Last year's 'OFA ATU: A Fisherman's Tale of Two Communities' by artist Josh Ostraff that had visitors creating prints of fish that were incorporated into his final exhibit at MCLA Gallery 51 earlier this year. DownStreet Art is planning more interactive similar to this.
BCRC's Michelle Daly explains the upcoming events for the 10th season of DownStreet Art.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — DownStreet Art launched in the summer of 2008 with the goal of bringing people back to a deserted downtown with offerings of art, music and celebration.
In the decade since, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts-sponsored program has drawn more than 150,000 people to Main Street for the once a month receptions and performances and has supported the work of 237 artists. The number of empty storefronts has dropped, forcing the project, in a good way, to utilize more outdoor and public space.
MCLA President Jamie Birge said at Thursday morning's announcement in the MCLA Design Lab that the college continues to be a strong supporter of the event and the community.
"It's been important for us as an institution to play a role in the revitalization of art and culture in downtown North Adams," said Birge. "We're really excited to be celebrating our 10th year of doing this work. ...
"This work is important in lots of ways, not just in revitalizing that sense of the city but to provide opportunities for our students."
Berkshire Cultural Resource Center Director Michelle Daly said surveys have indicated 93 percent of those who attend one of the Thursday opening events planned to return, and 63 percent end up spending money at local stores or restaurants.
"We're really pleased to be able to draw people to our activities who are also going to support local businesses," Daly said. "It's important to us to do those things."
DownStreet Art has also "nurtured the next generation of creative entrepreneurs," she said, pointing to Grammy and MacArthur Genius award winners who exhibited prior to being winners. "We've worked a lot with local students through internships and professional development. We've also been a home for many local artists for their first or one of their first exhibitions in one of our pop-up galleries."
DownStreet Arts' mission to connect the community with art and use that creative force to support local business and artists won't change, she said. Rather, this 10th season will focus even more on audience participation and interactivity and feature 10 project/exhibitions to mark the anniversary on its fourth Thursday events.
"We celebrate our community, that's the core of what we do," Daly said. "We want to make sure our work feels accessible, that people feel welcome, that people feel they have a chance to participate in the creation of the work and my favorite part is just hearing the conversations. It becomes beautiful to be a catchpoint and gathering space every month."
The season will actually start a week early with a return of "100 Hours in the Woodshed IV," a marathon art-marking process by 20 artists and open to the public, over June 22-26, and Pots on Wheels, over June 23-25.
Both events were scheduled to dovetail with the Solid Sound Festival that will bring upwards of 10,000 people to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art for the band Wilco's curated music festival.
"Because our first event is the week after Solid Sound, and there's that concentration of people, it's really an opportunity for us to be fresh in the minds of a lot of people," Daly said. "I think these two projects were a great opportunity to capture an extra audience with Solid Sound and give people a chance to pick up a brochure and to really get their hands in it."
The Woodshed, a project by local artist Danny O, brings together collage artists from around the country to work together. It will run in the MCLA Design Lab at 49 Main St. until midnight or 2 a.m. that weekend. POW, a roving mobile pottery, will allow participates to create handmade pots. Both projects will have exhibits of finished pieces at DownStreet Art's first opening night on Thursday, June 29.
"We've heard a lot fom the community that they want to participate," Daly said. The art program has surveyed attendees over the last two years and to question of what else they'd like to see, she said the answer has largely been "we want more opportunities to be actively involved."
Over the summer, there will be several special musical performances; an acrobatic circus; two "parklets" at each end of Main Street; a new mural for the Center Street wall of the Juvenile Court building to replace one that has deterioriate; interviews broadcast by a bicycling low-power radio station; and various artist residencies and exhibits.
"We want to make sure DownStreet Art really feels kid friendly so were opening a kidstop tour," Daley said. "Which will be a very specific guide to DownStreet Art Thursday experiences oriented toward school-age children and their families."
Mayor Richard Alcombright said DownStreet Art has taken a lot of the anxiety or angst, among some in the city who maybe didn't have an understanding of the arts or who were unsure what a creative economy meant for the city.
"I think the global importance of what DownStreet Art has done for our community is the word community," he said. "It's taken away a lot of the fear ... the generational anxiety over things we weren't accustomed to, that we didn't know about. Having DownStreet art ... has given residents a really good taste of the arts in our community, and how we've changed over time and how we continue to change in a positive progressive way. MCLA has been a huger partner in making that happen."
