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Unique Transformation

08/15/2012

While the outdoor murals featured during this summer's DownStreet Art literally have changed the face of North Adams, according to three arts management interns with local, national and international points of view, the City's transformation as a haven for the arts and culture goes much deeper.

In her day-to-day interactions as an intern at PRESS for the Berkshire Hills Internship Program (B-HIP), Sharbreon Plummer of New Orleans, La. (left), speaks to many people who stop by that gallery by after visiting the "Oh, Canada" exhibit at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), or who are making a "pit stop" between other destinations.

"However, after spending some time exploring the galleries and shops on Main Street, they expressed their desire to stay longer, or to come back again," Plummer said. "I think that is what begins to define a place as a hub or haven. You possess something that not only draws people in, but also gives them a reason to come back and bring others with them so they can share in those experiences, as well. For North Adams, that draw is definitely the arts."

Dary Burgos '13 of Lawrence, Mass. (below, right), an arts management major for the past three years, said North Adams has changed much since her freshman year.

"There are more things going on in the City," Burgos said. Through serving an internship at the Office of Tourism and Community Events, "I see that the City is more supportive of art and the community is more likely to be involved in City events, compared to recent years."

ShaoSiong Chia of Singapore (below, left) said, "North Adams is in the middle of an exciting transformation into something that is truly unique.

"From MASS MoCA to Downstreet Art, I think North Adams is a perfect breeding ground for artistic endeavors. The opening of galleries, the sheer number of turnouts at Downstreet Art Thursday and, more crucially, the social discourse about arts and culture in the community - these are all signs of a burgeoning cultural haven," Chia said.

Over the summer, Plummer observed North Adams grow and develop

"The two new murals make a huge impact, for starters. I have personally gotten to interact with the artists that produced both, and they were so impressed to know that a small city in Western Massachusetts could not only appreciate art so much, but also make a valiant effort to educate the public about it."

While MASS MoCA is "an amazing project," those looking for signs of a turnaround in North Adams need look no further than DownStreet Art, Chia pointed out.

"Downstreet Art is all about bringing people and businesses back into the community and making sure that the community is not displaced in a time of great change," he explained. "From a struggling community reeling from the effects of Sprague Electric Company leaving in 1985 to what North Adams is now, all these things don't happen overnight. It takes people with the vision and passion for the community to drive it."

Plummer sees North Adams headed on the right track for revitalization, with art being in the forefront of the economy.

"Take Downstreet Art, for example: many of the galleries provide employment to students or recent graduates that wish to work in the arts," she explained. "There are also opportunities for vendors, musicians, and laborers that would not be possible if these spaces and events did not occupy Main Street.

"Most importantly, I have seen relationships develop between the galleries and local residents. Since the first Downstreet Art opening, I have been encountering more visitors that live in the area and genuinely want to see what we have to offer," Plummer said. "That, in my opinion, is what's most important."

Burgos agreed that the City is going in the right direction. Along with MASS MoCA, mills such as the Beaver and Eclipe mill, DownStreet Art galleries and new exhibits, as well as many other small galleries throughout the community, make North Adams unique, she said. "And I believe it will keep on growing to be better and better."