Berkshire Magazine Announces Its 2020 Berkshire 25
Berkshire Magazine has released the names of this year's Berkshire 25. The seventh annual selection recognizes individuals who are the most dedicated, the most creative, and the most influential people in their fields.
Representing every aspect of the Berkshire community, the 25 people are highlighted in the just-released fall issue of Berkshire Magazine. The selected individuals have contributed tremendously to our region—selflessly, in many cases. They come from various walks of life, reflecting the diversity and dedication of people who have made themselves an integral part of our unique region.
Nominations were received from the community, and—with the help of a panel of advisors—the editorial board made the final selection.
This year’s panel of advisors:
—Nathan Hanford, Berkshire 25 alum, formerly the artist-in-residence and case manager of Soldier On, who now co-owns Township Four Floristry & Home in Pittsfield.
—Ty Allan Jackson, Berkshire 25 alum, founder of Big Head Books, an organization that emphasizes the importance of literacy.
—Rebecca Honig, director of content and curriculum at Ready4K. She has written and produced over 50 segments for The Electric Company.
The 2020 Berkshire 25:
Blair Benjamin (pictured above) is program director at MASS MoCA. He founded Assets for Artists in 2007, which provides professional development, financial and business coaching, grant and loan referrals, artist residencies, and relocation support.
Katherine Blay-Tandoh and Fleur Sereko are recent graduates of Pittsfield High School and co-founders of the NAACP’s growing Berkshire Youth Chapter. Katherine and Fleur have started conversations in the community about voting, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Raei Bridges is an educator, environmental activist, and founder of The Rusty Anvil, an organization that connects marginalized communities, People of Color, and LGBTQ+ individuals with the natural world through wilderness trips, wildlife study, and outdoor skills.
Will Conklin is a pioneer of vibrant youth employment and community volunteerism in his role as executive director of Greenagers. Will runs Sky View Farm with his wife Amelia and daughter Vera.
Jessica Dils is a co-founder of Greylock Together, which has more than 1,000 members dedicated to diversity, racial justice, and police reform in northern Berkshires.
Tricia Farley-Bouvier has represented Pittsfield in the state House of Representatives since 2011. She has taken on increasing rights for foster families, eradicating sexual violence on college campuses, and helping immigrants receive stimulus checks.
Tracy and Joe Finnegan are active cheerleaders for their Williamstown community. Joe, executive vice president of Berkshire Fairfield Financial, is a tireless supporter of local businesses and community projects. Tracy is a board member of the Berkshire Immigrant Center and an assistant director at the Williams Center for Learning in Action.
Mark Franklin taught English at Wahconah Regional High School for 38 years and now teaches at MCLA. He has opened his Facebook page to the community every Sunday night to make music.
Tim Gray founded the Housatonic River Initiative in 1992 and leads the fight to hold GE accountable for contaminating the Housatonic River. He is highlighted in The 2020 documentary The River Guards by filmmaker Aaron Kalischer-Coggins.
Arlo Guthrie is an American folk singer-songwriter who founded the Guthrie Center at the Trinity Church in Great Barrington. Arlo recently released a collaborative folk rendition of “Hard Times No More,” inspired by the global pandemic and BLM Movement.
Elizabeth Keen owns and operates Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, one of the oldest community supported agriculture (CSA) programs in the country. She and husband Al Thorp have worked the farm, creating a model of access to local food.
Katherine Kidd is a retired professor who teaches at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Berkshire Community College (BCC) in Pittsfield. She is working with other volunteers to ensure our health systems are age-friendly.
Jason LaForest is city councilor for North Adams and a nurse at Williamstown Commons. He works tirelessly to support charities, agencies and businesses to help promote a growing, healthy, and vibrant region
Katherine Lockridge is co-owner of Classical Tents & Party Goods, and her role in the community has been far-reaching, championing the beauty and unique space of the Berkshires.
Dave Mixer founded Pittsfield-based Mill Town Capital. The Dalton native is passionate about improving the quality of life in Berkshire County and is using his extensive experience in international entrepreneurial activity to do so.
Calista Nelson is a senior at Monument Mountain Regional High School. As an activist and organizer, she took a stand against racism and police brutality in June, helping to organize a 1,000-person strong protest in front of Great Barrington Town Hall.
Katherine O’Neil is director of the Lenox Library. In her position for only three months before facing the challenges of COVID-19, Katie creatively found ways to serve her patrons and the community.
Art Peisner is co-founder of the nonprofit Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) and has volunteered his time and energy to help those in need of medical care. Art is committed to changing health systems in our community, so that health equity for all residents is a reality.
Lauren Piotrowski is head gardener and CSA manager at Hancock Shaker Village. She and her crew care for more than five acres of gardens that include flowers, heirloom vegetables, and medicinal herbs.
Colleen Quinn teaches art at Pittsfield High School and at BCC. Always an involved teacher, she took charge when schools were forced to close and worked tirelessly to make sure that graduating seniors celebrated in style.
Maria Rundle is executive director of Flying Cloud Institute in Great Barrington, which is dedicated to science and arts education. Maria finds herself continually adapting so that she can serve as many students as possible.
Jenny Schwartz was appointed by Southern Berkshire Rural Health Network and Fairview Hospital to look at how food access is affecting school-age children in south Berkshire. When schools closed in March, her mandate changed—to make sure all kids in the region were fed.
Andrea Saville White is a speech-language pathologist, autism specialist, and special educator who has worked with hundreds of Berkshire kids. She is known as “the kid whisperer” for her ability to reach children.
Coming soon: Berkshire Magazine will be launching a Berkshire 25 alumni page on berkshiremag.com to showcase honorees from previous years and to remind our community of those who have so greatly dedicated their time and efforts.