|North Adams Youth Basketball to Unveil Mural at Armory on Saturday
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
11:58AM / Wednesday, February 01, 2023
|The wall at the Armory will be uncovered on Saturday to display a mural commissioned by North Adams Youth Basketball.
North Adams Youth Basketball is adding some prominent youth sports supporters to the walls of the Armory.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Anyone who has attended a basketball game at the Armory knows that the facility's limited spectator areas can get crowded pretty fast.
But a handful of outstanding fans now have a permanent seat to watch the action.
On Saturday at noon, North Adams Youth Basketball League will unveil a mural it commissioned to adorn the walls surrounding the court at the Ashland Street venue.
NAYBL board member Mark Moulton has been wanting to fill the walls of the gym with art to dress up the space. Originally, he was thinking in terms of generic images of faceless fans cheering on the players.
Then, he had a better idea.
"We got the idea of trying to bring back the history of the building and the people and the city," Moulton said this week. "We started throwing around names and ended up getting six people who should be in the stands."
Those six — John Barrett III, Bucky Bullett, John Gaudreau, Caleb Jacobbe, Jim Shaker and Gene Wein — are depicted in the mural that will be revealed in Saturday's midday ceremony.
Moulton said the board reached out to local artist Kyle Strack to create the images that Moulton hopes are just the start of multi-year project.
"It came out really, really nice," he said. "We contacted the families of the people involved, and they were all on board. Eventually, I want to see all three sides of the gym to be fans — people from the past who had a big impact on youth and the community."
Strack, the artist, had to work around the busy schedule at the Armory in order to complete the mural.
In addition to the hectic NAYBL schedule of practices and games, the Armory also is the home court to basketball teams from Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School in Adams and the Buxton School in Williamstown.
"Kyle works, so he was coming in after that, and all of a sudden, BArT has an afternoon game," Moulton said.
And the facility is not just a basketball court.
"We have a senior group who comes in a couple of days a week for pickleball," Moulton said. "They come from all over the county. The league paid to paint the pickle ball court, and we probably have the best pickleball court in the county. We're going to put in a couple more courts for next year.
"It's a pretty strong group. They've got about 50 members. I think once basketball stops and there is more gym time, they'll take more time."
Long term, Moulton hopes to see the city-owned Armory become more of a community center, providing a space for birthday parties, dances and the like.
In terms of the youth basketball league, it has bounced back after losing a full year to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21.
This winter, the NAYBL has 300 players ranging from the 3- and 4-year-old instructional league up to eighth-graders.
Moulton said the volunteers on the league's board worked hard to market the league, going into the schools to help spread the word.
That kind of effort and enthusiasm for the sport continues the tradition of volunteers like Gaudreau and Shaker, legendary broadcaster Bullett, civic leaders Wein and Barrett and young athlete and fan Jacobbe.
Moulton credits two other longtime league supporters, Jim and Katie Sarkis, with helping to spearhead the project to create the mural.
Its unveiling will come in the middle of a full day of league playoff games that start at 9 a.m.
"It's not inexpensive to do [the mural], but the North Adams Youth Basketball League has paid for it," Moulton said. "We paid for resurfacing the floor. We paid for painting. And we're planning to do the mural with small networking for donations. It morphed into something bigger. We've gotten some bigger sponsors.
"Saturday does not end the project. Like I said, it's going to continue for years to come."
Moulton said donations to defray the cost of the mural project will be accepted on Saturday, or interested donors can contact him at 413-441-4267.