DownStreet Art is going public like never before. When it kicks off its fifth season on Thursday, June 28, at 5:30 p.m., North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright will unveil the first of four outdoor murals to be created throughout the city by international, national and local artists as part of the "Public Art Mural Project."
"DownStreet Art has always been a public art project to revitalize downtown North Adams. Up until now, our public art has all been done in private spaces. This year, in addition to five new galleries, we're going to do public art in public spaces," said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA.
Representatives from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), The Clark Art Institute, Mount Holyoke Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, the Ferrin Gallery and MCLA Gallery 51 sorted through "dozens and dozens" of applications from around the world, Secor said.
"We've invited some really great artists who are going to bring their art to the public canvas that is North Adams," he said.
For each mural, the artists will spend a month creating a large-scale, public art project. "So, part of the DownStreet Art this summer and fall will not just be the unveilings at the end of each month on DownStreet Art Thursdays: We will be watching the process," Secor said.
The first installation is going strong as the artists with Muralismo Publico of Vitoria, Spain, prepare the wall (above) behind the Mohawk Theatre for the first mural. By the end of this week, volunteer artists -MCLA art students - will start to lend a hand in painting the piece.
"People are stopping by to watch the process. They are excited," Secor said. "I think that North Adams has reached a point in its evolution where we know now that the City is welcoming and wanting art and artists."
In addition to the murals, MASS MoCA's Kidspace has commissioned artist Victoria Palerma to create art on the bus stop in the center of Main Street. This re-imagined pick-up point also will be unveiled at the June 28 opening.
The four murals and the bus stop to be revealed over the course of the summer will remain in the North Adams for residents, visitors and passersby alike to enjoy for years to come.
"We really looked for prominent locations that would be visible both to those who are already in the City and those who just drive by," Secor said.
In addition to the mural behind the Mohawk, another mural will be on Center Street, on the side of the juvenile court building. There, artist Maya Hayuk's artwork will face the Route 2 overpass that brings people to North Adams.
On the underpass, artist Mike Lewis will create a mural inspired by the way in which he says American culture tends to over-complicate life with the products, services and ideologies it suggests we consume.
A mural also will be painted on Holden Street, on the side of the Shima's establishment. There, local artist Melissa Lillie will re-think her work on a larger scale.
"They will be as permanent as anything in life is," Secor said of the murals. "They are meant to be there for many, many years. We may create new ones in four or five years - who knows?"