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The installation displays 12 pieces of work from poetry to paintings made by presently and formerly incarcerated individuals in Berkshire County.
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Berkshire Museum Displays Artwork by Ex-Incarcerated Individuals

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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Daniel Lowenstein is one of the artists in the exhibit.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Museum has partnered with Second Street Second Chances for its new exhibit "Insight Out" that is on view until Oct. 1. 
The installation displays 12 pieces of work from poetry to paintings made by presently and formerly incarcerated individuals in Berkshire County. 
The goal of the exhibition is to change the perception society has toward those who spent time in jail, Second Street Second Chances Board President Mark Gold said. 
It is important for the community to see these people in a different way because a lot of time they are stereotyped and stigmatized and an exhibit like this provides the community a chance to see them in a new light, he said.  
"I think it's a distrust. It's not understanding what went into what is essentially a lot of times, not all the time, but a lot of times it's just a bad decision. All of us have made bad decisions. A lot of us didn't end up incarcerated for them, but we still made them," Gold said.  
"These are people who made bad decisions. and if they don't want to turn their life around there's nothing we're gonna do but if they do, we're there for them."
Sheriff Thomas Bowler echoed these remarks adding that these artists are "very talented individuals in many different ways" and that seeing their work on display at the museum is a wonderful experience for the community and the artists. 
"A lot of these individuals are not bad people that just made some bad choices and letting them express themselves and be a part of the community it's just a wonderful experience for them as well as for us," Bowler said. 
"We know when they come out, they're coming back into our community. They're part of our community. We want them to feel welcomed back in their community, and let them contribute to the community as well."
One of the artists, Daniel Lowenstein, remarked, during a followup conversation, that the general population not being understanding and being incapable of showing empathy for people who have been incarcerated makes reintegration exponentially more difficult. 
"Creating art is a way to sort through emotions and life events. I would say art gives people a way to navigate the world and also through creating art, maybe a way that the world can understand you," Lowenstein said. 
Although a person's experiences when incarcerated is not universal it still is not a pleasant experience and can be a strain emotionally and mentally. It is "inherently traumatic" but does not receive sympathy from society because it is "viewed as a deserving punishment," he said. 
Although it is a product of having committed a crime it is still a difficult experience to live through.
"I think for people living through incarceration, creating art can be a way to help sort through the pain and struggle of that experience and I think at the same time by creating art, maybe it helps people recognize you as still having feelings and being capable of expression," Lowenstein said.   
Viewing incarceration as a punishment and believing they should suffer for it is not productive, he said. 
The goal of incarceration in our justice system is correction, Lowenstein said, to help the individual see that their behavior was wrong and reintegrate them so they can be a productive member of society.
Upon leaving corrections, however, there is a societal judgment that you can not be trusted again and that you are  "worthless" or "monsters"  because you were incarcerated. 
"I think it's important the public is exposed to this perspective because until the public has more understanding, reintegration will continue to fail," he said. 
This exhibit is really important for the Berkshire Museum and the community, the museum's chief curator Jesse Kowalski said. 
The museum hopes that this exhibit will demonstrate that the Berkshire Museum is a welcoming place because a lot of people do not feel welcome at museums and believe that it is a place for a certain crowd, Kowalski said.
"I think it's great for people to come in and see that it's not just certain people that are allowed to have their artworks on the walls or become famous or whatever, and that everyone really deserves a chance," he said. 
The museum hopes to make this exhibit an annual occurrence so that they can continue to provide this opportunity for presently and formerly incarcerated individuals, Kowalski said. 
Being a community oriented organization the Berkshire Museum was thrilled when Second Street reached out to them a year ago to inquire on this opportunity. When Kowalski joined the museum in April, he joined the team. 
More information on "Insight Out" here

Tags: art exhibit,   Berkshire Museum,   

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Pittsfield Council to Tackle Tax Rate, Zoning Amendment Proposals

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday will take up the fiscal 2024 tax classification and a proposed battery energy storage overlay district.

On the agenda are public hearings for both items, with the tax rate continuing from last month.

The administration has requested a commercial shift of 1.75 that would result in a residential rate of $18.45 per $1,000 of valuation and a commercial rate of $39.61 per $1,000. After several councilors expressed concern about raising taxes, it was tabled.

"You are driving people out of Pittsfield," Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky said at the late November meeting.

The residential rate for FY23 was $18.32 per $1,000 of valuation and the commercial, industrial, and personal property rate was $39.21. If the council adopts the FY24 shift, there would be a 13 cent, or 0.7 percent, increase for residential and a 40 cent, or one percent, increase for commercial, industrial, and personal property.

An average home valued at $267,914 would pay an estimated $4,943 in property taxes, representing a $397.82 increase from the previous year when the average home value was $248,100. This would amount to about $33 additional dollars a month.    

Commercial properties would see a less dramatic increase of about $145, as the assessed median value has only increased by $1,550 from FY23. This would result in a tax bill of $8,377.52 for the median commercial property.

The Community Development Board has brought forward an amendment to the Pittsfield Zoning Ordinance by adding a new section under Chapter 23 of the City Code, titled the "Battery Energy Storage System Overlay District.” 

This would allow Pittsfield to embrace greener energy sources while protecting the interests of residents.

The goal is to provide regulatory procedures for BESS and BESS facilities, outline the application process for site plan approval and special permit applications, specify which districts are comparable with the use, discuss site requirements for each district where it is permitted, and require that interested departments respond with comments and concerns within 14 days of the application.

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