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Spotted Salamander - Photo by Dan Minicucci


Committee members with the Travel the Watershed suitcases

Committee members with the Suitcases

Education & Outreach

Travel the Watershed

The Committee solicited local artists to paint wooden suitcases to “Travel the Watershed” during Summer 2013.  The project gave six artists the opportunity to create a visual celebration of the river on display cases for outreach and education materials. After being exhibited over the summer as a group as works of art at local venues, the cases will travel the watershed, dispersing to Libraries and Town Halls throughout the ten towns with designated Wild & Scenic sections of the Westfield River. 

Building the suitcases

Building the Suitcases

The jurors for the Travel the Watershed Suitcase project were :

The artists who were selected to decorate suitcases were:

Steve Hamlin, Huntington

Steve Hamlin's suitcase

This project reminded me how much I love the region I live in and how fortunate I am to be able to call it home.  It also gave me an opportunity to showcase one of my favorite subjects – the Keystone Arches.  The Arches perfectly exemplify some of the qualities I cherish most: beauty, history, ingenuity and craftsmanship.

The ingenuity and craftsmanship required to build the Arches is awe-inspiring.  It’s hard to imagine completing such a huge task as ten stone bridges of the magnitude of these in the space of two years, even with today’s technology.  Given the relatively primitive tools available to Whistler and his chief stonemason, Alexander Birnie, it’s astounding.  What’s more, the bridges that remain have stood with no maintenance whatsoever for the past hundred years.  It’s a tribute to the skill of the builders that they continue to grace the valley of the Westfield.

Katrina Majkut, Brookline

Katrina Majkut's Suitcase

This was a wonderful opportunity to experience the Berkshires. It allowed me to connect my art with a good cause and be part of a community that clearly takes great pride in their natural surroundings and gives great effort in preserving it. Meredyth was kind enough to bring me around to visit the Chester Railway Station, Chesterfield Gorge, the Keystone Arch and Glendale Falls. It was a cold, somewhat snowy, refreshing day, which I chose to capture on the display case. She exposed me to the natural beauty of the area and introduced me to the locals we met along the paths. We also spoke at length about the needs and character of the community, the history of the area and how important it was to protect the Watershed. As a Greater Boston local, being brought into this project was so crucial in expanding and sharing the importance of the Watershed. While miles away, the health of the Berkshires area is pertinent to the health of areas near and far away. This lesson of interconnectedness and reliance would have been lost on me had I not been asked to part of this great opportunity. It is this exact connection that makes projects like this so important to communicate and share, thank you to all of those who helped me be a part of it.

Annette Rubino, Cummington

Annette Rubino's Suitcase

The Hours spent on the suitcase brought me back to the two years I farmed alongside the river in Cummington.  Everyday from spring thru fall, I spent in that luxuriously grassy field, tending my garden.

Those were some of the happiest years of my adult life.  What a great memory.  I live and work a mile from it’s course. It’s life and current run through my veins.

Nelena Soro, Becket

no photo available

Just as art is the soul’s language, so rushing water is a language of the earth, spoken by the arteries and capillaries that feed it. Those of us who live in this area, in the continuous musical presence of the river, enjoy and are nourished by its energy and beauty.  It feeds us as it feeds its own body.

In turning my focus to the river, attempting to distill some aspect of its essence, I perceived and experienced more of its aspects, absorbed its presence more fully. The essence of the river became part of me.

Anthony Verano, Becket

Anthony Verano's Suitcase

Everything changes, through time, motion, the constant evolution,
Paint on wood absorbs, filling porous surface,
Shadows shift as light moves past, time recognition,
The animals feed, the ferns drink,
River, Motion, Time
All moving before us,
Emotion within the mist,
Water bending around a record keeper,
Breaking new ground, next years ferns,
A moment in time, a look at evolution.

Rosemary Wessel, Cummington

Rosemary Wessel's Suitcase

Scouting locations for visual references for this piece has connected me even more deeply to the river than before. Since the river runs right through our community, I felt it was important to paint a section near to my home and to the center of our town. Looking for locations close to home brought me to places I'd not found before, and an awareness that walking up the river, there's a new vista around every bend, a different community of plants and stones, of low lying fields or steep embankments, shallow rapids or deep pools.

This scene is right down by the Rt. 9 bridge near Main Street, Cummington, and is a frequently visited place. The owners of this property have made steps and signs for the fishermen and swimmers who stop by, knowing the appeal of a gentle slope and easy access to the waterfront.

Anthony Verano painting his suitcase

Anthony Verano at work on his suitcase

The “Travel the Watershed” suitcases, built and adorned by local artists in 2013, will be on display in community centers, libraries and town halls starting in Feb. of 2014.  The project will give community members the opportunity to become active river stewards and increase their knowledge of the Wild & Scenic Westfield River and its watershed.  

Meredyth Babcock, the committee’s volunteer coordinator, believes that all of us want to help preserve the places that, support, rejuvenate and inspire us.  The suitcases make information and river stewardship easily available to the communities we serve, through awareness, education and an open invitation to join the Wild & Scenic volunteers.