The Mastheads

The Mastheads writer in residence program, Pittsfield, MATHE MASTHEADS

“We must add to our heritage or lose it.” –D. Lowenthal

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.

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.

The program’s inaugural season is July 2017, when five selected writers will be paired with a private studio for a month-long residency, complemented by city-wide public programming and events.

The Mastheads writers-in-residence project is a part of In Motion: Pittsfield, a city-wide initiative. The initiative is a means to preserve the legacy of a literary community of American Renaissance authors who produced work in Pittsfield, including Melville, Hawthorne, Thoreau, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes through the construction of five writing studios that will provide venues for writers and local residents to engage with the Pittsfield landscape through the written, sung, or spoken word.


Apply to The Mastheads residency

Applications are due by February 15, 2017 at midnight. Accepted applicants will be notified by March 15, 2017. There is no application fee.  The Mastheads is a one-month residency program in July in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The inaugural season of the program is July 2017.

For the project’s inaugural year in 2017, the studios will be located at the following sites throughout the city:

Melville and Hawthorne Studios at Arrowhead
Thoreau Studio at the Springside House
Longfellow Studio at Pittsfield High School
Oliver Wendell Holmes Studio at the Mass Audubon Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary


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. Mastheads writer studio concept of the Thoreau StudioFrom that new vantage point, they see the world around them from a different perspective, elevated far off the ship’s deck. Concurrent with this exposure to the vast sea that surrounds them, 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 five studios in this exhibition—the Mastheads—seek to set up this dual condition for the writers in residence who will work in them—reflection on the physical context that surrounds us (the city of Pittsfield), 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 this of city begun in the 19th century by writers of the American Renaissance. 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 presented here 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.

In contemplating Pittsfield’s historic literary network as well as the future literary network that this project will support, we ask ourselves to ponder not only The Mastheads conceptual model of the Holmes Studiowhat once happened here but what is to come.


NEA Our Town Grant Announcement
NPR Interview with Project Directors and Exhibition Photos
Berkshire Eagle Article
Mastheads Podcast Episode via Greylock Glass “Will Call”


To realize this project, a fundraising campaign is underway to raise a total of $200,000 to construct the five studios.

To contribute, please send checks with “Mastheads” in the memo line to:
Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area
PO Box 611
Great Barrington, MA

Or donate to The Mastheads project online via PayPal:

All donations are 501(c)(3) tax deductible.

The Mastheads is produced by the City of Pittsfield in collaboration with:
The National Endowment for the Arts
Office of Cultural Development
CPTK Architects
Mass Cultural Council
Berkshire Historical Society
Berkshire Athenaeum
Pittsfield Public Schools
Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area
WordXWord Festival

Press Contact: Jen Glockner; 413-499-9348;
Project Directors: Tessa Kelly;, Chris Parkinson;