Finding A Way Along Route 9: Pittsfield
In the final stop on our Route 9 road trip, we visit Pittsfield, which is finding its creative identity years after the factories closed down.
For years after General Electric left the city and devastated the economy, Pittsfield was called an urban “speed bump” in the Berkshires. Now it’s the kind of place where you might want to spend a Thursday evening. The kind of place you might come back to, to see what happened while you were gone. WBUR’s Bob Oakes reports.
In many ways, the Housatonic River has borne most of the brunt of General Electric’s legacy in this city. The river is filled with cancer-causing chemicals from GE factories. And the surrounding neighborhoods are filled with people whose families have been touched by the contamination.
WBUR’s Bob Oakes speaks with Williams College economist Stephen Shepard about the economic viability of Pittsfield’s plan for the future, and whether it could be duplicated in other places.
Pittsfield’s focus on the arts has been attracting a creative population to the city for about a decade. The former manufacturing city is abuzz with creative renewal, but the artists living here still face a tough reality. WBUR’s Andrea Shea reports.
The Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield has been called “the stepping stone to Broadway.” Every summer, Broadway veteran Bill Finn returns to develop hot new talent at the BSC’s Musical Theatre Lab. Not long ago, Finn kicked and screamed at the thought of working in the city. WBUR’s Andrea Shea reports.
As a throwback to the GE days, when workers would be paid on the third Thursday of the month, city leaders throw a monthly outdoor music and street festival in downtown Pittsfield. We attended a recent party.
The special effects company that conjured miniature castles, mist, and creepy characters for films like “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings” is located in Pittsfield, and the founder of the company, a Pittsfield native, says he wouldn’t have it any other way. WBUR’s Andrea Shea reports.
Andy Poncherello moved away from Pittsfield for the rock clubs of big cities. When he heard artistic rumblings coming from his former city, he moved back and started a record store and performance venue. It’s staged everything from the mayor to death metal — even on the same night.