Recently, EPOCH Assisted Living at Melbourne hosted an art opening and reception for the Berkshire Carousel project and some of its leaders, including executive director Maria Caccaviello. Caccaviello and the Berkshire Carousel team brought one of the carousel horse heads to Melbourne and asked each of the 12 residents at the event to take turns sanding it.
EPOCH residents enjoyed sanding the horse, learning about the Berkshire Carousel project and its history and seeing all the pictures of the carousel which lined Melbourne’s gallery wall. By coincidence, the founder of the project, Jim Shulman, happened to be in town at the time of Melbourne’s reception. Shulman spoke to the residents about the history of the Berkshire Carousel and how the project came to him.
He grew up in Pittsfield in the 1950s and ‘60s and developed a deep appreciation for the Berkshires, an area which has long been recognized for its beauty, art and history. When he moved away from the Berkshires, he really missed it, remembering his days on Mount Greylock and his "down to nature walks." Because of his love for his hometown, he wanted to do something special to honor it. But he wanted to do something that would allow the community as a whole to honor Pittsfield and Berkshire, believing that everyone needs the opportunity to give back to their community and feel a sense of belonging to it.
At first, Schulman knew nothing about carving or building a carousel. But Schulman was so inspired by his wife’s idea he decided to take carving classes and teach others in the community what he learned. As he began telling people about the project, people with construction, carving and artistic skills approached him, wanting to help. In May 2008, the Berkshire Carousel project was underway, propelled by executive director Caccaviello, a team of talented artists and community members. Since then, more than 200 volunteers have participated in the project, carving, painting and photographing the carousel. Volunteers have been diligently carving all the figures, with the help of professional carvers like Walter Reuss.
The residents of EPOCH Assisted Living at Melbourne enjoyed hearing Schulman and the project leaders talk about the Berkshire Carousel, expressing interest and pride in the grassroots project. One resident was so zealous she didn’t want to the reception to end and kept asking more questions.
Because the residents of EPOCH of Melbourne were so intrigued by the project, Melbourne Activities Director Sherry Pease planned a trip to Berkshire Mall, where construction on the Berkshire Carousel is currently taking place. The residents had the opportunity to see volunteers working on the carousel. Pease said they visited on the perfect day, because they got to see a little bit of everything - people carving horses and benches, drawing, designing, sanding, gluing various pieces of the horses together and painting. Residents had a lot of fun and were able to ask the workers questions and learn even more about the project.
The Berkshire Carousel has been such a hit with Melbourne residents that Pease is planning another reception in November in addition to a second trip to the Berkshire Carousel. The next reception will feature the carousel’s beautiful rounding boards. The rounding boards, which circle the top of the carousel, feature murals of Berkshire that were painted by local artists and selected by judges. The estimated cost for building the carousel is $1,000,000. The project is financially backed by the Shulmans and is also funded by private donations and sponsorships. The Berkshire Carousel is in its final year of development with anticipated completion in May 2013. It is New England’s largest and most ambitious volunteer-based permanent art piece.