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Egyptian artist Alaa Awad discusses the nearly 60-foot-long mural based on his Egyptian heritage he is painting on the Center Street side of the overpass.

Down Street Art Season Refocuses on Public Art

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
11:23AM / Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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BCRC Director Jonathan Secor discusses this season of Down Street Art, which kicks off June 26 in North Adams.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Berkshire Cultural Resource Center has presented the new exhibits and galleries that will join Down Street Art throughout the summer.

BCRC Director Jonathan Secor said BCRC will continue to create more activity in downtown North Adams and to instill “economic and social revival.”

“It is about getting people to come downtown to spend money, to keep business open and to help us open new businesses,” said Secor, who said BCRC is responsible for creating four new businesses and they have indirectly helped develop six other businesses.

Secor said there will be a returned focus on public art. He said two new murals will be displayed on both sides of the Route 2 overpass in attempt to draw people into the many galleries downtown.

“We believe the climate is good now and people are very supportive of public art now so we are going full swing back into the mural project,” Secor said.

Egyptian artist Alaa Awad will create a nearly 60-foot-long mural based on his Egyptian heritage on the Center Street side of the overpass. He said he will use symbols, animals and figures to create a story about human peace and conflict.

“In order to understand ourselves as Egyptians, it is important to understand our history and our heritage. ... It will help us to find our past, our present, and our future,” Awad said.  

The mural will be unveiled June 26.

Awad will also have his “Thebes” exhibit in Gallery 51, also opening on June 26.

On the opposite side of the overpass Corwin Levi will paint a mural that will be unveiled in late july.

In addition to the two new murals, Secor said there will be new exhibits throughout the galleries.

Gallery 51 will feature a host of different artists, including work by husband and wife Hidego Okamura and Sarah Farrell Okamura. Although they have very different styles of work and often work alone, they will display both of their work in the gallery.

Hidego Okamura said his work is abstract and void of any tangible images.

“I am interested in ... whatever I put on the canvas without, being in an image, that people are familiar with and see how it visually communicates with people,” he said.

Sarah Farrell Okamura uses more image-based art based on contemporary culture, news, and politics.

“Sometimes abstractions can open up details that you don’t specifically need a language or a background to understand,” she said.

Melanie Mowinski, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts assistant professor of Visual Arts said that there will also be new exhibits in the Press Gallery.

“We are thinking press as an incubator, a place where ideas can generate and where people can contribute their ideas to what we are doing,” Mowinski said.

She said the “Are You Your Mantra” exhibit will allow people to transform a fingerprint image into something that represents their identity.

She mentioned that “Paper Dresses” will also come to the Press gallery. The exhibit features 12 women who must make a dress out of paper that somehow utilizes typography and explore the tension between freedom and confinement.   

Secor said that this season marks the lowest amount of “pop up” or temporary galleries that are part of Down Street Art. However, he said this is both good and bad news because it means many galleries are becoming permanent businesses.

Two new temporary galleries this season are the Discourse and Concourse areas in the 85 Main St. connection building. The galleries will have work from painter Doug Paisley, photographer Julia Forrest and painter Jon Michael Byrd, and Nava Atlas will have an exhibit that “deconstructs and transform the definition of the word book.”

Jarvis Rockwell will be the first “featured muralist” in the concourse.

Gallery 107 will host ArtDORM, which features events and exhibits by a group of young artists who live in North Adams. ArtDORM will open June 26 with a karaoke party.

“As young people here we feel the need for a more lively art community and we want to bring a little more energy and vitality into down town,” ArtDORM member Thomas Huston said.

MountainOne bank will host a gallery and display photos of hummingbirds by Ian Grey. Grey explained that he has been working with the hummingbirds and has trained them to go to the flowers he wants to “create together” in a “magnificent partnership.”

Secor said if all goes as planned, the new Rudd Art Museum In the old Methodist Church will be open for the June 26 kickoff of Down Street Art. The bottom floor will hold Rudd’s work and the upper level will be gallery space.

Independent Art Projects will be a new gallery on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Campus.

In addition, there will work displayed in windows at the Berkshire Eagle Building and various other buildings downtown.

Many of these new installations will be unveiled June 26 during the Down Street Art opening event.

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