Letter: City Needs to Support Local Artwork

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To the Editor:

Over the past year, I have joined a number of North Adams residents in an effort to restore the schoolchildren's paintings of Berkshire County mill workers that were depicted on the cement pillars on Marshall Street in North
Adams until workers from Mass MoCA illegally painted over the historic work. Below is the letter sent to Mayor Bernard following our meeting on July 24, 2018, at which he refused to take any steps to restore the historic community art.

To Mayor Thomas Bedard,

Tom, I enjoyed the give and take of our discussion today and reflecting on that, have concluded that some of your logic is counterproductive to the work of our school children, teachers, artist and general public of which many parents, grandparents and great-grandparents went off to work in the mills in support of their families.

With that said here are a couple of points to be made which need to be examined:

You said that no contract was ever signed between both parties and, the city has pointed out, has no legal obligation to either party. That being said, is your primary obligation to the people of this community or to MoCA and the sound artist whose work would continue to be present at the very site in point?

You indicated that you feel that all new public artwork will have a contract with a timeline. (Isn't the 20 years that you told me of the existing sound art enough ... do you think that they should have 50 years)?

As you know, one fine day like today, MoCA destroyed part of our history by painting over those mill workers and their efforts (without the city's approval last year). Did you take them to task?

The Public Art Commission of North Adams failed to follow up on our request for information and the disclosure of other public communications to the committee which was never presented by the chairperson to the board. One committee member told me that they dropped the ball on the issue.

You indicated that you would not even approve the examination of a sample removal of the gray paint encompassing the mill workers. That sample would be essential in determination of the feasibility for restoration.

Have been around long enough to know that money and power talks and often those facts put the general citizenry at a disadvantage in the decision making of our leaders. But nevertheless, we must and shall stand up for what we feel is right and reflects the best interest of the community. It appears that it is easier to acquiesce to the desires of the haves rather than to the have-nots.

It is easy to say that we need to move forward but it is not comprehensible that we should forget about our past. It is also essential that leadership takes courage and determination to put the people ahead of special interest.

When things go a person's way, it is easy to say "hey it's time to work together." That is OK and good if one is playing on an even playing field. I think that all those people that were mentioned in the beginning of this communique are not in that balance.

Clearly, when you worked at MoCA you observed the influence in some of the decision-making process. Now, as mayor, you can either hold the line that you have established or step forward in seeking a mutual solution in testing the site, looking for the sound artist to accept the addition of art to the city's space and, lastly to truly represent the historic and emotional interest of the people of this city.

Vincent Melito
North Adams, Mass.



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Veteran Spotlight: Seaman Nichols Witness to History

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires

Seaman Bob Nichols was about 100 feet away from the ceremony for the formal surrender of Japan in 1945.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Simply put, Bob Nichols represents The Greatest Generation in admirable fashion. At 93 years of age, he is extremely kind, gracious, tremendously fit and carries himself with immense humility. 
The World War II veteran served his country from 1944-1946 in the Navy aboard the USS Missouri in the South Pacific Theater. 
Sent to basic training at Fort Sampson in New York, Seaman Nichols was sent to Newport, R.I., for further training and a "shakedown" cruise to Norfolk, Va., and then on to Trinidad. His brand-new ship was the BB-63 USS Missouri, which would go on to earn three battle stars for bombardments during the war. The "Might Mo" is now a museum near the sunken USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. 
"We were Task Force 38 and 58 and provided cover for the carriers, 2,700 men on board. I was a gunner on the starboard side of the ship. That's where all the action was," he remembered.
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