How This Young Artist Found Their Way Back to the Berkshire Art World
We don’t always find our own way on life’s winding roads. More often than not, life seems to find us in its own way and in its own time. This is how Merudjina Normil, a Williams College graduate, found their way back to the Berkshire art world in a time of post-graduation (and mid-pandemic) uncertainty. It was this summer that some of the art they made as a Pittsfield High School student began to recirculate. “I came home and things just started happening; I am appreciative of all these opportunities and have just leaned into it,” they say.
Merudjina’s family moved first from their birthplace, Port-au-Prince, Haiti to East Orange, NJ and arrived in Pittsfield when Merudjina was seven years old. Growing up in the Berkshires, they came to love art and the artist community. Merudjina notes that artists tend to support other artists here, and that the Berkshires is very good at promoting younger artists, adding “if you do art in middle or high school in Pittsfield, you end up as part of the student show at the Litchtenstein—you also get to meet other young artists a lot.”
This summer, recently graduated from Williams College, Merudjina accepted an offer to bring their work to The Foundry in West Stockbridge. Now, as a freelance artist also teaching online art classes to adults and teens through IS183 and “creating my own online presence as an artist,” Merudjina feels as connected as ever to the artist community. Through opportunities like WordxWord poetry walks at The Mount, WAM Theatre’s People of Color Ensemble, and an outdoor performance at The Foundry framed by the mountains this summer, they note that their experience of being an artist in the Berkshires “feels more like a community than it feels like a competitive existence. The community likes to foster creativity and nurture it.”
Art and the experience of being part of the artistic community is a big part of Merudjina’s life in the Berkshires, even though much is different in the era of COVID-19. With the onset of the pandemic, they identify missing opportunities to support friends from youth theater in their performances, going to the movies, seeing plays at Barrington Stage, and particularly standing ovations—both as a participant and a recipient.
Although some aspects of life are different and some familiar activities temporarily missing, Merudjina has found joy in exploration of the Berkshires. In particular they identify taking walks in Springside Park and downtown Pittsfield, including Park Square; swimming in the lakes, picking apples, browsing book stores and an apothecary, and visiting floral farms to round out a well-curated list of Berkshire favorites. It’s also easy to understand why the region’s natural beauty tops their list of favorite things about the Berkshires. Merudjina conjures a bucolic image in the way they describe “so many little mountain roads that lead you right back to home, but they are new ways to see the Berkshires.” Merudjina indicates that their favorite time of year is just around the corner, saying “When the spring returns and it goes from muddy brown to bright green, it is just magical. You see the dew on the leaves and the sun is rising. It’s breathtaking.”
Merudjina’s sense of wonder and curiosity about the region is particularly keen. In their opinion, the region’s best-kept secret is that with a little effort, it’s possible to constantly be discovering new secrets about the Berkshires. Considering the unique culture of each city and town, the deep roots of Berkshire history, and the ability to meet and get to know the owners of local shops, they believe “the Berkshires has an abundance.” Merudjina is clear to say that as much as they love the Berkshires, they don’t plan on settling down here just yet. “I am interested in experiencing life outside the Berkshires,” they say, adding “I want to see the world and I want to settle down here.” This region has endeared itself to so many of us, and Merudjina feels it too. “Every time I come back to the Berkshires, I feel more connected and I understand why my mom moved from a larger city. Someone once told me that they’d traveled many places, but nothing is as beautiful to them as their backyard in the Berkshires, and that really sits with me.”