It’s showtime!….A visit to the Victory Theatre, Holyoke, Massachusetts

In an era of days gone by, there were different types of social gathering places. Some examples of these were dance halls, arcades, pool halls, roller-skating rinks, soda shops, and of course movie theaters.  All these venues helped define our culture and bring people together. During the golden age of Hollywood, the excitement of going to the movies wasn’t only about seeing the stars on screen. It also meant spending time at the neighborhood movie theater with family and friends. Many of these theaters were architecturally ornate centers of the community’s social life.

Countless movie theaters of the 1920s and 1930s were so grand that people nicknamed them “picture palaces” or “dream palaces”. Exteriors were flamboyant, electric extravaganzas in the style of art deco, Middle Eastern or Asian architectures.  Unfortunately, the cost of constructing these venues today is cost prohibitive and exorbitant.  That said, as many of these theaters have fallen in dis-repair, the steep cost of repairs is unaffordable as well.  As many of these theaters of the past fall under a non-profit status, the cost of repairs falls solely on the properties themselves. These repairs often exceed the income due to the extreme craftsmanship and present-day costs associated with replacement materials.

Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The theater was built in 1920. It is a 1,600 seat (Broadway style) theater. The theater has been closed for nearly 4 decades. (Closing in 1979).  The theater is currently owned by the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA). MIFA is a non-profit organization that has hopes of renovating the theater in future years.

At the beginning of 2023, MIFA’s executive director said his group has raised about two-thirds of the money needed over the last decade. The total amount is $61 million, they still need $22 million in additional funds before repairs can begin.

Unfortunately, many individuals (including myself) feel that it’s restoration may never come to fruition. Firstly, since it’s been abandoned since the 70’s, the building continues to be in extreme state of decay. Our photo group was allowed to roam about the building to photograph, however there were areas where we were prohibited to enter. Areas where floors and staircases are not safe to walk on. The walls that support the structure and the roof, are deteriorating at an alarming rate, as water cascade’s down them after rainstorms. The roof has numerous openings that allow wildlife to enter, which would probably require a total replacement. In addition, as a result of all of the moisture in the building, all of the seating sections would have to be removed. Sadly, the beautiful carvings surrounding the screen and stage area are seriously decomposing. It was sad to witness this deterioration.

In closing, even though I had not visited the theater in its heyday, photographing in this abandoned building did transport me back. You could feel the nostalgia throughout the structure. Areas that we were still able to visit and photograph were the lobby and seating areas, along with the entryways, the stage and the projection room. Many of these photos are in black and white; I felt black and white gave it a more accurate sense of time and place. I hope to return to the theater in the near future for some additional photography and a step back to a simpler time.

Let’s all go to the Faire…King Richards Faire

001_0569_Thumb_King_Richards_08312014-EditIf you enjoy a little diversion from reality, and want to transport yourself back in time, then King Richards Faire is for you.  Tucked away in the woods of Carver, Mass. (or as its better known this time of year as “Carvenshire”) are where the festivities begin.  Before they open those gates and as visitors begin to arrive they set the mood.  The visitors are greeted by a cast of characters, and then King Richard and his royal court welcome’s everyone to their kingdom and of course the Faire. The interesting thing is, it’s amazing to see how many of the attendees come in costume to take part in the festivities, dressed in period clothing to complement their surroundings. Both adults and children wearing costumes and face makeup – it was hard to tell them apart from the King Faire troupe.

Eventually you enter through the kingdom’s gates into the wooded fairgrounds….and let the festivities begin.  As you proceed through the entrance, you come face to face with fairies, wenches, warlocks, dancers, magicians, rider’s on horseback; all waiting to perform for everyone’s enjoyment.  There are booths where numerous artisans are creating their wares all around you.  Glass blowing, leather and wood crafters, pottery makers – and even palm readers – if you dare.

There are lots of things to do at the fair for people of all ages, especially the kids.  Kids can enjoy an area specifically designed for them.  Games, archery, rides, face painting, and interactive story telling – tons of things for them to do.  As for adults, there is plenty to do as well.  There are numerous shows that run throughout the day.  There are jugglers, fire-eaters, minstrels, acrobats, just to mention a few.  Another example of their entertainment is the “The Tale of the Tiger Show” also known by its other name, “The Big Cat Show”.  Either name – it was amazing.  You get a chance to see Bengal tigers, white lions and tigers, a liger (the mating of a male lion and a female tiger), monkeys, really-really close.  The presenters that work with the animals do a great job explaining and differentiating the animal types, and really make people aware at the rate of extinction that these beautiful large cats are experiencing.

The “Mud Show” was a little on the corny side for my taste, but other visitors seem to enjoy it. The other shows that seem to really draw the crowd’s attention were the jousting events.  Although the jousting portion was ‘visibly’ staged, the tricks and stunt riding that the riders had to perform were pretty interesting to see.  Definitely a different skill set.

All things considered, the fair was fun for one and all.  One final note, anyone planning to attend the fair for the first time should make sure that you bring plenty of extra cash.  It is a little on the pricey side.  Parking is free.  There is an admission, approximate $29.00 for adults, $20.00 for children.   For food, drink, treats, etc., you have to purchase tickets.  The quantity of the tickets you need is based upon what you order for food or drink (or entertainment). For example a small beer has a value of 9 tickets, a large is 12. (The ticket value I believe is $1.00 per ticket)  A chicken finger platter with fries was 8 tickets ($8.00).