Happening this summer:
The Thursday, June 29 launch will include a performance by Nimble Arts Circus, a Vaudeville–inspired, family friendly, contemporary circus show that includes juggling, interactive characters, aerial dancers and acrobats. Nimble Circus is funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.
Several BOOM (Berkshire Organization for Original Music) concerts will take place throughout the summer. On June 29, performers will include Sandy McKnight of Lee, a veteran singer/songwriter, producer and bassist, whose music is heard on television, film and stage. Also performing will be a local favorite, veteran singer/songwriter Sammy Brown; and Chad Tarves of Dalton, a new/upcoming solo singer/songwriter.
'Imaginarium' is the new mural planned for Center Street and the third by an international artist.
Two local artists will present parklets – temporary parks that exist in parking spaces – on opposite ends of Main Street. The LoCal parklet, created by MJ Shannon, 2017, will be a multifunctional space that encourages participants to take a seat and enjoy North Adams' beautiful downtown North Adams. It will feature a solar-powered "Tree of Battery Life" installation for phone charging, built into the form of a tree.
The second parklet, by Makers Mill, will combine North Adams' rich textile history and creative revival by combining new and old materials and concepts. This interactive parklet will be a place to rest, to engage in downtown culture, and to make and create its enclosure with an Earth Loom, as people work together to create a common weave from plant material, fabric and other recycled materials.
A new exhibition of mixed-media works in MCLA Gallery 51, "Cloud Headed Artists," visions of the view beyond our planet, will open with a reception, 5-8 p.m., which is free and open to the public. This show features the work of artists Michelle Aldredge, Mark Mjulherrin, Heidi Pollard, Stephanie Williams, Anna Von Mertens, Jarvis Rockwell and Sam Trioli, as well as artwork from the collection of Jaime Franklin.
Each DSA Thursday event this season will include selections from the Williams College Museum of Art Reading Room: People's Library; "kidstops" with family friendly activities; interactive freestyle rap performances by Seth Brown; community tabling; and interactive art projects. BOOM Music events will also continue throughout the summer.
DSA Thursday events will continue on July 27, Aug. 31 and Sept. 28. These and other DSA-related events will feature the following:
Katie Hargrave and Brett Hunter will present their "Like Riding a Bicycle" residency project and performance July 24-27. They will collect, archive, and share local knowledge using an interactive installation, on-site interviews, a low-power mobile radio station and a community bike ride.
The July 27 DSA Thursday will feature Thread Ensemble, with original music created in the moment through the use of listeners' experiences and improvised music. In MCLA Gallery 51, an opening will be held for "3 Second Stories," the work of flipbook artist Tom Olson. BOOM Music Stage performers will be The Matchstick Architects and Christine Bile.
Aug. 8-14 will feature a community, kid-focused residency with photographer Jamie Diamond. An exhibition of works created during this residency will be on view Aug. 31 through Sept. 30 at 49 Main St. In addition, Diamond will work with student photographers to document and monumentalize the everyday people and places that make North Adams unique.
The DSA Thursday on Aug. 31 will feature the mural unveiling of "Imaginarium" by artist Yu-Baba, which will replace the Maya Hayuk mural on the juvenile courthouse building. On the BOOM Music Stage: Craig Hop and Crew, as well as Izzy Heltai '18.
During the weekend of Sept. 9-10, DSA will present two days of exploration of site-specific performance, dialogue, empathy and community when three artists from throughout the country come to North Adams to perform in various locations throughout the downtown.
The DSA Thursday on Sept. 28 will feature a performance by Magic Lantern Theater. Performing on the BOOM Music Stage will be Eight Foot River, Francesca Shanks, and Chad Tarves. In addition, there will be a "Marafanyi Meets the Mural" performance on Center Street, as Alaa Awad's "Justice" mural becomes the catalyst for community collaboration with Marafanyi Drum, Dance and Song.
Opening on Sept. 28 in MCLA Gallery 51 will be "Yellow Bowl Project" by artist Setsuko Winchester, an exhibition of photography which documents the artists' journey to 10 World War II Japanese internment camps and the installations of traditional yellow tea bowls she created at each site. Winchester said, "My project may throw light on a discomfiting part of American history. I hope not to condemn or blame, but to help gauge where we are in this ever-evolving experiment we call ‘America.'"
MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) provides professional development training, resources and support to the artists, art managers and creative workers of Berkshire County. Through its multiple programs and presentations, BCRC brings the best of performance and art to the Berkshires and showcases the best of the Berkshires to the world.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.
For a full history of DSA art installations and performances, as well as more information about upcoming events, go to downstreetart.org.
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