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SEVENTH ANNUAL DOWNSTREET ART TO OPEN JUNE 26

06/04/2014

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' (MCLA) Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) will kick off the Seventh Annual DownStreet Art summer public arts festival on Thursday, June 26, from 4 to 9 p.m., with the opening of nine new exhibitions, the unveiling of a new, 60-foot-long mural created by Egyptian artist Alaa Awad, as well as pop-up performances and other happenings throughout downtown North Adams. New galleries opening for this DownStreet Art season include Gallery 107 and two new spaces in the concourse at 85 Main St. - the CONcourse Gallery and the DIScourse Gallery, and new exhibitions at the Adams Community Bank Gallery, a new gallery at Mountain One Bank, and the first peek at the newly opened Rudd Art Museum at the former First United Methodist Church on Main Street.

The work of dozens of artists will be featured throughout this season, including John Michael Byrd, Julia Forrest, Leah Grimaldi O'Ryan, Doug Paisley and Angela McQuillan, as well as graduates of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Collective, and members of ArtDorm, an arts collective comprised of artists working at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) and new to North Adams: Katherine Agard, Jane Burns, Lauren Clark, Thomas Huston, James Mattise and Olympia Shannon.

Attracted by the opportunities offered by a world-class art museum and a monastic environment conducive to creating new work, the six artists that make up ArtDorm are eager to connect with their new community.

In addition to the mural to be created by Awad, DownStreet Art will present a second public mural by artist Corwin Levi, as well as window installations by Michael Chapman and Brandon Graving throughout downtown North Adams, and a new wall drawing by North Adams artist Jarvis Rockwell.

"Recently listed as the number-two city for young people to live in on PolicyMic's '15 Cities for Creative 20-Somethings That Aren't New York or Los Angeles' list, North Adams is fast becoming the go-to destination for artists, art lovers and all those that fall in between," said Jonathan Secor, BCRC director. "We hope to build on this enthusiasm by continuing to define North Adams as not only a cultural destination for the weekend, but as a place to live and work with other young creatives."

This summer's events, which are free and open to the public, will include multiple gallery openings on the last Thursday every month through Sept. 26, performances and other activities, as the BCRC offers another summer of public art and continues to help define downtown North Adams as a cultural destination.

DownStreet Art was recognized this year by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as a select organization to receive the newly created "Art Works" grant, which supports "the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts."

NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa said, "The NEA is pleased to announce that DownStreet Art 2014 has been awarded an NEA Art Works grant. This NEA- supported project will not only have a positive impact on the local economy, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our community to become more vibrant, and support our nation's artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape."

The past six years have seen increased foot traffic in downtown North Adams as more than 200,000 people came downtown for DownStreet Art. In addition, increased sales - both of art from galleries and purchases at other establishments - led to the opening of multiple, year-round businesses in downtown North Adams.

Awad, whose mural will be revealed on Thursday, June 26, on the 60-foot stretch of the Route 2 Overpass, facing Center Street and the existing mural by Maya Hayuk, is a painter and muralist who engages ancient Egyptian motifs to describe~contemporary political and social realities.
 
A 2004 graduate of Luxor's Faculty of Fine Arts, Awad teaches in its department of mural painting, and has participated in multiple shows in Egypt and abroad.

According to artist and MCLA Gallery 51 Manager Julia Morgan-Leamon, who has worked with him in Cairo, Awad's work is colorful, readable, spirited and often tells a story. While of Egyptian origin, his characters tell stories about the struggle for social justice, accountability and balance.

Beginning on Saturday, June 7, and running through June 29, the Eclipse Mill Gallery, 243 Union St., will present "Hiding in Plain Sight." This exhibit will feature Jacquard tapestries by artist Betty Vera. An opening reception - which is free and open to the public - will take place on June 7, 6-8 p.m.

Five new exhibitions will open on June 26, including "Read Me: Artist's Books, Altered Books and Related Installations," at the DIScourse Gallery. There, artist Nava Atlas will incorporate elements of his writing, as well as appropriated text with found images and materials, artist's books and altered books which explore social justice issues and how language and media are used to perpetuate unsustainable cultural norms and negative stereotypes.

Also, the PRESS Gallery will present an exploration of creative and academic identities by MCLA Hardman Family Grant recipient Alke Groppel-Wegener and invited artists in "What's Your Mantra?"

And, in the Brill Gallery at the Eclipse Mill on Union Street, photographs celebrating the Hudson River, "Nude Maidens," are on display through Nov. 1. Nude maidens appeared in the earliest maps of the Hudson Valley as a way of enticing European men to start a new life at Fort Orange in Albany, N.Y., in the 1600s. The photographs which represent the 315 miles of the Hudson River include those by Leonard Freed, Dave Foss, Dan McCormack and Herb Chong.

In the MountainOne Bank Gallery, the work of photographer Ian Grey will be displayed in "Welcome to North Adams."
 
Grey, an award-winning photographer, print maker and author who lives and works in Berkshire County, is self-taught. In 2008, he was awarded the Grand Prize in (camera maker) Sigma's national Faces in Nature contest. Since 2005, he has freelanced as a photojournalist with newspapers throughout Massachusetts, including the Berkshire Eagle and Boston Herald.

