July 11, 2018
Above, Debo Band performs for the crowd during a DownStreet Art Thursday event. Below (from top), outside one of the art galleries, a visitor creates some street art, and Danny-O’s rainbow-painted piano.
This summer’s DownStreet Art (DSA) season goes beyond a celebration of art: The festivities commemorate the progress that North Adams has made through the initiative’s partnerships with new businesses, galleries, tourists, and residents, as the city enjoys continued cultural growth.
A program of the College’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC), DownStreet Art began as a series of storefront art installations and art destinations in summer 2008. Since then, more than 150,000 people have visited DownStreet Art galleries and exhibits. As this MCLA initiative grew in popularity, size, and scope, temporary galleries became permanent cultural venues that drew art enthusiasts, and attracted additional new businesses to the area.
Beyond artist Danny-O’s rainbow-painted piano that attracts musicians of all abilities to its location outside of MCLA’s Design Lab on Main Street, or the numerous new gallery exhibition openings, concerts, and art-making opportunities that will be featured at DSA Thursday events this year – the 11th DownStreet Art season centers on the initiative’s successes, new partnerships, and a plethora of positive changes that have been realized throughout the downtown as a result of DownStreet Art, according to BCRC Director Michelle Daly.
“Instead of helping people see the opportunities that were available downtown, we now have local artists, creative practitioners, and entrepreneurs who are building businesses,” Daly explained. “Some have pre-existing relationships with DownStreet Art and the BCRC, but others are capitalizing on the vibrancy of North Adams, and we are working on ways to partner with new galleries and creative businesses to bring them into the DownStreet Art family.”
Boston artist Anna Farrington is but one example. Drawn to North Adams’ art scene, last year the graphic designer purchased and then renovated a building downtown to create the new “Installation Space” art gallery, at 49 Eagle St. It presented its first exhibition in May.
Over on Ashland Street, Outside Gallery – which started as a temporary DownStreet Art project three years ago – now is one of nine permanent gallery spaces downtown, which also include Gravity Gallery on Eagle Street, and Ferrin Contemporary Gallery on the MASS MoCA campus.
“At least in part, DownStreet Art is why they are here in North Adams,” Daly said. “It’s that attention to the creative scene and the cultural economy that DownStreet Art brings. There’s a cultural scene that happens beyond MASS MoCA which we can attribute to DownStreet Art over its 10 years of existence. We’re beginning to see the long-term results of that work.”
Behind it all have been MCLA faculty, staff, students, as well as alumni. Together, along with local residents, the College community works in support of DownStreet Art in myriad roles as they manage spaces and programs.
Daly added, “Other spaces have come and gone over the years, but these are spaces that are operating year round, and that are building their own rosters of artists who are part of this creative ecosystem, where we all are bringing something a little bit different to the table. What that represents as a whole is this really robust, cultural activity that is happening here.”
This season, DSA Thursday attendees will have more opportunities than ever before to create their own artwork through a series of activities that are centralized on Holden Street. Also new is a season-long sound installation which features a recently created score based on the first movie that was screened at the Mohawk Theatre back in 1938.
DSA Thursday events will continue on July 26, Aug. 30, and Sept. 27. For a complete listing of DSA art installations and performances, as well as more information about upcoming events, go to http://downstreetart.org, or follow DSA on Facebook and Instagram at @downstreetart.