The Mastheads is a new writers’ residency program in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, founded on the history of American Renaissance authors who produced work there in the mid-19th century. Five selected writers are paired with a private studio for a month-long residency, complemented by city-wide public programming and events. The program's inaugural season was July 2017.
The mission of The Mastheads is to use this history as a platform to support the imagination and production of new creative work in Pittsfield. The physical studio spaces that comprise The Mastheads are architectural interpretations of the original structures from which Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wrote while in Pittsfield.
Aboard the Pequod, the whaling ship in Moby Dick in which Ishmael sails, crew members take shifts climbing up high into the masthead, looking out for whales. From that new vantage point, they see the world around them from a different perspective, elevated far off the ship’s deck. At the same time, Ishmael describes the masthead—a space large enough for only one person—as an opportunity to look inward, and encounter new aspects of oneself.
The design for the five studios—the Mastheads—seeks to set up this dual condition for the writers in residence who will work in them: reflection on the physical context that surrounds us, and an opportunity to explore one’s own personal project in relation to that context.
The Mastheads assemble a framework from which to add to the literary heritage of Pittsfield. We see heritage not as a fixed story we inherit from the past, but as something that we must engage with and continually reinvent.
To convey the ongoing nature of this evolution, the designs of the five studios are fragments, each representing a disembodied piece of an architectural language—the roof, the porch, the stair, the tower, the portal. By working with a language of fragments and incompleteness, we are forced to continually reassemble, to imagine, create, and complete a story in our own minds.
Co-Founders: Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson
Education: Sarah Trudgeon
Research: Jeffrey Lawrence
Opinions: Aaron Thier