Generally I’m not one to go for the “heard it through the grapevine” approach to stories, but since it’s a small community and jobs may be on the line, I was hard pressed (actually, begged) not to use any names for this one. Actually, people have lost their jobs already, or been demoted or absorbed as a result of this latest news from Kolburne School.
The Caldwell House, which is a satellite residential home for students at the school, will be closing tomorrow. Employees at the house, which is located in Sheffield (set away from the road a stone ’s throw away from the covered bridge), found out roughly two weeks ago that it would be closing. While the school has managed to “absorb” these seven employees, many have been demoted or had to take a pay cut as a result of the closing.
Caldwell House is rumored to be closing tomorrow.
I’m not sure what exactly will happen to the six students who were living at the house but it is clear that Kolburne School, like most residential schools, is being hit hard by the economy. Enrollment has dropped significantly from roughly 120 students down to 80 (or less) and the school is still in the middle of labor union negotiations as it seems they want to downsize employee contracts, which are reportedly already slim to begin with.
In addition to its main campus in Southfield, Kolburne has three residential campuses in Lee, Great Barrington and Sheffield. Actually, make that two since the Sheffield campus will be closing tomorrow. It may be on the market within the month.
It is hard to say where the school will go from here. Rumors have been flying that it is on the brink of financial collapse and much of what’s happening seems to be pointing in that direction, although no official news has come from the school itself. Thus far the news of closings and contracts and scandal has been a strong whispering current in the community at large.
As a journalist I meet some pretty interesting people. Sometimes interesting is a euphemism for scary, sometimes it’s not a euphemism at all. I've discovered that this place is absolutely crawling with diversity and dynamic people, especially business owners. Just under two years ago, I sat down with Gabriele Senza in what was, at the time, the newly opened Berkshire Art Kitchen. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before in the Berkshires; part French salon, part funky retail, part gallery.
I was hooked. And so, too, were a lot of other artists and writers and musicians and collagists…you get the idea. The Berkshire Art Kitchen was something new and different and unique. And it was clear that Gabrielle, herself an artist (think amazing art books and gorgeous golden landscapes on canvas), knew how to bring people of all niches together for a cultivated good time.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, sort of. Gabrielle is closing up shop at the BAK in order to get back to her art roots, so to speak, and because the "kitchen" couldn't cook up enough bread to be financially sustainable. But all is not lost, not yet. Even while she is working out the details of her new studio/living space, Gabrielle is hosting one last bash at the BAK this weekend.
For starters on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., she is having a moving sale. And this isn’t just any moving sale. It is a criminally low-priced sale of art (original) and other items (i.e. furniture, office and art supplies, clothes, etc.). And if you want to get your grubby hands on something before the throng, there is a preview party on Friday night from 5 to 7 complete with complimentary chocolate and prosecco (tix are $25).
Oh, and the concert …did I mention the concert? Because it's not enough that Gabrielle is an artist and an activists and social networking genius, she’s a cellist. At 8 on Saturday night (after the big sale and the preview party and all the hauling), she will be performing the last concert at BAK with her band 8 Foot River.
If you’ve never been to the BAK or met Gabrielle, this is your last chance, so go. I know that two years doesn’t seem like a long time, especially in a town where folks have been doing business for 80 years, but in those two years I think that BAK has had quite an impact.
I wish Gabrielle (and her son Matteo) well on her new journey. I still look forward to seeing her in town and at arty, nerdy, you-name-it events. The yellow house won’t be the same without her.