Whitney Center for the Arts Taps New Director

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Monica Bliss has been appointed director of performing arts at the Whitney Center for the Arts, the arts center in the renovated historic Thomas Colt House, the former home of the Women's Club of the Berkshires on Wendell Avenue.

A resident of New Lebanon, N.Y., Bliss volunteered as president and chair of publicity for Town Players of Pittsfield, Pittsfield's own historic 98-year old community theater. Previously, she worked as a sales manager for Barrington Stage Company. 

Bliss studied opera at the Hartt School of Music and theater at both Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She graduated from Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton.

A soprano in the Berkshire Opera Festival Chorus, Bliss has performed with many local music and theater groups, including Shaker Mountain Opera, Berkshire Concert Choir, Berkshire Lyric, Town Players of Pittsfield, Ghent Playhouse, BCC Players and Berkshire Theatre Group. 

"The Whit" will feature monthly theatrical and musical programming for audiences of all ages, including an Early Bird Cabaret, a Teen Open Mic Night, Princess Song & Tea Parties, Jazz Nights, a return of the popular Opera Notte series and more.


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Pittsfield Kayak Kiosk Proposal Withdrawn After Pushback

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is the "end of the road" for a kayak kiosk proposal after pushback from community members and the City Council.

Whenever Watersports has withdrawn its proposal for a kayak rental program at Onota Lake. Safety concerns arose around the company's self-serve model though it was stipulated that users sign liabilities away with a waiver as part of the process.  

"It's unfortunate. I had hoped the outcome would be different and I think (Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Maddy Brown) and you as well thought this was an opportunity to provide an additional level of services, recreation opportunity to folks at the park through a modern-app-based system," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said to the Parks Commission on Tuesday.

"It would have cost the city nothing to have this sited. We wouldn't be responsible for any maintenance but there would be maintenance to the units and to the boats, etc. Everyone was going to get life preservers and there are instructions through the app so we thought it was it was safe and secure and a good fit for the park."

In December, the commission granted a request for the pilot program and City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta had been reviewing and revising a proposed contract that had not yet been approved. Last week during City Council, residents Daniel Miraglia and Gene Nadeau submitted a petition requesting a legal opinion on the proposal from the solicitor.

Miraglia expressed concerns about the lack of a bidding process, safety hazards, and the impact on a local business that rents kayaks on the lake. Onota Boat Livery owner Caryn Wendling was upset to hear that an out-of-town company would be allowed to operate the kiosk on the same lake as her business and also cited safety concerns.

Councilors asked that Pagnotta look into items such as the commission's authority with entering into contracts and if a bidding process would be needed for this.

Later that week, a request to the Conservation Commission for determination for the kiosk at Burbank Park located within the buffer zone associated with the inland bank was withdrawn. According to the application, it was proposed to be located before the beach area coming from the main parking lot.

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