Written by summer orientation assistant Morgana Smith 08F
In just one short week, you will be living in the Pioneer Valley, most of you for the next four years. And while Hampshire College is its own little utopia in many ways, there are lots of places beyond our little school that are worth exploring as well. Here’s a little guide to some places I thought were worth mentioning!
Museums and Galleries:
- Mead Art Museum: The Mead is Amherst College’s art museum, free and open to the public. Right now it’s open Tuesday – Sunday from 9-5, but it has extended hours during the school year. Not only does the museum host a couple well-known favorite artists like Monet and Bouguereau, it also has some very interesting ancient artifacts, including a huge wall piece from Mesopotamia!
- Smith College Museum of Art: As the name suggests, the Smith Art Museum is property of Smith College and located on the College’s campus. Admission is free for college students with their student ID. In addition to the exhibits, the museum also has a large print, drawing, and photograph collection that is often used for classes. Admission is free for students with an ID.
- The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art: Located on Hampshire’s campus, the Carle is a lovely collection of illustrative art works. In addition to a whole room dedicated to both the famous and lesser-known works of Carle himself, there are two galleries of ever-changing exhibits that exemplify the very best that illustration has to offer. Beyond the galleries there is a small reading and play room, which shelves jam-packed full of picture books of all varieties. Admission is free for Hampshire students.
- R. Michelson Galleries: There are several galleries on Main Street in Northampton, all of which are more than worth perusing. But the R. Michelson Gallery is very special for a couple for reasons. First of all, the building used to be a bank, and inside the old bank vault is an exhibit of Leonard Nimoy’s “Shekinah” photographs. A little beyond the vault is a collection of children’s illustration artwork, including some stunning originals by the one and only Dr. Seuss!
- Amherst Cinema: What would a college town be without at least one “art” theatre? Amherst Cinemas screens many old classics, foreign wonders, and (my favorite) new Studio Ghibli films! The theatre is spacious, the movies are sure winners, and the business is local. Screenings and events are posted here.
- Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory: For a slightly more active leisure activity, one might consider Magic Wings. It’s been many years since I went to the Conservatory (I actually visited LONG before I was even thinking about college, around the age of 12), but I distinctly recall being amazed once I set foot inside. The butterflies and moths are left to roam and flit about as they please, touching down on lush, tropical vegetation. This is a must-see for any nature lover.
- The Fine Arts Center at UMass: For those of you looking for an evening of cultured performance art, the Fine Arts Center might be just the place to look! Students can get discounted tickets for a variety of shows; in the past, the FAC has hosted Pilobilus Dance Troupe, Cirque du Soleil, and the National Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China, among others. They currently have a jazz series and an Asian Arts & Culture program in their lineup. For more information on upcoming shows, check out the calendar on their website.
- The Iron Horse Music Hall/The Calvin Theatre/The Pearl Street Nightclub: All property of the Iron Horse Entertainment group, these three venues mark the impressive musical history of Northampton. Located in a sort of topographical triangle within walking distance of each other, each venue continues to host both established and up-and-coming talents all the time. The Calvin is perhaps the most obvious and prominent of the three, being located on Pleasant Street, and its marquee gives passersby the details on what’s coming. For a full schedule for all three halls, check out the schedule on their website.
There is certainly no way that I’ve covered all of the many activities in the surrounding area. Aside from these, there are myriad restaurants, coffee shops, local businesses, and parks to while away some free time. For trips a little further afield, both Boston and New York City are within driving, busing, or train-going distance.
So remember, even though Hampshire is a beautiful, exciting place to be, it’s important to get out into the world and explore the many possibilities in the Pioneer Valley!
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