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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Richard Harlow: City Council Candidate

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, September 29, 2005

Richard "Rick" Harlow
•SEE VIDEO INTERVIEW
•SEE VIDEO INTERVIEW

North Adams – Richard “Rick” Harlow, 55, of 243 Union St. # 207, has yet to assemble a “top 10” list of actions he will pursue if elected to the City Council.

He does know how he will approach a two-year council term if he claims a victory during a Nov. 8 city election, he said during a Sept. 27 interview.

“I believe in doing things well,” Harlow said. “Perhaps at this time I can’t come up with a top 10 list of things I want to accomplish, but I would like to be part of the development. I would say that when I set my mind to do something, I do it seriously.”

Harlow is among eight incumbent city councilors and seven challengers vying for nine city council seats. City Councilor William Donovan announced earlier this month that he will be moving from the city and is no longer seeking reelection to the council.

The number of people seeking city council terms speaks well of the city, and will benefit the voters, Harlow said.

“It gets the media out and gets the issues out for discussion,” he said.

Big Move

Harlow is a landscape and nature painter who was born in Winchester, Mass. and spent his childhood in Reading, Mass. He moved to Boston after high school graduation, and earned a masters degree in fine art at the University of Cincinnati. He moved to the city from Boston, Harlow said.

“Moving out here from Boston was a really big move for me,” he said. “I felt a really strong connection to this place. I very much like the feel of the town. It’s a town of contrast.”

Harlow noted that the city is home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and has gained notice as an arts community, but also hosts a large working-class population.

“It’s ripe with potential and I’d like to be part of that,” he said.

Harlow said that speaking as an artist, he has an interest in creating more art opportunities.

Stage is Set

“As an artist, of course I’m interested in this town as a place for artists, for galleries,” he said. “I see great potential for arts to attract a lot of business and tourism to the region.”

The artistic lower Manhattan-based SoHo [meaning “South of Houston Street”] section of New York City was once an economically depressed area, Harlow said, and added that while he wasn’t directly comparing the city with SoHo, he believes that “the stage is set” for similar development.

Tourists interested in art and visitors who come to the city as guests of artists already living in town have brought revenues to the area, he said.

“They stay in the motels, they eat at the restaurants, they bring an influx of cash,” he said. “You have [artists] paying taxes to the city.”

When asked what types of businesses are launched via arts community development, Harlow cited examples including restaurants and motels, which provide employment opportunities.

When asked if a person could expect to finance a dependant’s college tuition on a waitress salary, Harlow replied, “It doesn’t seem possible, does it?”

He is not solely focused on art, he said.

Municipal Interests

“That’s not the only issue that I’m interested in,” Harlow said. “I’m interested in education and development in the town. Good jobs need to be created and that brings us back to education.”

Harlow said that he is eager to learn more about local education and school-based programs. He is also interested in investigating businesses development options such as those associated with the technology industry. Harlow said that he is interested in learning about the city’s history and gaining a better understanding of the processes that govern the city.

He is making discoveries as an artist, he said.

“My work has been very much about my experiences in Columbia and South America,” he said.

Since moving to the city, Harlow has been drawn to the hills and valleys, and has found some “favorite spots”.

“I’d like to start getting some of that down on canvas,” he said.

Harlow spent part of the late 1980s and early 1990s in South America and said that his experiences provided some skills and insights that could benefit the city.

“My reason for going there was to get with the rainforest and I thought the best way to do that was to live with indigenous people,” he said.

Time in Columbia

Harlow said that while living in Columbia, he was involved with an economic project that taught handcrafted papermaking skills to the people of three areas. The paper was sold at marketplaces and purchased mostly by European buyers, he said.

“It’s benefited all the families in the communities,” he said. “The project is still operating today.”

Harlow said that the city is not a Columbian village and he is not proposing that city residents make paper by hand, but some of the circumstances and needs are similar. The project allowed families to use a local resource to create a product and earn income while remaining in their home communities, he said. Transporting goods was an issue in the outlying regions of Columbia and while engaged with the project, Harlow said he was able to see first hand how the struggles of daily life “worked its way into the business.”

He speaks Spanish fluently, he said.

“At this point, my Spanish is very good and I would love to connect with the Latino population,” he said.

Harlow said that good planning, forward thinking, and artist cooperation could turn the city into a cultural center. Those beliefs contributed to Harlow’s decision to seek a council term, he said.

“I felt that it’s a town that I would really like to get involved with, with shaping it, and forming it,” Harlow said.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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