'30under30' celebrates region's young artists

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WEST STOCKBRIDGE — Caf , performance space, and coffee roastery No. Six Depot is gearing up to host a month and a half long exhibition of visual art, dance, music, and food created by 30 Berkshires-based artists all under the age of 30. The exhibition is curated by 24-year-old Mika Mintz from Great Barrington, who feels that young artists don't have enough options to show their creativity. She is not alone.

"30under30" will kick off on Sunday, March 19, with an opening reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the No. Six Depot's larger performance space, adjacent to the cafe. The work of 23 visual artists, including painters, photographers, and ceramicists will be on display and accompanied by live music. This will mark the first of six performance-infused events accompanying the show's visual art, which will remain on display from March 16 through April 30.

The youth-generated exhibition has been a year in the making. Mintz is curator of the exhibition, as well as a photographer and dancer with both varieties of work in the show. She knew that a exhibition for local artists younger than 30 would draw interest, but didn't have a venue in mind until one conversation with No. Six Depot co-owner Lisa Landry.

"It had been on my mind for a while. I have so many friends who are so creative. I've just never had the platform or space to make it come to fruition," said Mintz, who happened to go on a hike with Landry last spring after the two struck up a friendly relationship while Mintz displayed some photographs in Landry's gallery space.

"[Mintz] was talking about how she would love to start a space, and how she felt there was just no space for young artists to show their work. And I said, 'Well, why don't we put something together?'" said Landry. "Mika has really, truly been the person who's reached out to all the artists and put together the schedule. We're providing the space and also collaboration on some events. I consider her the guest curator for a month and a half."

Mintz reached out to artists in November, knowing about two-thirds of them personally and connecting with the other third via word of mouth.

"I could have honestly had 100 artists under the age of 30," said Mintz. "There's just so much talent out there that I didn't even get close to accessing or tapping into."

The opening exhibition will launch the visual showcase while local musician Nico Wohl plays jazz guitar. Wine or specialty cocktails will be served along with snacks, and many of the contributing artists will gather to meet their fellow collaborators. After opening night, gallery hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.

"I didn't want it to be only visual both for logistical reasons--because of wall space — and because I wanted to represent other forms of art that can't be hung on a wall," said Mintz. "So we have poets, dancers, musicians, we have a culinary artist, Kitchen Theory, which is like a museum for the taste buds."

"30under30"'s artistic diversity is apparent in the exhibition's schedule. April 2 features a poetry reading by Steven Amash. Haux and Simon McTeigue will perform music on April 8 ($8 tickets available through the eventbrite.com link on the "30under30 Exhibition" Facebook page). Three seatings of intimate dinners will be served by Theory Kitchen on April 14 and 15 (tickets also available by link through Facebook page). INKLESS storytelling falls on April 22, followed by the closing event on April 29: a collaborative dance performance featuring Mintz, Emily Glick, and Lexie Thrash accompanied by digital design from Sam Okerstrom-Lang.

Of these events, Theory Kitchen's intimate dinners are the only exclusive ones. Theo Friedman is a 23-year-old Sheffield native who worked in the kitchens of Jonathan Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant in South Egremont and Nudel Restaurant in Lenox, in his teen years. He now lives in New York City and runs Theory Kitchen, a travelling pop-up dining experience. Theory Kitchen planned to serve one meal on April 14 at 5:30 p.m. and one on April 15 at 7 p.m., with a cap of 12 guests per seating. But tickets sold out so quickly that a third seating was added on April 15 at 9 p.m. Tickets range from $75-$120.

"I don't look at it as if I'm coming there to cook dinner. I'm an experience designer and event curator," said Friedman. "We use a single table where we plate about 12 strangers. We're thinking about the music, the d cor, the design. We're thinking about how to engineer an environment where you feel more comfortable and break down barriers of 12 people."

Friedman prides himself on never serving the same meal twice. And, since each guest receives the exact same meal based on what ingredients are in season and on Friedman's list of current interests, food allergies and other dietary restrictions cannot be accommodated for. Friedman does not yet know what will be on April's menu.

Multimedia visual artist Hannah Plishtin, 26, grew up in Lenox and went on to study fine art at Connecticut College, architectural studies in Copenhagen, and drawing and painting at the California College of Arts in Oakland. She now lives in New York City and has been working with dye on paper, and views "30under30" more as a chance to reconnect with her roots than to experiment.

"I'm happy to be showing anywhere, whether it's in the Berkshires or anywhere else. I feel lucky," said Plishtin. "But the Berkshires is my favorite place in the world, so I'm thrilled that it's happening there. I'm excited more than anything to see everybody's art."

Plishtin also recognizes the potential power of an event like "30under30" placing the cultural spotlight on creative young people. When she lived locally, she felt challenged by the lack of a space to display her artwork outside of school. She views "30under30" as a potential remedy for similar frustrations felt by today's creative youth.

"It's super empowering at any age and at any success level to feel like people want to see your work, people that aren't just your teachers or parents," said Plishtin. "I'm thrilled about it. And other than showing my work, I'm really excited to see all these young people, some of them I know, and some of them whose names I recognize, who I haven't seen in a really long time."

Landry hosts many events at No. Six Depot, from musical performances to wine tastings in collaborations with Nejaime's Wine Cellar to wildly popular storytelling nights. But she views "30under30" as a new kind of local event that could blossom into an annual favorite, benefiting all members of the arts community and embracing budding artists as they appear on the local branch.

"Part of it is to provide a forum for young artists to succeed here, but another part is just to make them excited about being here and feel like there's fresh energy," said Landry. "It's good for everybody. It's good for the artists themselves. It's good for young people to have a forum to really put their talents out there, but it's also great for everybody over 30 to see what the younger generation is doing."

No. Six Depot is at 6 Depot St. in West Stockbridge, and can be reached at 413-232-0205. For more information about artists and events, visit the "30under30 Exhibition" Facebook page.

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