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Berkshire Lightscapes To Transform Colonial Theatre Wall Into Video Art Screen Tonight

A yellow brick building sits on a green lawn under a blue sky
Josh Landes
The south facing wall of the Colonial Theatre on South Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Tonight, a piece of video art will be projected onto the wall of a historic theatre in downtown Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Peter Lafayette is the president of Berkshire Lightscapes and the Downtown Pittsfield Cultural Association, which sponsors the project.

“Berkshire Lightscapes is a program that installs new high tech LED lights on the outside of buildings and public spaces, and the purpose is to illuminate, use this new technology to illuminate the buildings, to provide something more interesting at night and to provide another reason for people to come downtown,” he explained.

Visitors to Pittsfield’s downtown have likely already seen Berkshire Lightscapes’ work on the exterior of buildings like City Hall and The First Agricultural Bank building at 100 North Street. Tonight’s presentation was inspired by its work on another historic Pittsfield edifice – that of the Colonial Theatre on South Street.

“When we were lighting up the Colonial, we said, gee, you have this giant blank wall, south facing wall on the side of the Colonial," said Lafayette. "Wouldn't it be great to be able to do something with it? So the idea is to use videos that are created on computers, and project them onto that wall of the Colonial so it really becomes a giant movie screen. So Joe Wheaton is a local artist and sculptor, he helped us put together the project. And on Wednesday night, the first viewing will be videos that he has created.”

“I take a lot of video, photographs, I travel a lot, I eat and live. And the pictures kind of just reflect that kind of prism of what I see in the world. And then I overlap everything. So I use a kind of program that mixes visuals, the way sound mixers mix sound," Wheaton told WAMC. “It's really just an abstract montage of everything from some recognizable imagery to abstract and colors and geometric forms. It's both interesting and curious. And hopefully not annoying.”

Lafayette says the event is a celebration of the completion of Berkshire Lightscapes’ Phase 1 for downtown Pittsfield. It also serves to commemorate project founder Elie Hammerling, who died in 2020.

“It was a dream of his, he was very passionate about it," said Lafayette. "He spoke to me, spoke to everybody. To politicians, to public officials to building owners downtown, dealt with RPI and Troy, they have a lighting center, and they helped formulate our program. So his son will be there and grandson, coming in from coming in from out of town, and a lot of others. Public officials who've been who've known him and supported this program over the years will be there as well.”

Wheaton’s video work is just the kickoff for an ongoing series of local art Berkshire Lightscapes will feature on the Colonial Theatre wall.

“After Joe Wheaton’s production, and that will run every night during the rest of this month, then after that, we have teamed up with Berkshire Art Association," Lafayette told WAMC. "And they're going to be reaching out and putting out what's called a call to artists, and in this case, to non-artists as well, to submit videos that they've produced on their own computers. And a lot of people, a lot of kids are doing that these days. And they show them to each other, but there's really no place to highlight them and show them off. So it's kind of a new art technology. And so they're putting out a request for videos where you have a committee that will be screening them and selecting the ones and those will be end up being shown in the following months on that big Colonial wall.”

The Berkshire Lightscapes Phase 1 completion celebration, featuring the video art of Joe Wheaton, starts at 8:45 p.m. outside the Colonial Theatre on South Street in Pittsfield.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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