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The work of Lama Tashi Norbu is seen, left, in 'Across Shared Waters: Contemporary Artists in Dialogue with Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection,' at the Williams College Museum of Art.

Williamstown Board of Health OKs Tattoo Demonstration at College Art Museum

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Board of Health on Monday gave a variance to the Williams College Museum of Art to allow a tattoo demonstration at the venue on April 27.
The public creation of body art is planned as a program in conjunction with the museum's current exhibition, which displays works of contemporary artists of Himalayan heritage alongside traditional Tibetan Buddhist art dating back to the 18th century.
"One of the artists is Lama Tashi Norbu, a Buddhist monk ... and tattoo artist," WCMA Assistant Curator of Programs Roz Crews told the board. "When I invited him here to come and do a program, he suggested making a performance where one person would have the opportunity to get a tattoo that represents their personal mantra.
"Along with the tattoo, he would write a prayer song, and he is inviting local musicians of all different kinds to play alongside him at the museum."
Norbu is a practicing tattoo artist in the Netherlands, where he lives, Crews said.
To oversee the event on April 27, WCMA has engaged North Adams' Alexis Rosasco, the owner/operator of AR Designs Fine Art and Tattoo on Holden Street.
"I have all the licenses required for the state," Rosasco said. "I will be there to supervise, even though [Norbu] is a professional in his own right. I'll provide any sterilization products he may not be coming over with himself."
Rosasco said she also will be available to the tattoo recipient in case there are any side effects that show up at the event or in subsequent days.
Health Inspector Jeff Kennedy explained to the board the genesis of the town's regulations on tattoos.
"Our body art regulation, crafted many years ago, was based on the Los Angeles regulation, which I found and customized a bit for Massachusetts," Kennedy said. "It is a stringent regulation because body art is a procedure where untrained people or people who don't meet stringent requirements could cause blood borne illnesses."
Kennedy noted that he was not suggesting anyone involved in the WCMA event was untrained, and he was supportive of the museum's request for a variance.
Crews said now that the late April event has town approval, the museum will create an application process to choose the one person who will receive a tattoo from Norbu in the public event.
"The goal in submitting that [application] would be to explain why they're passionate about getting the tattoo and how it would benefit them to receive a tattoo from a Buddhist monk visiting from the Netherlands," Crews said.
In other business on Monday morning, the board discussed the most recent numbers for COVID-19 cases in town, which remains low with just four reported positive cases on the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiological Network.
Board member Erwin Stuebner pointed out that the MaVEN system is no longer a definitive source given the number of people doing home tests that are not accounted for in the commonwealth's database. But he said the home cases he has heard about locally are not coming with severe symptoms.
"At [Berkshire Medical Center], they're running between four and eight [cases]," Stuebner said. "None are seriously ill and half are discovered when they come in for elective surgery and are asymptomatic. I don't think there's been more than one patient in the intensive care unit at any one time recently."
The board also Monday received an update from Kennedy about his plan to retire from Town Hall in early August. He told the board he is working on a job description that he will pass on to the town's recently named human resources director to use in posting for the position.
Kennedy said that while the town manager is the hiring authority in Williamstown government, the Board of Health was involved in the interview process when he joined the town. Several members of the board expressed a hope that the panel will be able to provide input this time around.

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Letter: Comment on DEI in Mount Greylock School Budget

To the Editor:

"Mount Greylock School Committee Members Push to Keep Diversity Post in Budget" (March 27) prompts responses from Lanesborough, Williamstown and other towns that send their students to the Mount Greylock Regional School District.

The DEI position has been a source of controversy since its creation. There is little, if any, disagreement that our communities want our schools to be welcoming and free of bias. The controversy stems from determining the best way to achieve this goal. Superintendent McCandless was spot on when he said that advocating for the schools "in complete isolation of the bigger picture ... is not a good recipe for actually getting a budget through town meeting. It is not a good recipe for building a long and respectful relationship with the community you depend on for financial support."

I urge the Mount Greylock Regional School District to reach out now to the sending communities with specifics about the initiative. They may have done this somewhat before, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what Superintendent McCandless described as "[an] ethically and morally mandated position."

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