The light of art, shining through the cold: Online arts series for February and March

  • Veteran musicians James Argiro and Karrin Allyson will talk about their experiences Feb. 14 as part of CitySpace’s winter art series “Four Virtual Nights on the Town.” Image courtesy CitySpace

  • PAUL FRANZ/Gazette file photo

  • Motoko Dworkin of Amherst shares the stage with Eshu Bumpus as they bring their storytelling skills to the Feb. 11 opening event of “Winter Chautauqua.”

  • Valley pecussionist Tony Vacca performs Feb. 25 as part of “Winter Chautaqua,” an online arts series produced by Laurel Park arts.  Gazette file photo

  • The power of words: From left, Michael Favala Goldman, Lesléa Newman, María José Giménez and Kelly Link will host a writers’ panel March 7 that’s part of CitySpace’s  “Four Virtual Nights on the Town.” Image courtesy CitySpace

Staff Writer
Monday, February 15, 2021

Looking for a way to try to beat the midwinter blues? Two virtual arts series, taking place during roughly the same span, offer some possible relief.

Organizers in Laurel Park in Northampton and at CitySpace in Easthampton are offering a string of events that begin this month and extend into March (with one event in April). From music to storytelling, and from theater to conversations with writers and artists, eight performances are on tap between the two series.

Burns Maxey, president of CitySpace, suggests the nonprofit organization’s series offers a great way “to get through these cold days” by highlighting the work that area artists are continuing to do even as the pandemic has put a stop to live events for months.

“The arts, in all their forms, have the capability to uplift us in times of adversity,” Maxey said in a statement.

What CitySpace is calling “Four Virtual Nights On the Town” begins Sunday, Feb. 14, with “Live in a Groove,” which features music and conversation with jazz singer and pianist Karrin Allyson and James Argiro, a pianist, composer and arranger who’s worked with scores of musicians and entertainers ranging from Lionel Hampton to Count Basie to Carol Channing.

The hourlong program, which begins at 6 p.m., will be streamed from Luthier’s Co-op, where Allyson, a five-time Grammy Award nominee in jazz, will join Argio to chat about their experience playing music around the world, and to play a bit of music as well. Argio, who teaches music at Westfield State University, was at age 16 already part of an R&B/blues band that backed up 1950s groups such as The Drifters.

Other events in the CitySpace series include “The Writer’s Imagination” on March 7, a roundtable featuring four area writers: María José Giménez, Easthampton’s poet laureate and a translator; poet and children’s writer Lesléa Newman; fiction writer Kelly Link, a MacArthur fellow and a Pulitzer Prize nominee; and poet/translator Michael Favala Goldman.

For the Laurel Park series, Amherst storytellers Eshu Bumpus and Motoko Dworkin will bring their work to a Feb. 11 event that begins at 7 p.m. Bumpus presents a variety of African, African American and world folktales that he leavens with music — he’s a jazz vocalist and guitarist — and he’s worked widely with schools. Dworkin, a native of Japan, has presented to audiences of all ages for nearly 30 years.

Dworkin, who trained with the famous American mime Tony Montanaro, offers a range of presentations including Asian folktales, ghost stories, mime vignettes and memories from her childhood in Japan.

The two have performed together and will do so again on the 11th; notes for their show say they’ll lead audiences “to places as strange and exotic as China’s storytelling village, a slave trade island in Senegal, and the interior of our own hearts.”

The Laurel Park series is called “Winter Chautauqua,” a reference to the community’s founding in the 1870s as a Methodist summer camp that later became part of a national adult education and social movement known as Chautauqua. The name came from social, religious and artistic camps that first began at a site along Chautauqua Lake in western New York state; these gatherings of speakers, teachers, musicians, preachers and others in rural parts of the country remained popular into the early 1900s, including at Laurel Park.

Laurel Park has in turn featured a regular series of cultural and social events during summer for the last several years, including music, theater, lectures, and more.

The “Winter Chautauqua” program continues Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. with a presentation by Valley percussionist Tony Vacca, who has toured and played for years in the northeastern U.S. and in West Africa. He’s also a longtime music educator who’s held workshops in schools on a variety of West African drums and gongs and the balafon, a gourd-resonated xylophone.

The Laurel Park events will run for approximately a hour and 15 minutes and are free, although donations to Laurel Park Arts are encouraged. Visit laurelparkarts.org for more information and for links for registering for the events.

More information on the CitySpace series is available at cityspaceeasthampton.org/events/. Tickets are $25 per household per event, or $80 for all four; reduced prices are available for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Tickets also come with various perks, including special offers from Easthampton restaurants.