Let’s change the perception of what is an ‘art’ town

June 18, 2019 | G. Michael Dobbs

Last week I walked around downtown Springfield taking photos of the newly created murals that are part of the Fresh Paint Springfield program.

I thought they were all a great addition to the neighborhood and I only hope this continues the trend of public art projects not just in Springfield, but also in every Western Massachusetts community.

The commonly repeated idea in our area is that if you want “art” you go to Northampton and Easthampton. These are “art” communities.

It is true there is an emphasis on the arts, fine and otherwise, in those two communities but there is plenty of art and artists in what is frequently known as “the lower valley.”

An aside here: why it is Northampton types call their part of the Connecticut River Valley  “the happy valley,” while they designate our part as “the lower valley?” It’s not just a geographic designation.

Indian Orchard Mills has a thriving artist community with a wide range of artistic disciplines, for example. In Chicopee, the program “Lights on the Arts” promotes artist who live in that city. Area libraries and museums feature a wide range of art classes, demonstrations and exhibits.

There is something, though, about public art that is so appealing. I think the idea that an artist leaves his or her studio space and works in a public setting is both educational and entertaining.

Public art is democratic art. It is created for everyone who passes by it to enjoy. It is an element of public inspiration and provides a common element for everyone in a community.

I hope to see more of this kind of art in our “lower valley” communities. Let’s change the perception of what is an “art” town.

Smoke ‘em, eat ‘em if you have ‘em

Debbie Gardner completed an excellent two-part series in the paper you are reading on CBD/Cannabis.

I thought both pieces are important for people who are interested in the health benefits of CBD and cannabis.

This is especially important, as we get closer to seeing “recreational” cannabis stores open in Hampden County and as the CBD phenomena grows.

CBD is this year’s frozen yogurt. Remember a few years ago when there was a frozen yogurt place on every corner? The interest in CBD products has exploded and I now see them being sold in gas stations, among many other locations.

I believe that hemp and cannabis has the potential to be an economic engine for Western Massachusetts. We can grow it, process it and sell products made from both.

Now is the time to develop the laws around having smoking lounges, such as the one in Worcester that I covered last year – members-only private clubs at which cannabis is consumed but not sold.

Having such lounges would increase cannabis tourism, which is already happening and will happen much more as long as our bordering states keep cannabis illegal.

I know my advocacy for this kind of tourism may be upsetting for some people, but ignoring it would be leaving money on the table and we can’t afford to do that.

I hope in the near future an entrepreneur could legally offer  tours to growing facilities followed by a trip to a smoking lounge for tasting not unlike a trip to a vineyard or a brewery.

Hmm, perhaps I’ve found a side business here.

Statewide tourism officials may not want to speak about this idea, but as a Commonwealth we need to continually develop new businesses that will keep people here or attract people to the area.

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