Art or artwork…what is it that defines it?

PostImage9453_Rosa_Parks_20140531 - Copy
I was reflecting on the various types of art, artwork and fine art, I’ve been exposed to over the years. It has been stated numerous times, that “art can take many forms”.  We’re all familiar with the art we see as paintings, sculpture, tapestry, and pottery, just too mention a few.  However, as technology has changed over time the tools artists have used have changed as well, now incorporating computers and video technology. The more I reflected, the more I continued thinking – how is concept of ‘art’ is actually defined?  I know how my heart and my feelings define ‘art’ when I experience it, but wanted to examine how a dictionary might define it. Merriam-Webster defines ‘art’ as; “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”.

Armed with that definition of art, I recalled the many photography competitions and seminars I’ve taken part of or witnessed over the years. I’ve experienced various judges, competitors, and speakers commenting that they frowned upon capturing photos of someone else’s “art or artwork”. Photographing someone else’s “art or artwork” could consist of photographing paintings, sculptures, and statues, etc., created by other artists. They further stated, “you are not creating your own art, you are stealing someone else’s ideas…”.  This thought process has always puzzled me. Obviously, they are entitled to their own opinions and feelings. In my opinion, some of the wonderful characteristics and benefits of photography are that it allows all of us to have a freedom of expression. It allows us to use our imaginations, and create by using our emotions and inner feelings. It offers us a freedom to capture and record moments – moments in time – moments of the present, and more importantly the past. Recording these memories for future generations to review, enjoy, and cherish,  is such an important piece of what photography is all about, and what it has to offer our world.

Last weekend a group of us were fortunate to visit a location in Roxbury, Ma., that was meticulously and generously covered with graffiti. [Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and it has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to ancient Egypt]. This property was secured by a tall chain link fence and prohibited to the general public. Fortunately we were able to speak to the property manager, and he did offer us admission to photograph and record these beautiful renderings. This property was once the home of an MBTA bus maintenance facility. (There is even an “Orange-Line” train depicted on one of the murals). Unfortunately, within the next several weeks this property and its buildings will be undergoing demolition. Regrettably – for the sake of progress – they plan to tear down the existing buildings, and the area will undergo an extensive retail and housing redevelopment project.

The graffiti we found was incredible! It truly was amazing to see the detail and eye-popping color in these drawings and paintings. These artists were able to create these sketches, drawings, and images with hundreds of cans of various colored spray paint. This was ART!  These paintings supported and upheld that true definition of ‘art’. These artisans used their creative skill and imagination, visual form in the paintings and sculptures, adding wondrous colors, and producing works to be appreciated. I saw all the qualities of ‘art’ being there. These artists-muralists utilized many different styles and incorporated them into this graffiti. These buildings contained abstracts and murals that told stories; photos, and graphic tell-tale representations of Boston and Roxbury’s personality. Many of these paintings offered symbolism and spoke out to numerous social issues.

For example, on one wall was a beautiful mural of Rosa Parks, depicted in black and white. Rosa Parks, set her mark on history, as she became known to all of us today, as the “mother of the civil rights movement”. This was due to her arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat (to a white man) back in the 1950’s. We found a depiction of “Mr. Miyagi”, taken from “The Karate Kid”, attempting to capture a fly with his pair of chopsticks…”man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything”.  Another depicted a reference to the “Floorlords”.  A high energy hip-hop dance group from Boston, celebrating 32 seasons of performing. Even “The Incredible Hulk” makes a ‘break-out’ appearance. All of the gray building walls on the property were covered with many of these dioramas. Even the roof vents, roof tops, and stair cases were covered with these drawings. It was unsafe for us to get to these areas, but we were still able to witness and enjoy many of these paintings from our vantage point.

Even though these drawings were not contained in a museum or gallery like The Louvre in France, these artists did create these works of art using their own medium, displaying them in their own way and in their own form of gallery, to tell their story for others to enjoy. I’m so happy that I was able to capture many of these renderings. Once the buildings are torn down these artworks will be gone forever.



October in Salem

6383_Salem_20131019It’s America’s largest Halloween party and we invited ourselves! This year, I had the opportunity to visit Salem, Massachusetts on a Saturday in October with some photographer friends for a night of photography, fun, and some entertaining people watching.

It was a challenge getting into the city, but once we were there, the city came alive with its Halloween and decorative atmosphere.  The city was crowded, but definitely manageable.  It was a beautiful night so we had plenty of opportunity to wander around, take photographs, and enjoy the sites.  It’s amazing to see how many people turn out in costume, many are locals, but most are out of town visitors.

My wife and I have had the opportunity to visit Salem on numerous occasions in the past, to enjoy its historic past, but never during the month of October.  There is a lot of history in the town of Salem to experience.  Sites like “The House of Seven Gables”, “The Custom House”, “The Peabody Essex Museum”, are just a few of the areas not to be missed.  One of the great benefits of Salem is that it’s a great walking city and very easy to navigate.  As I walked along the streets, seeing the old house from the 1600 and 1700’s, I couldn’t help but think about the events that this city had experienced.  When you mention Salem to anyone, they can’t help but think…witches.  It was such a small part of Salem’s history, but it has left such an indelible mark which has become one the main reasons that thousands and thousands of visitors flock to the city every year, especially in October.

It was great to be able to experience and photograph these sites first hand.