Arts Briefs: A Sojourner Truth biographer comes to the Valley, a new take on a noted play, and more

Historian and Sojourner Truth biographer Nell Irvin Painter will be in Florence June 9 to talk about her work, including her new book, “I Just Keep Talking.” 

Historian and Sojourner Truth biographer Nell Irvin Painter will be in Florence June 9 to talk about her work, including her new book, “I Just Keep Talking.”  Photo by Dwight Carter

Historian and Sojourner Truth biographer Nell Irvin Painter will be in Florence June 9 to talk about her work, including her new book, “I Just Keep Talking.” 

Historian and Sojourner Truth biographer Nell Irvin Painter will be in Florence June 9 to talk about her work, including her new book, “I Just Keep Talking.” 

Kristina L. Durocher is the inaugural visual arts director for the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Kristina L. Durocher is the inaugural visual arts director for the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Photo by Perry Smith/courtesy UMass Fine Arts Center

Members of Tiny Glass Tavern, a cross-genre musical ensemble, perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton.

Members of Tiny Glass Tavern, a cross-genre musical ensemble, perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton. Photo by Caterina Kenworthy

Easthampton’s Oxbow Gallery is hosting illustrations this month from Valley painter Kate Spencer’s children’s book, “The Cat Who Walked the Camino.”

Easthampton’s Oxbow Gallery is hosting illustrations this month from Valley painter Kate Spencer’s children’s book, “The Cat Who Walked the Camino.” Image courtesy Kate Spencer

Published: 06-06-2024 3:36 PM

Modified: 06-06-2024 4:19 PM


Truth biographer comes to town

FLORENCE — Historian Nell Irvin Painter, the author of an acclaimed biography of Sojourner Truth, will visit the town where the famed abolitionist once lived to talk about her newest book and about some of the ideas that have animated her career.

Painter, who will give a talk June 9 at 2 p.m. at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity, has earned plaudits for her most recent title, “I Just Keep Talking: A Life in Essays,” in which she reflects on a range of topics — art, politics, racism, American history — as well as her life as a scholar and historian.

Among a number of reviewers, The Nation magazine says Painter’s essay collection “provides a grand and capacious vision not just of Painter’s life and times but of Black history and culture, too.”

At the event, sponsored by the David Ruggles Center for History and Education, Painter will be joined in conversation by Northampton resident and longtime civil rights advocate Lisa Baskin.

Painter, a former Princeton University professor of American history, is the author of nine books in total, including her 1997 biography of Sojourner Truth and the 2010 book “The History of White People.”

 

UMass alumna returns to arts center

AMHERST — Kristina L. Durocher, who earned an MA in art history from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has over two decades of experience leading museums, has joined the leadership team of the school’s Fine Arts Center.

Durocher will serve as the center’s inaugural visual arts director, for which she’s tasked with providing “leadership and vision,” as press notes put it, for the center’s three visual arts spaces: the University Museum of Contemporary Art, the Augusta Savage Gallery, and the Hampden Gallery.

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For the past 14 years, Durocher served as director of the Museum of Art at the University of New Hampshire, where she curated six to eight exhibits annually and developed curricular connections with faculty across the university.

According to UMass, the museum received a number of awards and and grants during Durocher’s tenure, including from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“We’re confident that with Kristina’s unifying leadership, there is no limit to what our visual arts team can accomplish,” UMass Fine Arts Center Director Jamilla Deria said in a statement.

Durocher has also served since 2020 as president of the Association of Academic Museum and Galleries, a national organization. She earned a dual BFA in art history and painting from Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

 

Evening of eclectic music

NORTHAMPTON — Tiny Glass Tavern, a musical ensemble that employs a number of unusual instruments and a varied set list, will visit Edwards Church June 8 at 7:30 p.m.

The group, whose size can vary from show to show, bills itself as a “cross-genre ensemble,” and indeed its repertoire covers a wide range of music, from early classical music to folk and Celtic to pop and modern songs. As Artistic Director Sophie Michaux told the Gazette last year, “I want to create a space where I can do all these styles of music that I love independently from what anyone thinks should and shouldn’t go together.”

The June 8 concert will include compositions by Claudio Monteverdi, Connie Converse, Barbara Strozzi, Paul Holmes Morton, and more.

Performing will be Michaux on voice and accordion; Fiona Gillespie on voice and whistle; Paul Holmes Morton on banjo, baroque guitar, guitar, and theorbo (a lute-like instrument dating from the Baroque era); and Adam Simon on mandolin, guitar, and vocals.

General admission tickets are $20, and those for students/low income are $10. They’re available, along with additional information, at tinyglasstavern.com.

 

Another kind of catwalk

EASTHAMPTON — The Oxbow Gallery, the member-supported exhibit space, is featuring something a little different this month: illustrations from a children’s book about a cat that follows a famous pilgrims’ route in France and Spain.

One of the gallery’s two exhibits is dedicated to the ink-and-watercolor illustrations from Kate Spencer’s “The Cat Who Walked the Camino,” a tale about a young kitten that follows the Camino de Santiago, a network of roads and paths that Christian pilgrims have walked for centuries to the historic Cathedral of Santo Domingo in northwest Spain.

The kitty travels with a young woman named Lucia, meeting other pilgrims along the way and having a series of adventures, as well as some misadventures. The cat, who Lucia dubs Don Pedro Pepito, gets separated at one point and must deal with traveling alone and fending off a ferocious dog before he’s finally reunited with Lucia.

On June 16, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the gallery, Spencer, who grew up in Montana before moving east, will discuss her paintings and why she created her book.

The Oxbow’s main space is currently dedicated to work by painter Marilyn Allen, whose semi-abstract landscapes, portraits and still lives are inspired in part from her background in music and poetry.

The two exhibits run through June 23.

 

New take on noted play

LUDLOW — “The Last Five Years,” which debuted in Chicago and then Off-Broadway about 22 years ago, has a had a long series of runs and revivals since then on stages all around the world, and it was also adapted for a 2014 independent film.

Now the musical, which traces the breakup of the marriage of a young artistic couple over a five-year period by using an unconventional narrative, is getting a fresh treatment by the Exit 7 Players of Ludlow.

The characters in question, Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein, have traditionally represented a heterosexual couple. But in the Exit 7 version, which takes place June 6-9 and June 20-23, Cathy and Jamie are a queer-presenting couple.

“We hope this contemporary spin on the show will help people see the similarities between queer and heterosexual romances, and that these relationships are often alike regardless of gender,” Devin Dumas, Exit 7’s stage manager, said in a statement.

Dumas said the production is being staged in conjunction with Pride Month.

In “The Last Five Years,” Jamie, a rising novelist, tells his side of the story in chronological order, beginning with his first meeting with Cathy, while the story of Cathy, a struggling actress, moves in reverse, beginning with the end of the marriage. The characters don’t directly interact except during a wedding scene, when the two timelines intersect.

Tickets and additional details about the shows, which take place at 37 Chestnut St. in Ludlow, are available at exit7players.org.

— Compiled by Steve Pfarrer