Unistress CEO Perri Petricca speaks at the opening; Mill Town Managing Director Carrie Holland listens along with children at the event.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mill Town Capital unveiled a literacy-themed park in the Morningside neighborhood on Wednesday afternoon that provides a space for reading, playing, or just enjoying a nice day.
Kellogg Park, located at the corner of Lincoln Street and Wellington Avenue, features contemporary 5-foot tall structures representing the letters of the alphabet. As an artistic approach to signage, the only letters standing up are those that spell out its name.
Aside from being a place to gather and unwind, it will serve as an outdoor classroom for Morningside Community School.
"We wanted our students to learn from this, that they have a voice as citizens to make a difference in their community, and it's just so exciting to see this all come out in the end and based on the planning of stakeholders in this community," Morningside Principal Monica Zanin said.
"Our primary focus of our school improvement plan, of our school vision, is literacy, looking at English language arts in a way that we are teaching all of our subjects through, so math, science, social studies, anything that we are learning we really have that primary focus on literacy."
The park is dedicated to former property owners Veronica and Kenneth Kellogg, who are the grandparents of Mill Town founder and Chairman Dave Mixer. The literacy theme coincides with the investment group's efforts in community development.
"Our founder and chairman of Mill Town, his grandparents lived on this site between the 1940s and the 1980s," Managing Director Carrie Holland said. "It really brought a lot of inspiration to this space to create something for the community here."
At the opening celebration, community members gathered at the space to hear Morningside Community School students read self-made poetry that was the culmination of a spring program by The Mastheads called "Fireside."
The program prompted Morningside's second grades to create the works under the guidance of Literary Director Sarah Trudgeon. They also collaborated to write an Alphabet Poem that identified which object or thing each letter of the alphabet resembles in their eyes.
For example, the students felt that B looks like a butterfly, F a looks like a Tyrannosaurus rex, and M looks like a mountain.
This poem was embossed along the pocket park's cedar fencing.
The climbable letters were made by Pittsfield-based concrete company Unistress with the labor and materials donated in memory of the Stone brothers, an employee's 6-year-old twin sons who died in a house fire in 2019.
Matchbox cars that belonged to Kasper and Sylas Stone are encased in the letter S with a message that reads "The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it and turn it inside out."
There is also a community "book house" stocked with literature provided by Berkshire United Way in the park in remembrance of the boys.
"We couldn't be happier with how this turned out and to see this in the neighborhood," Unistress CEO Perri Petricca said.
Mill Town purchased the property about three years ago and ventured into a community engagement process to transform it into a space that would best serve the neighborhood. The company worked with literary project the Mastheads; Group AU, architecture and urbanism planners based in Pittsfield and Troy, N.Y., and Morningside, in conjunction with Unistress for the design.
"A lot of labor and heart was put into the creation of this and the placement of these pieces through their community crew," Holland said. "I know this is a special place for them and especially meaningful space for them as well."
Group AU designer Tessa Kelly said the team imagined the park being used exactly how it was on Wednesday, with people on all levels of the letters while exploring the literary themes behind them.
She explained how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the design of the park.
"When we initially started thinking about a literary park at this space, we were partnering with Morningside School and thinking, maybe we would have a big projector on this corner, and we would rotate having student poems projected different ones throughout the day," Kelly said.
"And then when COVID hit, two things happened. One, we felt like no one needed to see any more screens, and two, we felt like outdoor space actually has this new, important use when it comes to partnerships with schools."
After the poetry reading, community members enjoyed live music and attending children left with a small goodie bag of back-to-school supplies.
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