free with the cost of admission to the gallery.


— Chris Goudreau

The Big 2-5-0

As a part of Conway’s 250th Anniversary Celebration, there will be music, dance, movies, plays, and art of all kinds. Don’t miss the exhibition of Conway and Western Mass paintings by W. Lester Stevens, himself a Conway resident from 1944 until his death in 1969. The exhibition also includes 15 works by artists of “The Lester Group,” who came to Conway this past winter and spring to paint Stevens’ farm and surroundings as a tribute to the artist. Also be sure to catch the six short plays at the Conway Sportsman’s Club, including works by Shel Silverstein and Christopher Durang. Then there are the more traditional trappings — parade, fireworks, children’s activities, and screenings of An Evening’s Journey to Conway, Mass, written for the town’s bicentennial in 1967.

Conway 250th Anniversary Celebration: June 9-10, and 15-18. Full schedule at

— Dave Eisenstadter

Getting an Earful

Inspired by Vermont-based Bread and Puppet Theater and the work of peace activist Fran Peavey, who travelled the world with a small sign that said “American willing to listen,” Ashfield artist Christian McEwen will take listening to the next level. McEwen has built a small, portable booth and a giant ear made of cloth strips stuck together with wood glue. She plans to bring them by the Ashfield Farmers Market and offer “open listening sessions.” Sessions can be brief, or as long as 20 minutes, and they will not be recorded. “In a world increasingly dominated by cell-phones and computers and other entrancing devices, the Listening Ear is intended as a joyous and subversive antidote, reminding us of the special pleasure to be found in long, meandering, face-to-face conversation, most especially with friends and family,” McEwen writes. If nothing comes to mind, you can pick out a question from a helpful basket beside the booth.

The Listening Ear: Saturdays, June 10 and 17, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free. Ashfield Farmers’ Market on the Ashfield Town Common.

— Dave Eisenstadter


Soulful Country

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings play country like you’re used to: their music feels like a cemetery in a meadow on a sunny day — lovely, but sad. Welch’s voice is clear and sweet that’s just a little smoky. And Rawlings’ guitar strums along under her lyrics like a still river running deep. Welch’s early influences include bluegrass and brother team harmonies, in particular the work of the Stanley Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, and the Carter Family. Sit a spell and listen to the Grammy-nominated artists sing stories of American life, heartache, and joy when they come to Northampton later this month.

Gillian Welch: Thurs. June 29, 7 p.m. $39.50-$45. Pines Theater at Look Park, 300 N. Main St., Northampton.

— Kristin Palpini

There Can Only Be … Three?

Three artists will be chosen for the Springfield Central Cultural District’s pop-gallery program for this July. Submit your own work and your art could be hung at three different locations in the city – 1550 Main St., New England Public Radio’s offices, and the University of Massachusetts Center at Tower Square for the next four months. Celebrate with an Art Stops reception on July 12 featuring street performing busking musicians, artist solo shows, and more.

Art Stops: Wednesday, July 12,

— Chris Goudreau


It’s Not The Hora

Roy Assaf Dance, an Israeli dance company, makes its U.S. debut as a part of Becket-based Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. They will be performing works including all-male trio The Hill and duet Six Years Later. That last piece was described by the Jerusalem Post as having “exceptional kinetic synergy, as if two bodies were sharing one mind. Its beauty nuances and intricate, astute movements filled the stage with a magical charm.” Assaf says his choreographic choices come from his private life, but he prefers not to talk about them, letting the audience instead ascribe their own meaning to the movements. At the same time, The Hill is based on the song Ammunition Hill, which was written to commemorate a 1967 battle and is performed to military parade tunes. This year’s Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival is the organization’s 85th anniversary season and is the first programmed exclusively by new director Pamela Tatge.

Roy Assaf Dance: Wednesday-Saturday, July 12-16, with a talk with the choreographer at the Thursday performance. Various times. Full schedule at Tickets starting at $25.

— Dave Eisenstadter

Mad Max Scored

What was up with all that “fury” in Fury Road anyway? Find out July 15 when MASS MoCA screens the seminal dystopian rage flick that spun out a franchise Mad Max. The 1979 cult hit, featuring a young Mel Gibson out for vengeance in a post-apocalyptic landscape, will be shown on a wide screen outdoors with an accompanying live score. The Morricone Youth, a NYC-based ensemble specializing in re-scores of classic films, will perform the original music, making the tension and unpredictability of the movie all the more immediate and tangible to viewers. Bring some lawn chairs, a blanket, and someone who likes to debate movie endings.

