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Mass MoCA Launches Winter Season With Free Admission
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
01:05AM / Thursday, December 05, 2019
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Mass MoCA spokeswoman Jodi Joseph welcomes the gathering of museum employees and volunteers to the winter season update.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is offering an early Christmas present to Berkshire County residents: Free admission to the galleries from Dec. 6 through Dec. 22. 
"We do this once a year. We do it as a pop up," said Jodi Joseph, director of communications. "We delight in throwing open the doors to bring our friends and neighbors from all over the county here." 
Art, she said, edifies and enriches us in these uncertain times. "It comforts, it nourishes, teaches, it inspires, it's going to be the greatest achievement that we leave on this earth," she continued. "And we make that here in North Adams. It's truly a gift this work we get to do."
The free admission (driver's license or utility receipt for proof) is being offered in conjunction with holiday shopping specials at the improved Mass MoCA gift store and Roam Gallery (one of the best shopping experiences in Western Massachusetts, says Joseph), as well as winter specials at A-oK Berkshire Barbeque, Bright Ideas Brewing, Lickety Split, Gramercy Bistro, Cynthia-Reeves, Ferrin Contemporary, The Artist Book Foundation, and Storey Publishing, all on the museum campus. 
The annual free for everyone day is set for Saturday, Jan. 25. Winter hours will be Wednesday through Monday, 10 to 5. But the museum will be opening earlier for summer hours on May 25, Memorial Day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the option run later if needed. 
The holiday special kicks off with Misty Blues on Friday night in Club B-10. "Gina Coleman has been making music like Mass MoCA has been making art for 20 years and she wanted to celebrate that moment with us right here up in the club," Joseph said.  
The announcement was made on Wednesday morning at the rundown for upcoming exhibits and performances for the winter season at MoCA that will include Liz Phair on May 16.
 "She continues to be, is today, a massive influence over almost every singer songwriter in the alternative music genre that we hear," said Sue Killam, the museum's managing director for the performing arts and film. "And her debut album in 1993 was ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. ... She's back on tour, she's stopping at a Mass McCA and we're thrilled to have her here."
Also this season is a massive dance performance with local participants on March 21, High Mud Comedy Festival with headliner John Early on April 17 and 18, and a performative adaptation of "The Celestials," the novel written by Williamstown's Karen Shepard about the Chinese laborers who came to North Adams. 
"We're known for a place where people can come and make art and spend time," said Killam. "They get time, they get space, they get support, they get a little love, they get a little like push in the right direction. They have an incredibly keen audience of which we ask them to show their work."
Artists seem to enjoy coming to Mass MoCA and hanging out, she said. 
That includes indie rock band Car Seat Headrest who performed at Mass MoCA last year and asked if they could return to work on a new performance that will premiere in the Hunter Center. Drummer Ian Chang also returns to work on a piece that involves "projections triggered by his electronic performance" and newly formed Raga Maqam will explore the intersection of Middle Eastern and Indian music. 
"The Celestials" will be "sort of a side residency," said Killam, with Peter Glazer, a professor of performance studies at the University of California at Berkeley, doing a stage adaptation of the novel, which happens to be written by his cousin. Some 75 Chinese workers were brought from San Francisco break a strike at the Sampson shoe company in 1870. The action had reverberations across the nation, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, the development of Boston's Chinatown and, oddly, setting the path for one of the immigrants, Lue Gim Gong, to create the Valencia orange. The factory was on Marshall Street where the courthouse is and which is now owned by Mass MoCa.  
Glazer has been working on the adaptation on and off for several years and will spend a winter/spring sabbatical at the museum working on the piece. 
"It's a tale of labor, love, immigration, community and he's going to be working within the community here in North Adams and then, at the end of his time, hold to a stage training or sort of a playing of it, and we're excited to have him here," Killam said. 
"Deep Blue Sea" is a commission by the Park Avenue Armory and will be co-presented with Jacob's Pillow. Dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones was inspired by the character of Pip, the black cabin boy in "Moby-Dick," and will be further developing the performance over two weeks at Mass MoCA — and plans on using 89 local residents as dancers. 
"The Hunter Center will be flipped around and stretched to its max again to accomplish 'Deep Blue Sea' by Bill T. Jones," said Killam. "We're going to do our work to dig into the community and find some people who want to be a part of it."
Also on tap for the coming season is the opening of Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang's virtual reality "To the Moon" in the Anderson Gallery. MoCa Director Joseph Thompson described it as "a rather trippy flight" and a cautionary tale of where we're headed regarding climate change. It opens Dec. 21. 

Director Joseph Thompson quotes Hippocrates and Ferris Bueller in explaining 'Slow Art Day': Life is short, art (skill) is long or life moves fast.
Ledelle Moe's "When," an installation that recollects ancient civilizations with its massive weathered heads, opens on Dec. 14; Argentinian artist Ad Minoliti's "Fantas as Modulares," his first solo exhibit in the United States, opens on Jan. 25, in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute Graduate Studies program; the Hunter foyer will be transformed by pen and ink work of industrial scenes with verdant landscapes by Gamaliel Rodriguez; Alexandra Foradas brings "Kissing Through a Curtain," featuring a wide range of artists with the theme of "translation" on March 21; Slow Art Day is Saturday, April 4, from 11 to 1, during which museums across the world have slow-looking tours and slow art demonstrations "to take a bit more time to look more closely and think a little deeper"; and the 10th Teen Invitational on April 11 and 12. 
"This is a true communal effort with lots of funding from local generous donors and tons of hard work by our team and the education department and art fab and the payoff is extraordinary," said Thompson. "It has the feeling of a really fun sporting event at the end of the day, with kids cheering on their friends and yelping and hooting and it's a really celebratory, great event."
It also shows the effects of institutions like Mass MoCA and the Clark Art and local art education staff in the region, he said. "You see it right there on the wall."
Also on tap are Gregory Maqoma and Vuyani Dance Theatre from South Africa with "Cion: Requiem of Ravel's Boléro"; the return of the documentary series beginning Feb. 13 on Thursdays with the theme "What's at Stake"; singer/songwrite Treya Lam on March 14; comedian Becca Blackwell on March 7; Roger Miller blending classical and rock music on March 28; and the live podcast "Criminal" with host Phoebe Judge on Feb. 22.
Mark Stewart and Karen Curlee will perform a show inspired by a Cole Porter anecdote in the more intimate space of Studio 9, the new building at the Porches, on May 2. The story came from Killam, who worked for the late Philip Hart at Hart's Pharmacy in Williamstown. Hart told her that Porter, who had a home in Williamstown for 30 years, wanted to hang out in his storeroom one day because he was looking for the name of a drug. 
"Which he did and came up, potentially, I'm just saying, with the drug cocaine as in 'I get a kick out of,'" she said. "So that's my whole story. True story. So Phil Hart is no longer around so he can't prove or deny it. ...
"And I told that story to Mark and Karen and they were like, we absolutely want to do that. And then Studio 9 became interested in having us do some programming there and we thought it was perfect acoustically and an incredible gem."
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