“We must add to our heritage or lose it.” –D. Lowenthal
A City of Pittsfield initiative in collaboration with:
The National Endowment for the Arts
Office of Cultural Development
Mass Cultural Council
Berkshire Historical Society
Pittsfield Public Schools
Upper Housatonic Valley NHA
(Pittsfield, Mass.) The Mastheads writers-in-residence project is a part of In Motion: Pittsfield, a city-wide initiative. The initiative is a means to preserve the legacy of a literary community of American Renaissance authors who produced work in Pittsfield, including Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes through the construction of five writing studios that will provide venues for writers and local residents to engage with the Pittsfield landscape through the written, sung, or spoken word.
For the project’s inaugural year in 2017, the studios will be located at the following sites throughout the city:
Melville and Hawthorne Studios at Arrowhead
Thoreau Studio at the Springside House
Longfellow Studio at Pittsfield High School
Oliver Wendell Holmes Studio at the Mass Audubon Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary
ABOUT THE NAME: “THE MASTHEADS”
Aboard the Pequod, the whaling ship in Moby Dick in which Ishmael sails, crew members take shifts climbing up high into the masthead, looking out for whales. From that new vantage point, they see the world around them from a different perspective, elevated far off the ship’s deck. Concurrent with this exposure to the vast sea that surrounds them, Ishmael describes the masthead—a space large enough for only one person—as an opportunity to look inward, and encounter new aspects of oneself.
The design for five studios in this exhibition—the Mastheads—seek to set up this dual condition for the writers in residence who will work in them—reflection on the physical context that surrounds us (the city of Pittsfield), and an opportunity to explore one’s own personal project in relation to that context.
The Mastheads assemble a framework from which to add to the literary heritage of this of city begun in the 19th century by writers of the American Renaissance. We see heritage not as a fixed story we inherit from the past, but as something that we must engage with and continually reinvent.
To convey the ongoing nature of this evolution, the designs of the five studios presented here are fragments, each representing a disembodied piece of an architectural language—the roof, the porch, the stair, the tower, the portal. By working with a language of fragments and incompleteness, we are forced to continually reassemble, to imagine, create, and complete a story in our own minds.
In contemplating Pittsfield’s historic literary network as well as the future literary network that this project will support, we ask ourselves to ponder not only what once happened here but what is to come.
To realize this project, a fundraising campaign is underway to raise a total of $200,000 to construct the five studios.
To contribute, please send checks with “Mastheads” in the memo line to:
Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area
PO Box 611
Great Barrington, MA
All donations are 501(c)(3) tax deductible.