Mad Max with Live Score by Morricone Youth: July 15, Saturday, 8:30 p.m. $16-$32. MASS MoCA, Courtyard C or Hunter Center, 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams. (413) 662-2111,,

— Kristin Palpini


Got to Taste Them All

Sixty food trucks, you guys — 60! That’s how many mobile eateries were featured at last year’s New England Food Truck Festival in West Springfield, and there may be even more this year. Held at the Eastern States Exposition on Memorial Avenue, the event features two days of live bands, food, and brews. Some of the deliciousness scheduled to be on wheels (and parked, just for you) include: Irish Cream blends, ice cream, breakfast, Greek, Irish, Middle Eastern, Thai, chicken in waffles, brick oven pizza, fried chicken, gypsy, whoopie pies, cannoli, Jamaican, smoked barbecue, teriyaki-everything, seafood, tacos, spuds, donuts, French, Korean, grilled cheese, cupcakes, fruit smoothies. This is a newer festival, and, according to the buzz online, it has been getting better every year. Last year I got some kind of yummy meat-balls that were stuffed with cheeses — I’m still thinking about them.

New England Food Truck Festival: Sat.-Sun. July 29-30. $5. Eastern States Exposition, 875 Memorial Ave., West Springfield.

— Kristin Palpini

Soul Park

The Springfield Indie Soul Festival is a weekend of enjoying soul, jazz, gospel and spoken word artists under the warm sun. The festival got its start in 2007, and this year organizers are putting some R&B and hip-hop into the mix. Featured artists will include disco funk soul singer Meli’sa Morgan, Dave Tolliver from the 90s R&B group Men at Large, energetic Afrobeat gospel singer Nola Ade’, singer/songwriter Jon Bibbs, and teen singer with an old school soul voice Cam Anthony. On poetry, don’t miss literary crafter Jamaal St John’s electric performance. His words are relatable and biting; like in “Oh, Really? (FYI)” when he notes: “no matter how often you drop to your knees/ he will never be anything like/ the man/ you prayed for.” In addition to music, the event will include a hair show, art exhibits, food, fashion, and a variety of book-music-merch vendors.

Springfield Indie Soul Festival: Aug. 26, Saturday, noon. Tickets are not yet available. King Philip’s Stockade in Forest Park, 300 Trafton Road, Springfield. (413) 200-8870,,

— Kristin Palpini


Power Times Infinity Equals a Funky Good Time

The Nth Power, the band says, is kept together by a “deep spiritual connection” – and that’s something you can hear in their music. The Power’s sound has got some 80s flavor — some Lionel Richie and Paul Simon — with funky drums, and pop chords on the keys and bass. The vocals are straight soul, a sense of fire and ice all at once. Catch the band, which formed during a late night jam session in New Orleans, when they play Greenfield with opening act Fat Bradley, a Northampton-based funk band (with the Facebook official mission: “It’s our duty to move that booty.”). It’s going to be a funky good time at Hawks and Reed.

The Nth Power and Fat Bradley: Aug. 10, Thurs., 9:30 p.m. $13-$17. Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St., Greenfield.

— Kristin Palpini

Sting Under the Stars

On tour promoting his 57th & 9th album, which is actually his 12th studio album, Sting will be playing Tanglewood, the bucolic summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, in late August. Part of the venue’s Popular Artist Series, other stars coming to Tanglewood at other times during the season include Diana Summers, Melissa Ethridge, and James Taylor. The Sting tour promotes the artist’s first rock/pop project in a decade. The 10-song album goes from raucous to soft and everything in between. Will he play Roxanne? Is it worth going if he doesn’t? Just joking, Sting has more hits than Leprechaun playing slots. The venerable performer will share the stage with special guests Joe Sumner and The Last Bandoleros.

Sting — 57th & 9th Tour: Aug. 29, Tues., 8 p.m. $33-$189. Tanglewood, Koussevitzky Music Shed, 297 West St., Lenox.

— Kristin Palpini


Beyond the Forest

Israeli-American photographer Loli Kantor traveled to Płaszów, Poland — the site of a Nazi concentration camp — in 2004 to take part in a volunteer project recovering a Jewish graveyard over the course of a month. While she was there she explored her family’s roots in the region – Kantor is the daughter of holocaust survivors who lost their entire families at the hands of the Nazis. She pored over local archives, digging deep, and during the next eight years she returned to Poland two or three times every year. Her exhibit of photographs of the area’s local Jewish history and its communities both past and present, Beyond the Forest: Jewish Presence in Eastern Europe, is now on display at Amherst’s Yiddish Book Center’s Brechner Gallery until Oct. 15.

Beyond the Forest: Through Oct. 15. The Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West St., Amherst.

— Chris Goudreau


Famine Ship

Is it a play, is it a dance, is it a movie? Don’t worry about it, just enjoy Star of the Sea, Moonfish Theatre’s October production. The play conjures up the world of Joseph O’Connor’s best seller of the same name, set during the Irish famine of the mid-1800s. Using choreography, audio, and video, the actors bring to life a ship’s journey from Ireland to New York. Hundreds of refugees and immigrants are aboard the ship where a murder takes place and the audience learns not everyone aboard the vessel is a stranger.

Star of the Sea: Oct. 3-4, Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m. $10-$35. Bowker Auditorium, UMass Amherst. (413) 545-2511,

— Kristin Palpini

*Editor’s Note: A previous item in this article incorrectly suggested there would be an Alan Cumming show at UMass in September. Cumming came to Amherst in 2016, but will not perform there this year. 

Advocate Staff

Author: Advocate Staff

Editor of the Valley Advocate

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