Street performances at DownStreet Art. See more photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — DownStreet Art opened for its eighth year on Thursday, ushering in a summer of exhibitions and events in the city's downtown and four monthly downtown openings.
As in the past, empty spaces are being filled with pop-up galleries and studios. But what's new is a targeted approach to help some of these initiatives endure beyond the summer and activities to bring the community and artists closer together.
"We're very excited for what's being planned," said Mayor Richard Alcombright at this year's kickoff. He sees opportunity in the "Meet Your Neighbors" theme of partnering artists and non-artists at community events like the Eagle Street Beach Party. "While I don't have enough imagination to know what this could look like, I do believe it has tremendous potential."
The initiative by the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, a program of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, was designed in 2008 to help revitalize downtown North Adams by bringing artists and empty spaces together. Over the years, the number of spaces available has varied as new businesses and galleries have moved.
This year's new Creative Business Incubator program is designed to encourage sustained presence for new studios and galleries. The program is limited to artists living or working within 20 miles of North Adams, in keeping with the neighborly theme. Each participant is partnered with an MCLA intern to help with their planning as well as local experts.
This year's incubators are Common Folk in its new quarters at the corner of Marshall and Main streets; Butterfly Effect Gallery at 85 Main St. with elementary school teachers Christina King, Cheryl Wildermuth, and Julianne Jock; Thin Walls Studio & Workshop at 87 Main St. (the old McClellands) features Joshua Ostraff, a visiting art instructor at MCLA; and Outside, a small gallery at 10 Ashland St. focusing on emerging artists and currently hosting Amie Cunat's "Moon Nets, Alphabet Letters." All four incubators will run through September.
The mini-success story at this point may be Common Folk, which has been trying to find a home for some time, and took over 87 Main St. last year for a summer of exhibitions, music, spoken word events and more. It's hoping to extend its presence beyond September. At the other end of Main Street, the Berkshire Art Museum is entering its third year and MCLA's Gallery 51 has maintained a presence and since expanded to an adjacent space.
"DownStreet Art has provided certain economic development to the community but really now it's taking on an active role in economic development," said the mayor.
Visitors can now find their way around easily with the newly published Northern Berkshire Cultural Map that shows museums, galleries and sites of interest in and around the downtown and in Williamstown. The collaborative effort between BCRC, Clark Art Institute and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will be available at venues next week.
"This is our opportunity to be really increase the amount of tourism that we have to the arts in North Adams and our partner city, Williamstown," said BCRC Director Jennifer Crowell, adding the region should take advantage of the "cultural corridor" being formed between the two. "We have something to be showing people year-round here. Our culture is year-round and we're trying to let people know that."
The evening also featured a small market on Holden Street and the unveiling of DownStreet Voices, a collaboration between MCLA and Greylock Glass Editor Jason Velazquez. Attendees were invited to sit down at the microphone for a streaming podcast hosted through the Greylock Glass site. Velazquez said the plain plywood booth will be fitted out and decorated for next month's event.
"The beauty of DownStreet Art in my mind is you can do this whether you're a very serious art enthusiast or somone like me, who quite simply sees and appreciates the art and really digs the diversity this brings to the community," said the mayor.
And Crowell made the announcement many have been waiting for: the lineup for the Levitt AMP series that starts in August and runs for 10 weeks.
North Adams was selected along with 14 other communities to receive a $25,000 matching grant to host a free concert series from the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation. Each concert will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Colegrove Park.
The public is invited to bring their own picnics, blankets and lawn chairs to the concerts. Local food and beverage vendors also will be available at the concerts, which will be performed in an open lawn setting at Colegrove Park in North Adams, at the corner of Main and Church streets.
The first of the 10 free concerts will be performed by The Adam Ezra Group, a jam band from New England, who will kick off the series on Sunday, Aug. 14. The series will continue through Oct. 16.
Bella's Bartok, a Bohemian folk rock group from the Pioneer Valley, plays Sept. 4; Olive Tiger, a group that features fiddle, cello and drums, complex rhythms and female vocals, will play on Sept. 11; M Shanghai, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based, bluegrass sextet will take the stage on Sept. 18; and The DuPont Brothers, a brother duo from Vermont known for their guitar melodies and vocals will play on Sept. 25.
In addition, Caitlin Canty, an up-and-coming Americana artist, who is originally from Vermont and the Berkshires, will perform on Oct. 2; singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey will perform on Oct. 9; and the Seratones, a funky, blues-rock group that features a female lead singer will conclude the series on Oct. 16.
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