March 1, 2023

PITTSFIELD, MA — 2nd Street announces the launch of three initiatives in partnership with Berkshire Museum, Berkshire Community College and Chaos Theory.

The programs — Insight Out, Using Our Outside Voices and Hear Me Out — are designed to promote creativity, acceptance and inclusion for presently or formerly incarcerated men and women in Berkshire County. All three programs will conclude in September 2023 with public presentations featuring art, written works and dramatic performances by presently or formerly incarcerated people.

“In addition to making sure our clients get essential services, we also want to provide platforms for them to tell their own stories in whatever form they like and to be supported and recognized for their creativity,” said Board of Directors President Mark Gold. “With these innovative programs, we aim to foster a sense of achievement and self-esteem for our clients — and give the community the opportunity to hear their voices, see them as individuals and reduce stigma and stereotyping.”

Insight Out

Insight Out, created as a result of a partnership between 2nd Street and Berkshire Museum, will culminate in a juried exhibition of visual art created by presently or formerly incarcerated individuals. The exhibition will be on view at Berkshire Museum September 2–October 1, 2023.

Any Berkshire County resident who is currently or formerly incarcerated may submit works of art, including paintings, drawings, mixed media, prints, photographs, sculpture and videos, by July 1, 2023. Artists whose work is selected for the exhibition will receive a cash award of $200. There will be an opening reception and public programming tied to the exhibition.

“The staff of the Berkshire Museum are truly honored to have this opportunity to work with 2nd Street to provide artists who have been previously incarcerated an opportunity to share their work with the public in a museum setting,” said Berkshire Museum Executive Director Kimberley Bush Tomio. “Each artist will bring their own individual story and journey — expressed through their creations and the transformative power of art — which we hope will lead to conversations about society and the criminal justice system and be an inspiration to others.”

Artists of all skill levels are encouraged to submit entries. For those wishing to improve their skills, 2nd Street will offer weekly drawing workshops on Tuesdays, April 4-May 23, from 4:30-6 pm. The workshops will be led by Phyllis Kornfeld, who has taught art in correctional facilities for 40 years, including at the Berkshire County Jail. She is the author of Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America.

For more details on how to submit a work of art, and to learn how to participate in the free weekly drawing workshops, visit www.2nd-street.org and click Special Projects, or call (413) 443-7220, ext. 1275.

Financial and in-kind support of Insight Out is provided by Berkshire Museum, Becky and Doug Crane, Josie Greene and Glenn Asch, David Crane and Ruth Blodgett, and Pittsfield Cultural Council.

Using Our Outside Voices

2nd Street and Berkshire Community College (BCC) have partnered to create Using Our Outside Voices, a literary project that will result in the publication of a collection of poetry, short fiction, essays and other original work written by presently or formerly incarcerated individuals.

Any presently or formerly incarcerated resident of Berkshire County is invited to submit original poetry, short fiction, personal essays or other literary works for publication in the inaugural issue of Using Our Outside Voices. Works will be judged by a team led by the editor of Zine, the BCC student literary journal. The team will also include at least one formerly incarcerated individual and at least two BCC students. Julianna Spallholz, chair of the BCC English department, will oversee the production of the literary magazine.

The initial run of 400 printed copies of the free journal will be distributed to local facilities and events, and digital copies will be available online. Authors whose work is included in the Using Our Outside Voices journal will receive a cash award of $200, and they will be invited to participate in public readings at various venues in the Berkshires.

To help participants prepare, BCC will offer drop-in access to its Writing Center on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, April 4-May 5, from 10 am-3 pm. Staffed by trained writing consultants, the Writing Center provides interactive, one-on-one sessions in which tutors help participants identify strengths and weaknesses in their writing and take ownership of their work. “This collaboration with 2nd Street allows us to carry out one of BCC’s core values of serving and providing access to all community members,” said Matthew Müller, BCC Interim Dean of Humanities, Behavioral and Social Sciences. “Participants in this program will not only have access to our Writing Center to hone their craft, but they will also be able to participate in writing workshops. We are so excited to help bring these stories into the world through this great community partnership.”

Creative writing workshops will be held at 2nd Street on Wednesdays, April 5-May 24, from 4:30-6 pm. The workshops will be led by Liesl Schwabe, BCC Coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum.  Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books and many other publications and anthologies. In addition, poetry workshops will be held at 2nd Street on Thursdays, April 6-May 25, from 4:30-6 pm. The workshops will be led by Benjamin Grimes, a review writer and copyeditor for Muzzle Magazine. His work has appeared in New Ohio Review and is forthcoming in Sycamore Review.

For more details on how to submit a literary work, and to learn how to participate in the free weekly workshops, visit www.2nd-street.org and click Special Projects, or call (413) 443-7220, ext. 1275.

Financial and in-kind support of Using Our Outside Voices is provided by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Arts Build Community initiative with funding from the Barr Foundation; Berkshire United Way; and Berkshire Community College.

Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out will engage presently and formerly incarcerated individuals in Berkshire County in the development of a dramatic performance. The program was created in partnership with Chaos Theory, which creates live productions integrating storytelling, music and movement. Its founder, Jenny Herzog, will lead development, production and direction of the show.

Through the process of crafting real-life stories, cast members are invited to reflect on their lived experiences, take ownership of their narratives, derive meaning from obstacles they have overcome and utilize their past experiences to educate and inspire their community.

Performances, which are free and open to the public, will take place at Berkshire Community College on September 19 and at the St. Germain Stage of Barrington Stage Company on September 21 and 23. Each show will be followed by a talk-back.

“As a community, we have a lot to learn from the voices and stories of those who have experienced incarceration. They are the true experts,” said Herzog, founder of Chaos Theory. “Each cast member brings with them a unique blend of skill, talent and experience. By weaving together their creative expression and stories, we aim to tell a more complete story — the factors that converge to result in incarceration, what it’s like behind the wall and what it means to come home.”

Herzog will meet with cast members to learn about their interests and talents, provide personalized feedback and help craft creative material, which may include storytelling, music, rap or beat performances, dance and theater. Group workshops will facilitate creative exploration, dialogue, team-building and social-emotional learning.

Each presently or formerly incarcerated individual who participates in Hear Me Out will receive a stipend of $300.

For more details on how to get involved, visit www.2nd-street.org and click Special Projects, or call (413) 443-7220, ext. 1275.

Financial and in-kind support of Hear Me Out is provided by Chaos Theory, Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Community College, and First Avenue Fund, a component fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation. Funding opportunities remain available for Hear Me Out.