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June 9, 2015

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — DownStreet Art (DSA), a program of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ (MCLA) Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), returns on Thursday, June 25, with a kick-off celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. The evening will include permanent and pop-up gallery exhibition openings, performances, community events, and a free concert on Main Street featuring “Fantastic Negrito,” the winner of National Public Radio’s (NPR) Tiny Desk Concert Contest.

This year’s DownStreet Art initiative, which will run through Thursday, Sept. 24, will focus on the theme of community connections, and will bring the work of more than 50 visual artists to pop-up galleries in solo and group exhibitions.

“This kick-off celebration is going to be fantastic,” said Jennifer Crowell, BCRC director. “We are thrilled Fantastic Negrito will perform at our opening celebration to kick off a summer full of fantastic arts programming with something for everyone – from the most casual of arts observer, to professional artists and curators, and everyone in-between.”

Berkshire native Xavier Dphrepaulezz, who performs under the moniker “Fantastic Negrito,” moved with his family to Oakland, Calif., at the age of 12.  A Bay Area resident, Dphrepaulezz won NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Contest in February, beating out more than 7,000 submissions.

He describes his music as “songs born from a long hard life channeled through black roots music.”

A fan of NPR’s music programming, especially the Tiny Desk Concert series, BCRC Program Coordinator Michelle Daly immediately was taken with the raw energy of Fantastic Negrito’s entry, and asked him to kick off this year’s DownStreet Art season. 

This year, DownStreet Art’s focus will be on the connection between the work of BCRC and the Northern Berkshire community, as the initiative celebrates the artistic and creative energy found in this region, which helps to build community and enlivens the downtown, Crowell said.

DownStreet Arts partnered with several groups – Commonfolk Artist Collective, Teen Summer Residency at MASS MoCA, Assets for Artists, Project eLEVate, and others to bring community-based projects to life this summer.

Daly, who also is a visual artist, will create “ReVision,” a participatory public art project that will be unveiled on June 25,and remain open throughout the 2015 DownStreet Art season.

“As BCRC program coordinator I have gained a lot of insight into the strategic conversations and future plans for North Adams,” Daly said. “As the community looks forward, I was interested in leading an art project as a creative way to reflect on the historic blue collar roots of North Adams, and to encourage everyone to think about an ideal North Adams future.”

“This really cool, participatory chalkboard arts project is a way for residents and visitors to share their vision for North Adams, and what they think the future should or could hold for it,” Crowell said.

ReVision will invite residents and visitors to share their vision of a future North Adams. Responses will be documented throughout the summer, shared via social media, and presented to the City of North Adams at the closing celebration on Sept. 25.

In addition to MCLA Gallery 51 and the PRESS gallery, DownStreet Art will operate two large pop-up gallery spaces this summer, “Neck of the Woods Gallery” at 87 Main St., and “C Gallery” at 33 Main St. In addition, DownStreet Art will collaborate with Commonfolk Artist Collective, which will operate “Common Place Gallery” this summer, also at 87 Main St.

Four “DownStreet Art Thursdays” will take place – on June 25, July 30, Aug. 27 and Sept. 24.

Pop-up galleries to open on June 25 will include a retrospective, “Into the Valley of Hands,” by local artist Joshua Fields; a group exhibition, “Convergence,” comprised of 13 artists who are part of the Assets for Artists Program; as well as “Sky Walk,” by Pioneer Valley artist Chris Page.

The Common Place Gallery – curated by Commonfolk Artist Collective – will present “Stained and Blown,” a group exhibition of local glass artists.

In a downtown pocket park, artist Pete Cormier’s “Liminal Chimes” will be displayed from June through late September. His installation celebrates the liminal space that exists between art and nature, fantasy and reality, and the responsibilities of our daily lives and the lure of a life on the trail.

On July 30, DownStreet Art Thursday will feature a performance and the unveiling of a temporary, outdoor, sight-specific installation by artist Linda Ford.