'Transcend: Art As Activism in the Occupy Movement' at Branch Gallery Will Open Thursday, Aug. 30


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - "Transcend: Art as Activism in the Occupy Movement," a new exhibit, will open at Branch Gallery on Thursday, Aug. 30, 6-9 p.m., as part of Downstreet Art Thursday. It will feature works of various mediums created by Occupy Wall Street (OWS) art working groups, as well as individual artists.

The public is invited to take part in "chalkupation," on Thursday, Aug. 30, 6-9 p.m. Visitors will be encouraged to respond to a prompt question using chalk as their medium on nearby sidewalks near both entrances.

The event is free, open to the public, and all are welcome to participate as part of the DownStreet Art celebration.

The title of the show is in reference to a Howard Zinn essay titled, "Artists in Times of War," who made the point that people should utilize their skills and resources to contribute to society and involve oneself in politics. It also speaks to artists, who have a unique ability to combine ideas to transcend the immediate and the conventional to show what can be possible.

Taking back public space in the form of harmless chalk drawing and writing has been used frequently in the movement, but has been met with disproportionate police response and even arrest in some cities like New York and, most recently, Los Angeles. This sort of counter-response by officials has prompted many actions of solidarity such as this across the country in support of first amendment rights.

"Transcend" is curated by Occupy activist, artist and former MCLA student Emily Breunig, who seeks to create opportunities for other political artists to share their work in a supportive environment.

"Bringing Occupy ideas to communities like North Adams, in hopes they will relate as I have, is an important next step in creating awareness of the big issues," Breunig said. "The art that has come out of the movement is engaging and informative and I hope those who visit walk away inspired or have learned something." 

Breunig creates artist books made of fliers, stickers and other hand-out ephemera from Occupy events and gatherings. She also works with the OWS Screen Printers Guild and Co-op, and will have patches, shirts and other wares for sale in the gallery. Screen printing demonstrations will be held on Sept. 8 and 22, as well as Oct. 13 and 27, at 1 p.m. These events all are open to the public, who are encouraged to bring T-shirts to be printed on, if they wish.

A few regional artists will be featured in the exhibit, including Lodiza LaPare who has taken portraits of local residents who identify as part of the 99 percent. A working group out of Brooklyn called "The Peoples Puppets" creates sculptural figures and scenes. They have performed skits in parks and while riding subway cars, and have become a staple presence in marches. They will loan at least two props for the exhibit. Photography from a few artists will be featured as well, with the subject matter of their photos illustrating even more creative endeavors from around the Northeast.

There also will be a "People's Free Library," an open resource center of books, pamphlets and other resources free for considerate taking. This effort was a beloved facet of most physical occupations and temporary libraries continued to pop up at events even after eviction. Donations of gently used books are welcome during business hours.

"Transcend: Art as Activism in the Occupy Movement" will be on view through Oct. 25.

Branch Gallery is at 18 Holden St. in North Adams and is open Fri.10-6, Sat.10-6 and Sun.10-4. For more information, go to