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A mural featuring Ruby Bridges will be installed on Jubilee Hill in Pittsfield.

Ruby Bridges Inspiration for 'Walk With Her' Mural in West Side

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Artist Pops Peterson stands in front of the wall in Pittsfield where the mural will be installed. Via Facebook.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Big things are happening in the West Side.
"Walk With Her," a mural featuring Ruby Bridges Hall, the civil rights activist who became a symbol of school integration at the age of 6, will soon be placed on a concrete wall below Division Street on a well-traveled pass-through called College Way.
"It's going to be a landmark with a lot of meaning and definitions for the community, specifically, the West Side," said Tony Jackson, president of Westside Legends, a group that seeks to unite and promote the neighborhood.
The piece of art is about 28 feet high and be viewable from afar. It was made possible by Westside Legends, Mill Town Capital, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
Bridges became the first Black student to integrate into an all-white public school in New Orleans in 1960. 
This mural features her as a young girl walking away from a sign that reads "Jubilee Hill" in reference to the hill where the mural will be located.  
The image was created by artist and public speaker Pops Peterson. In 2015, Peterson released his well-received series "Reinventing Rockwell," which put a modern spin on Rockwell's paintings that embraced diversity.
The mural is inspired by Peterson's reimagining of Rockwell's 1964 painting, "The Problem We All Live With," which features Bridges being escorted to school by federal marshals while food is being thrown at her.
Rockwell's painting was loaned to the Obama White House to mark the 50th anniversary of that event. Bridges Hall is a trustee emeritus of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. 
Peterson's version, "The Problem Persists," features a background of broken buildings and was inspired by the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown Jr. by a police officer.   
Rather than being painted directly on the wall, the mural will be blown up to the proper size and printed on vinyl for its installation. The city began prepping the wall in late October and the mural is expected to be up on Wednesday.
Planning began in May when Jackson was in conversation with local organizations about housing issues. He mentioned that artwork would brighten the area and immediately received support for his idea.
The mural's theme was voted on through a Facebook page after Jackson, NAACP member Kamaar Taliaferro, and architect Tessa Kelly brainstormed a few ideas.
After Bridges was chosen as the subject, the group thought it would be great for Peterson to design the image because of his previous work. A few months later the piece of art was in their hands.
"I didn't even think he would take our call, sure enough, he took our call, and three or four months later, we've got our Ruby Bridges going up with a Jubilee Hill," Jackson said.
The group was hoping to have the mural installed in late October but had to wait for proper conditions for the vinyl image.
They plan on having an official unveiling once the project is complete.
Jackson said there are other murals planned to decorate the West Side area. One is dedicated to the "Queens of the Westside," a group of elderly women who were prominent in the community.
Another mural titled "Gone But Never Forgotten" is staged to honor Robert Chadwell, a West Side resident who was one of the victims of a triple homicide in 2011. 
"The person in that picture is going to represent a great loss for the community," Jackson said.
Westside Legends plans to combine the two concepts for one large dedication.

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Pittsfield Figure Skating Club Holds Registration Night

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Pittsfield Figure Skating Club will hold its first registration night on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Boys and Girls Club from 5 to 7 p.m.
Current figure skaters and interested new members are encouraged to attend.
Founded in 1977, the PFSC provides skaters of all ages and abilities the opportunity to develop their figure skating skills in a safe and healthy environment. PFSC professional coaches are U.S. Figure Skating members and provide group and private instruction.
The club provides lessons in basic skating skills for people aged 3 and up, including adults, and it offers a basic skating skills class for children interested in playing hockey, according to its website.
A second registration night will be held on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 5 to 7 p.m.
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