Arts Briefs: Book launches in Amherst, jazz in Goshen, collage art in Holyoke and more

Published: 02-23-2023 8:55 PM

Launch those books by writers from the area

AMHERST — Spring is still more than three weeks away, but the days are lengthening, temperatures are mostly creeping up, and it’s not too early to think about what you might plant in your garden this year — or to think about healing yourself in different ways.

Some new books making their public debuts this weekend could be part of that equation.

On Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. at Collective Copies, there will be a book launch for “Valley Gardens,” a selection of writing by Sherry Wilson of Amherst, who wrote a garden column for the Gazette and the Amherst Bulletin for 30 years before retiring in 2015.

In “Valley Gardens,” published by Levellers Press, Wilson offers a range of pieces from her last 10 years of writing, with sections that examine particular flowers, private gardens, education, and tours of public gardens in the Valley and further afield, including The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Lenox home.

Her book includes numerous color photos by Wilson and Gazette photographers and photo interns.

On Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. at the Unitarian Society, Belchertown author Edward Tick will introduce his new book, “Soul Medicine: Healing through Dream Incubation, Visions, Oracles and Pilgrimage.”

Tick, a psychotherapist and writer, has been leading trips for years to ancient Greek healing sites, and according to press notes, his book uses “case studies of healings achieved & lives transformed using practices from the classical ancient world in psychotherapy and mentorship.”

“This book demystifies ancient healing wisdom in order to help restore soul and spirit to psychology, medicine, and transformative healing practices today,” press notes say.

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Tick will also have copies of his previous book, “Coming Home in Vietnam,” a collection of poetry that documents trips he’s led to Vietnam for Vietnam War veterans, their family members, peace activists and others as a means for building reconciliation.

The book launch will also take place on Zoom; you can register for that at


Vibraphone quartet playing in the hills

GOSHEN — Vibraphonist and marimbist Patricia Brennan, hailed by The New York City Jazz Record as “one of the instrument’s newer leaders,” will bring her quartet to the Institute for the Musical Arts on Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.

Brennan, a native of Mexico, has played with numerous other musicians and groups, including the Grammy-nominated John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, and she has appeared on numerous recordings, from classical to improvised music.

Her debut solo album, “Maquishti,” released on Valley of Search, was included in The New York Times 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2021, according to Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares, which is producing the Feb. 25 concert.

At the show, Brennan will be joined by Noel Brennan on drums, Kim Cass on bass, and Mauricio Herrera on percussion.


Resident artist at Smith College

NORTHAMPTON — Abdessamad El Montassir, an artist who divides his time between Western Sahara and France, will serve as a resident artist with the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA) between March 6 and April 21.

Emma Chubb, SCMA’s curator of contemporary art, says the museum’s residency program is designed to bring artists like El Montassir who are at “a pivotal point” in their careers to campus so that they can explore new creative opportunities “rooted in exchanges with faculty, staff, and students.”

El Montassir, a native of Morocco, works primarily in film and photography and has a “research-based approach” to his work, Chubb says, that explores stories and narratives from North Africa that are little known in the U.S.

One of his projects, for instance, looks at the poetry and music in communities of slaves and Haratins (literally “second group of free people”) in North Africa. In the Sahara, and particularly in Mauritania, Chubb notes, slavery remains widespread despite its official abolition, and talking about it is still prohibited.

El Montassir will also make a presentation to the public during his residency.


The world of‘Babylon Canton’

HOLYOKE — PULP Gallery is opening the first solo exhibit by Babel Khan, a North Carolina collage artist whose work gallery owner Dean Brown calls “extraordinary.”

Khan, who was born Vincent Johnson, “has a bit of a following on instagram,” Brown notes, “of folks who are partial to ‘’visionary’ artists who are working on the edges of the commercial art world.”

In exhibit notes, Kahn describes himself as an artist “who studies the world and predicts the future. His distinct visual and written language explores his fictitious Babylon Canton. It is his Homeland. His state of mind.”

War, the military-industrial complex, economic and social conflict and other themes are key parts of Kahn’s work. One collage is centered on cartoonish tanks moving across a sort of wooden floor, while the tableau’s borders are lined with small portraits of men and circa 1940s pinup girls, mixed in with tickets stubs and small advertisements.

The exhibit, which takes up all of PULP’s gallery space, runs from Feb. 26 to March 26.


New faces join CitySpace team

EASTHAMPTON — CitySpace, the nonprofit group that manages the city’s Old Town Hall as a dedicated arts and community forum, is welcoming two new members to its executive team: Vice President Nikki Beck and organization clerk Peggy Twardowski, both of Easthampton.

Beck, a native of Alaska, is the Smith College Theatre Department’s production manager and a freelance stage manager; she also works with the Academy of Music and produces a weekly newsletter, Pioneer Valley Theatre. Beck has been a CitySpace board member since 2017.

Twardowski, a Mount Holyoke College graduate, has been in the Valley for 30 years and serves as the business information director for the video game industry’s largest representation agency, Digital Development Management. She has worked in varied ways to promote the arts locally and joined the CitySpace board in 2021 as part of that effort.

In a statement, CitySpace President Burns Maxey said Beck and Twardowski both bring great skills and dedication to the arts to the organization, especially “at a critical time … as we expand programming and restore the Old Town Hall. We are fortunate to include them on our team.”

— Compiled by Steve  Pfarrer