Community: What’s New In North Adams
Painted piano by Danny O.
You’re already familiar with the expansion of MASS MoCA and the debut of Tourists thanks to the buzz each has garnered in major national news outlets. We introduced you to Bright Ideas, The Museum of Dog, and ROAM Gallery, and informed you just last week about what Greylock WORKS has been up to. But that doesn’t even come close to covering all the exciting developments happening throughout the Berkshires’ littlest city.
“There’s so much going on, it’s amazing and exhausting,” says Michelle Daly, director of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC). The Center is a collaboration of the College, MASS MoCA and the City of North Adams, and serves as a de facto welcoming committee for artists moving to town. They make it easier for newcomers to open galleries, collaborate with others, exhibit their work, rent studio space, and basically add to the region’s economy.
BCRC’S two main programs are DownStreet Art (DSA), held on the last Thursday of the month from June through September, and MCLA Gallery 51. DSA is a “gallery-walk-meets-street-party,” featuring opening receptions, live music, surprise performances and opportunities for the community to create together. The gallery, located on Main Street (the city’s walkable main thoroughfare), hosts 10 exhibits a year, featuring emerging and mid-career contemporary artists.
Right next door is Design Lab, the MCLA’s multi-purpose space and mini creative hub, which has been used for IS183 art classes and camps, programs for schoolteachers, and concerts, most recently by Kimya Dawson of The Moldy Peaches (presented by North Adams’ own Sounds & Tones). This month, Design Lab’s window exhibition features local artist Sarah Okamura.
Three of the city’s newest galleries — outside, Installation Space and Gravity Gallery — will hold openings during DownStreet Art this Thursday, July 26. Open to view anytime are the city’s many public murals, and two pianos that are part of the Berkshire Music School’s Painted Piano Project and auction. MCLA’s donation was painted by artist Danny O and can be seen (and played) outside Gallery 51. The other, by Keith Bona, sits near the town library.
Another new addition to downtown is the crowd-funded Eagle Street parklet, a tiny park intended to improve the look and function of this historic one-way road. Spearheaded by The NAMAzing Initiative, the parklet holds Friday morning “coffee dates” with free coffee and donuts, where neighbors can get to know each other. Some of the “dates” host elected officials or those currently running for office.
Common Folk, a roving collective of artists, has no permanent home base, but pops up around town via house shows, concerts at The Green (a multipurpose community space on Main Street) and other locales, workshops, lectures, art sales, poetry open mics, festivals at Windsor Lake… there seems to be nothing these folk can’t do.
Some of the most exciting new attractions coming to North Adams this summer are in the form of restaurants, namely A-oK Berkshire Barbeque and Bowlin’ on the River. A-oK, soon to be opening on the MASS MoCA campus, is the new venture by North Adams transplants Aaron Oster (a butcher) and Alex Oster (a baker). The two Bright Ideas bartenders are in the process of moving into a space directly across from the brewery. MoCA concertgoers recently have been able to preview the goods — brisket, ribs, baked beans and cole slaw — from a mobile smoker in the parking lot before shows. But, after getting a taste, we can’t wait for the full takeaway menu to become available on a regular basis.
Bowlin’ on the River is Museum of Dog owner David York’s latest foray into the food world. Located at 20 Marshall Street (the former home of Brew Ha-Ha, which is now at 437 W. Main Street), diners will get to choose their own bowl-fillers from a list of noodles, quinoa, greens, proteins, veggies, fruit and soups. The spot also will offer coffee and baked goods.
Joining DeMarsico’s at the mill is Freia Yarns, recently relocated from San Francisco, and Belltower Records. When Williamstown’s long-beloved Toonerville Trolley record store shut its doors earlier this year, Belltower owners Wes Nelson Andrea Belair bought the backstock and will open their new store with a concert this Sunday, July 29, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
“We know that there have been several occasions where it’s been North Adams’ ‘time to shine,’” admits Daly, alluding to the fact that it’s taken the city a while to come into its own again. But we agree with her that summer 2018 has really gotten the ball rolling.
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