Around Amherst: Plans to ‘art up’ utility boxes part of Electrify Amherst

Artist Jeff Wrench painted this Emily Dickinson utility box tribute in 2018.

Artist Jeff Wrench painted this Emily Dickinson utility box tribute in 2018. AMHERSTMA.GOV

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 06-14-2024 11:58 AM

AMHERST — At a downtown intersection, portraits of and quotes by poets Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost are on a utility box, and in East Amherst center a Black Lives Matter theme is on a similar box.

With the artwork done by artists in previous years as part of Electrify Amherst, the program is returning this summer.

The Public Arts Commission is soliciting people interested in completing work on three more traffic control boxes, with surfaces measuring 3 feet by 4 feet. The artists will be selected to use as their canvas a box in front of Big Y Supermarket on University Drive, another off Route 116 south of downtown, and a third on Route 9 at the entrance to Gatehouse Road.

The selected proposals will have to meet the 2024 theme of Celebrating Amherst Youth.

“The idea would be to give people a month or six weeks to formulate proposals,” Public Art Commission Co-Chairman Thomas Warger said at a recent meeting.

Warger said all boxes chosen were also reviewed by the Department of Public Works to ensure they will remain in place and not be taken out soon. They will likely be painted in September or October.

Those interested should submit their names, mailing addresses, email addresses or phone numbers, and sketches of proposals in a high resolution format, with all art needing to be detailed and viewable from afar.

Each awardee will receive a $500 stipend plus the cost of painting supplies. The program is supported by the Amherst Cultural Council. All submissions should go to publicart@amherstma.gov or be sent or dropped off at Town Hall, through July 15, with notifications of winners about a month later.

Fort River Day at Groff Park

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The Fort River, which runs alongside Groff Park and through the former Hickory Ridge Golf Course, will be celebrated during an event Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Groff Park, 43 Mill Lane.

Tables with information about current projects will be set up, with an interactive stream table. The day is sponsored by the Connecticut River Conservancy, Fortriver.org, the Hitchcock Center, Kestrel Land Trust, the town and the Fort River Watershed Association.

Graduation venue decision

Interim Superintendent Douglas Slaughter told the Regional School Committee this week that the decision to have the June 7 high school graduation at the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, rather than the Mullins Center, was largely based on cost.

“It’s really a significant difference in price,” Slaughter said, observing that renting the Mullins, which he characterized as cavernous, is about 2½ times as expensive as renting the Fine Arts Center.

Slaughter said he will speak to high school officials to make sure things went well with the ticketing process and getting families into the building. “I think the space was pretty decent,” Slaughter said.

When the Fine Arts Center was built in the mid-1970s, the school moved its graduations there from Amherst College. That remained the setting for Amherst graduations from 1977 until 1999, even with classes larger than the 215 who graduated this year. The Mullins Center had been the graduation location from 2000 on, except during the 2020 and 2021 COVID years.

Graduate scholarships

Three recent Amherst Regional graduates, Brenden Camphor, Ashley Rodriguez Duran and Jocelyn Vargas, are receiving $1,000 Amherst Pelham Education Association Scholarships to honor their achievements and aspirations and support their college careers.

The students were selected for the leadership skills they developed during their high school years, including being part of clubs like People or immigration law.

Youth Heroes recognized

At Race Amity Day last weekend at Mill River Recreation Area, 39 local students were recognized with Youth Heroes Awards for being pillars of their school communities.

Honored for being in the group People Against Sexual Harassment were Elin Taylor, Julia Sitze, Maggie Reilly-Hogan, Luna Paradis, Neena Khurana, Elyse Hawkins, Anna Everett, Genevieve Dole, Olivia Damian and Josephine Becker. They were nominated by nurse and adviser Celia Maysles.

Honored for being part of a mental health awareness group were Ruthienny Varela Vaz and Sanaa Johnson, nominated by teacher Marita Banda; honored as Cambodians in Amherst exhibit curators were Pavan Seiha and Moniha Krouch, nominated by teacher and exhibit manager Mick O’Connor.

Honored as a kindness advocate was “Geo” Arydel Santiago, nominated by teacher Trish Lagrant; honored as a member of the Youth Activist Art Club was Coumba Potter-Ndiaye, nominated by teacher Ali Caraveoa; honored as a peer supporter was Miguel Pinero Jacome, nominated by community member Maura Keene; and honored as a Regular Shining Star Achievement was John Babagario, nominated by Wildwood School Principal Allison Estes.

Honored for being a star basketball player and youth mentor was Marcielo Aquino, nominated by Recreation Director Rey Harp; honored for their Sunrise Amherst membership were Jesse Warren, Seneca Smith, Amrita Rutter, Haydn Reilly-Hogan, Saara Rathod, Marisol Pierce-Bonifaz, Jesse Olson, Violet Nolan, Sophie Lindsey, Langston Johnson, Julian Hynes, Mel Hidalgo, Galen Hawkowl, Alice Hall, Lila Gilma-Hollabaugh, Levi Gibson, Lilli DeGrande, Sylvan Cocco-Romano, Deleney Chang and Vanessa Cazho-Garcia, all nominated by Keene.

Reyes first pitch protester

A People for Ethical Treatment of Animals protester greeted UMass Chancellor Javier Reyes as he was throwing a first pitch before a baseball game at Fenway Park on May 31.

The protester, who was escorted from the ballpark by security, held a sign reading “Chancellor Reyes: End Cruel Tests on Marmosets!”

During Reyes’ inauguration in April, another PETA protester made a scene over the ongoing laboratory experiments, though that action was overshadowed by repeated pro-Palestinian protests.

While there has been a continued campaign related to the experiments in a UMass laboratory, the university has defended the work as important research into human health and well-being that is carefully managed.