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Guild of Berkshire Artists Holds Exhibit in its First Brick-and-Mortar Building
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
04:49AM / Wednesday, August 31, 2022
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Bruce Shickmanter's painting 'Beach Sunset,' at left, and Mike Coyne's 'Crimson.' The artists' works will be on exhibit next weekend at the Guild of Berkshire Artists' new gallery at 38 Main St. in West Stockbridge.


Bruce Shickmanter                           
WEST STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Guild of Berkshire Artists has leased its first brick-and-mortar building for the next year to provide artists with the opportunity to curate a show and present their work while also contributing to the vibrancy of downtown West Stockbridge. 
 
In the past, the guild would rent out spaces from organizations to host group shows. This new space, located at 38 Main St., makes it easier for artists to receive feedback on their work due to there being fewer artists apart of the exhibit.
 
"It was really up to the artists to come together, come up with a concept for their show, and put it all together," said guild President Amy Pressman.
 
"So the guild assists in graphic materials, posting on our website, talking to people like you to help promote it, but it's a real, complete experience."
 
This sudden endeavor happened quickly when one of the building partners, Randy Thunfors, reached out to encourage the guild to make a deal with them. The partners made a deal with the guild that they could not refuse to take on the gallery. 
 
The use for the space is still evolving but they have a lot of ideas to provide more opportunities for the artists of the growing organization. 
 
Some ideas that they are interested in pursuing on top of the smaller exhibits include artist talks, demos, and art critiques. 
 
The guild has been growing exponentially in the last couple of years and now has more than 200 members ranging between the ages of 40 and 90. 
 
"I think our Zoom presence during the pandemic was really helpful to our fellow artists, we have a lot of artists that go south in the wintertime," Pressman said. 
 
"So that presence gives them the ability to maintain contact. And then the plein air program that Karen Carmen runs has also attracted a lot of new members."
 
Although the average member age is 70, the guild is hoping to attract younger artists. During the membership period, Feb. 1 to March 31, dues cost $52 a year. After the membership period, it jumps to $62. 
 
Through the guild, Michael Coyne has met a lot of artists who have helped him on his artistic journey.
 
"What's been wonderful for me recently is having joined that virtual guild, the artists guild, there's like so many incredibly good, talented people here in the Berkshire that, that I've started to meet and get to know,"
 
"And they've been very helpful to me in many ways. So it's an ongoing educational process of trying to get better. And also trying to experiment with different things, I like to try different things. And so I get some great ideas through the guild and their membership."
 
Coyne will be one of the artists in the guild's second exhibition entitled "Imagination Creates Reality" in its new space. 
 
The gallery will include abstract artwork created by Coyne and Bruce Shickmanter that runs from Wednesday, Aug. 31, until Monday, Sept. 5.
 
The gallery will be open Saturday through Monday from noon until 4 p.m. and Thursday from 3 until 7 p.m.
 
There will be a reception to give individuals a chance to speak to the artists on Saturday, Sept. 3, from 2 until 4 p.m. 
 
Coyne is a retired emergency room physician who worked at Berkshire Medical Center for more than 30 years. 
 
Although he enjoys doing a lot of different things this show is going to showcase his abstract oil paintings with some metalwork and ceramics. He is intrigued by colors, shapes, and designs. 
 
"I'm trying to create something that is either aesthetically pleasing, fun or thought-provoking- sometimes it can be all of the above," Coyne said. 
 
Although a lot of his painting is done inside, Coyne said that he has a romantic view of painting and was inspired after crossing paths with a girl sitting "in the wild of the scenery" of one of the trails in Sedona while mountain biking.  
 
"That's kind of what I want to be able to do some time is just go off into the woods or wherever, and paint. And so that kind of got me excited about it," he said.
 
"Then I started painting and to be honest, I actually do almost all my painting indoors. That was kind of a romantic idea for me."
 
Since that point, he has been interested in the Plein Air style and hopes to do it more in the future. 
 
Coyne has always enjoyed the process of working with his hands. Art is an outlet that allows him to create something while also giving the rest of his body a chance to rest from his outdoor hobbies, including hiking and mountain biking. 
 
"I think that life is crazy. And I do believe it's good for everybody to take a break sometime, sit back and out of their crazy lives, and just enjoy art. And if they like to color, and they like designs, then I think they'll enjoy our show," he said.
 
Shickmanter is a retired endocrinologist who worked for 13 years at Berkshire Medical Center, where he created and ran the densitometry unit for 5 years. 
 

Michael Coyne
He first started painting 10 years ago when he retired but developed an interest in art while working as a physician, when he turned to pottery to relieve stress. 
 
"There's a lot of stress while being a physician, being responsible for decisions that affect people's lives. You don't realize sometimes when you've been doing it for a long time, how much of a load it is, but all those things that you need to keep sane ... " he said. 
 
"Initially, it was kind of a relief and just a different channel, because medicine is very intellectual and requires rigor in terms of all the details and everything. The artistic process is different. It's like a different part of your brain. And it kind of relaxes things. You think about things in a different way. It's also stimulating."
 
Shickmanter had to give up pottery and transition to painting because of the strain his job and the craft put on his wrists. 
 
Although he had to give up pottery he found painting to be insightful because of the techniques he had to learn to demonstrate perspective.
 
Perspective is a major aspect that he is interested in because it brings the audience's attention to is and allows them to "follow the lines naturally."
 
"If you like art, it's always fun to see the way someone else looks at reality because it teaches you stuff. And it sometimes broadens your view," Shickmanter said. 
 
"Like, one of the best things about becoming an artist was, you realize that you look at things differently. You see colors in different ways. You see shapes in a different way because that's your language now."
 
While working on this exhibition his perception of his own artwork has also changed because of what he has learned.
 
"I actually went back to some of my older stuff, and worked on some of my older stuff, and incorporated it in the exhibit," he said
 
"I think it's interesting to do that because you see things that you couldn't see before. And the answers are more apparent. So it's, it's very fun to do that. Because you see where you're coming from, you're able to add to, you know, maybe improve upon it."
 
An exhibit like this gives artists a chance to see someone else's creative process which can later provide insight into their own art, Shickmanter said. 
 
The title of the exhibition represents what the artists are trying to portray. Shickmanter starts in reality and goes off from there. He will change the perspective to make it work with his creative process. 
 
"My impressions come from reality, but through my own lens, so it distorts them and I have kind of a distinctive pattern of painting. That's kind of different for most people," he said.
 
"I have a way of looking at images, and I break them up. And I have, what colors are gradations of colors in them. I think it amplifies the image and brings out the characteristics that are interesting."
 
More information on the Guild of Berkshire Artists can be found here
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