In the CONcourse Gallery, "Confidence Man" also will open on June 26. Artist Doug Paisley's show aims to conjure the period when author Herman Melville wrote his books in Pittsfield, Mass.

During this "period of confidence," Paisley said, North Adams and towns like it were propelled into a modern industrial economy, as well as a period of booms and busts, that may have seemed perilous.

"In this light, Melville's last novel, 'The Confidence Man,' may be read as a prophecy," Paisley said. "In sympathy with the memory-laden and often lovely physical inheritance of the mills and stores of historic North Adams that we seek to revitalize as contemporary cultural capital, it seems worth reflecting on the mythologies and legacies of those times as we move forward into our own."

Also starting on June 26 and running through Aug. 21, local artist Eric Rudd will present "Figuring In," depictions of the human form by various regional artists in the Rudd Art Museum, 159 E. Main St. There, five decades of Rudd's artwork, as well as rotating exhibits by various artists, will be on display.

In addition, the NAACO Gallery, at the corner of 33 Main St., will show a rotating exhibit through Sept. 25.

In the Eclipse Mill Gallery from July 5-27, will be "Evolution: Lexan Works 1989" by Marjorie Minkin. An opening reception, free and open to the public, will be held on July 12, 6-8 p.m.

On July 31, DownStreet Art will present the second new mural of the summer, on the Route 2 Overpass at the St. Anthony Parking lot, facing MASS MoCA.

According to artist Corwin Levi, "I see the void not as an emptiness where everything is merely possible, but as a space where everything is both possible and has already occurred. As individuals, though, we only see the void in occasional glimpses. We can use these flashes to spark us to creation, but must work through the actual creating ourselves. The void is a personal space to each of us where our creativity and power exist and from which we can see, in moment, the wonders of which we are capable."

Gallery openings on July 31 include "Nature as Medicine" at the PRESS Gallery, which will feature work by Jaoek Lee and Erika Radich, artists who examine the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature.

In Gallery 107 on July 31, a group exhibition curated by Angela McQuillan, "Growth and Decay," will feature six artists who work in diverse mediums with roots in biomorphism, or art that refers to or evokes living forms. The show will aim to explore the dialog between the structured organization and order of systems in a state of development and growth, contrasted with the chaotic nature of decomposition and the breaking down of components during their inevitable decline and decay.

In the CONcourse Gallery on July 31, artist Julia Forrest will present "Illusion." Using a medium-format film camera and no digital manipulation, she creates an illusion within the lens.

Forrest is inspired by Pictorialist photographers and how they create a purely photographic reality in their images. Shooting in black and white, she makes a historical reference to this period. She uses Infrared film to emphasize the grain and to create a more surreal and distant reality, and challenges the notion of the landscape.

"Reiko Fujinami + Friends: The New Artists from Asia" will be on display in the Eclipse Mill Gallery Aug 2-19. The public is invited to attend a free opening reception on Aug. 2, 6-8 p.m.

And, from Aug. 22 through Sept. 7, the Eclipse Mill will present "The Collaboration," mixed media by Jim Peters and Kathline Carr. A free opening reception will be held on Aug. 23, 6-8 p.m., and the public is invited to attend.

On Aug. 28, local artist Jarvis Rockwell will unveil his latest wall drawing, created over the summer, in the concourse at 85 Main St.  A well-known artist in North Adams, Rockwell has been represented in DownStreet Art since its inception.

Also on Aug. 28, the PRESS Gallery will present "Double Bubble Print Portfolio," prints by 18 artists who live or work within a 40-mile radius of Troy, N.Y., and from Bennington, Vt., that reflect the theme of "Double Bubble."

In addition, Gallery 107 will present the work of the Vermont College of Fine Arts' summer 2014 graduates.

According to their artists' statement, "Singularly, we are strong artists and progressive thinkers - converging initially for the sake of a quality educational experience. What we have become is a collective, a unified body of artists who convene, collaborate, and converse in a way that extends beyond our scholastic responsibilities to professional artistic engagement and social practice."

In the CONcourse Gallery on Aug. 28, a two-person show with artists John Michael Byrd and Leah Grimaldi O'Ryan will be on display.

According to Byrd, his paintings center on an internal struggle for genuine existence. "The pieces I create are a representation of marginalization and its residual effects. Anxiety, exertion, humor and material vulnerability help form a fragmented matrix that serves as a tool to arrive at a more honest, wholly negotiated existence," he said.

O'Ryan creates soft sculptures - more accurately, soft toys - that are intended to invoke conflicted feelings, not only by looking at them, but also by touching them. "They are dirty, but comfortable like an old toy. They are shaped like body parts and organs, but feel like teddy bears," she said.

Lastly, on Sept. 25, the PRESS Gallery will present "Paper Dresses."

DownStreet Art is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Culture Resource Center, partnering with the City of North Adams, Develop North Adams, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Orbit Visual Graphic Design. The program is made possible through lead sponsorship support provided by Excelsior and Greylock Federal Credit Union.

DownStreet Art 2014 will run through Sept. 30.

For more information about DownStreet Art events and the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, go to www.downstreetart.org and www.mcla.edu/bcrc.

For downloadable photos, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/bcrc/sets/72157644999186234.