Downstreet Art 2012 to Feature Murals Throughout the City


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Public art has never been so public in North Adams. DownStreet Art kicks off its fifth season on Thursday, June 28, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Now in its fifth year, DownStreet Art continues to use the art and culture of the City of North Adams as a catalyst for economic growth and stability.

Since its inception, DownStreet Art has brought tens of thousands of new visitors to the downtown area. It has directly created three new permanent businesses and has been the facilitator for many others.

Due to the continued success of DownStreet Art and other efforts to attract and retain year-round business to downtown North Adams, the number of empty stores available for "pop-up" galleries is at its lowest.

 "This is the good news," said Jonathan Secor, director of special programs for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA). "The goal all along has been to put ourselves out of the temporary gallery business. While we once again will open five pop-up galleries for four months, this  also has pushed us to think in new directions."

Along with the gallery openings and other festivities on June 28, there will be the opening of the "Mural Project," in which four large-scale public murals will be painted on buildings throughout downtown North Adams.

The murals, which will be unveiled over the course of the summer, will remain in the City to greet visitors and passersby alike for years to come. Five new, indoor galleries also will be part of this season's offerings.

"DownStreet Art has always been a public art project aimed at revitalizing downtown North Adams," explained Secor. "Up until now, our public art has all been done in private spaces. This year, we're going to do public art in public spaces."

This season's DownStreet Art curatorial committee - represented by curators and staff from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), The Clark Art Institute, Mount Holyoke Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, Ferrin Gallery, and MCLA Gallery 51 -received dozens of applications for gallery spaces, as well as submissions for the murals.  From the submissions, the committee chose four large-scale, public mural projects to be unveiled over the next four months on DownStreet Art's Last Thursday Celebration events.

"For each mural, the artist or artists will spend a month doing the installation, 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, but the excitement of witnessing the creation process itself," Secor said.

The five new galleries will include what Secor calls one of the more unusual settings for a gallery: the long entry hallway of the yet-to-be-reopened Mohawk Theatre.

"As the City continues to bring life back to the theatre, we were asked if we would use the entry way as a location to showcase artwork," Secor said. "As result, along with keeping the theatre's doors open Wednesday through Sunday, visitors will be able to look into the theatre. So, it's a double treat; the opportunity to look at art and the chance to view the shell of an art deco theatre from the early 1900s."

Joining DownStreet Art for the fifth year, Kidspace at MASS MoCA has commissioned artist Victoria Palermo to create art on the bus stop in the center of Main Street. Her new public artwork will be unveiled on Thursday, June 28.

Also on Thursday, June 28, DSA will officially "unveil" and celebrate the work of Muralismo Publico, an artist co-op group from Vitoria, Spain, known throughout the world for its murals. The artists will create a highly visible mural on the back of the Mohawk Theatre.

According to the artists, their mural will "reflect the meaning of change in any human context" as they believe that the "concept of change today is an important and central component of the mural because it is an opportunity to transform and improve society."

The second mural will be completed by Thursday, July 26, by Maya Hayuk. Drivers on Route 2 who are coming into or passing over North Adams will have the opportunity to view the mural, which will be on the side of the Juvenile Court Building, on a wall that faces this busy route.

Embracing sexuality and spirituality via symbolism evocative of radiantly woven geometries and beckoning parted orifices of the body, Hayuk's work aims to decode a process towards continuity and wholeness while striking chords of an almost pathological optimism.

Along with her massive mural installations, Hayuk frequently collaborates with other artists and musicians. She has made a variety of art inspired by music to support musicians that can be seen on album covers, videos, and stage sets for Rye Rye/M.I.A, The Akron Family, TV on the Radio, The Flaming Lips, Devendra Banhardt, Seun Kuti, Prefuse 73, Awesome Color, Oakley Hall, Home, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon and The Beastie Boys, among others.

On Thursday, Aug. 30, artist Mike Lewis of Lewis Acrylics will unveil his mural on the Curran Highway underpass, adjacent to Hayuk's mural. 

Lewis is an artist who lives in Portland, Maine. He recently visited North Adams and MASS MoCA and found many similarities between Western Massachusetts and where he grew up in Lewis County, N.Y.  As a result of the similarities between the two landscapes, he decided to submit a proposal for a mural for DownStreet Art.