DownStreet Art Draws a Crowd
The downtown's new benches were popular.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — DownStreet Art kicked off its third year with another successful launch on Thursday.
Some 37 galleries, double the number of the freshman year, opened to the hundreds of visitors drawn downtown. There was music at both ends of the street and people lingered in the restaurants and — on the benches.
It's not graffiti, it's a sign of the times.
The long-anticipated benches arrived earlier in the day and were quickly installed along the south side of the streets. They were rarely empty and aided the flow of people along the main drag. In the past, people have tended to cluster at both ends of the street: around the Berkshire Bank plaza up to Holden Street and again around the gallery at 107 Main.
The benches weren't the only changes — bright green footsteps led the way east along the sidewalk with the occasional "Art This Way" signs to keep people going in the right direction. But the sight of some young people stenciling the sidewalk Thursday morning led to several calls to City Hall reporting graffiti.
Expect to see more sidewalk art because once completed, the footsteps will mark a trail from Mass MoCA to Main. There's also plans for signs (and maybe even some footprints) on the pillars of the Veterans Memorial Bridge if the state gives the OK. The idea is to make sure motorists and Mass MoCA visitors know where the art is.
What else can we say? One fellow we ran into was driving by and wondered what everyone was doing out. "I stopped and all these art galleries were open."
That's pretty much the point — giving people a reason to stop.
Who was out and about last night? Find out here.
Tangiers: Going, Going, Gone
Customers thought the little boats in the windows of Tangiers meant owner Barbara May was going vacation.
Barbara May had to change the signs in the window of Tangiers Boutique the other day. She'd put some little sailboats in the window of the Main Street store with signs saying "going, going, gone" and a final note telling customers the shop would close on June 30.
"People were coming in and asking when we were going to reopen," she said on Tuesday. "[Because of the boats] they thought we were going on vacation."
If it's a vacation, it's a permanent one. The tanning salon and gift shop is over and done on June 30 and a new sign makes it quite clear it's not a vacation: "Finished, closing for good, over & done, kaput."
"Our cookie has crumbled," May repeated. "And our ship has sailed."
The salon's struggled to stay open over the past few years. May nearly called it quits in fall 2008, but a last-minute lease renegotiation and an outpouring of support kept the doors open. She'd considered a move to Eagle Street — but the building burned down.
"We tried to be optimistic," she said, but the economic downturn over the past year was too much. "We can't outlast it.
"We tried to donate to the community and we tried to be there creating jobs and supporting things that's why owning a small business is so much fun," she continued. "We just hope that everybody that came here enjoyed it. We had wonderful time and we'll miss it."
The boutique is having a going out-of-business sale; May said the fixtures are also for sale. Its closure leaves yet another empty storefront on Main Street.
|Tags: Tangiers, closing|
The Benches are Coming, The Benches Are Coming!
Benches, benches, benches. Perhaps no other word has caused so much agitation and pontificating in North Adams over the past two decades.
It's a been a perfunctory question of City Council candidates (Are you now or have you ever been a supporter of benches?) and perennial topic at election time. And yet, no benches.
There were seats — rather ugly slatted things really — that were installed as part of (shudder) urban renewal. They were yanked from Main Street sometime in the not-too-distant past over concerns they were magnets for loitering teens and drug deals. While former Mayor John Barrett III occassionally opined that there was no law against benches, he wasn't a fan — so no benches.
Until now. The new Develop North Adams group ordered 10 benches on May 8; they're expected to arrive in the next week or so with the first to be installed at Veterans Memorial Park in time for Memorial Day.
"I'm excited about the benches," said former City Councilor Vincent Melito on Thursday. "I think a lot of people have wanted to have benches here. It's symbolic of a new age for the community. This is a new administration with whole new ideas."
Melito's been a longtime advocate for benches in the downtown, and even started a fund nearly 15 years ago to buy new ones. "I started the North Adams Bench Fund, it's in one of the banks, mostly small donations from around the Berkshires."
The relationship between Barrett and Melito was, at best, testy, and the funds were never used for a North Adams bench. One large donation was returned but some of the rest was spent on a bench that's at Plunkett School in Adams, in recognition of the many Adams donors. "Where was overwhelming support for the idea," said Melito.
The new mayor, Richard Alcombright, has been a proponent of benches, saying at a forum in February they would "bring a perception of the downtown as a vibrant, warm and receptive area."
The former councilor is reviving the North Adams Bench Fund, which now has about $500, to join in the new greenspace initiative being launched by Develop North Adams. The initial amount will be in honor of the North Berkshire residents who donated, the rest in recognition of a local family. Develop North Adams has been taking donations for the benches, which cost about $1,000.
"It's really exciting and people will apprecitate having a place to sit," said Melito, reporting how store owner had told him of an elderly woman they'd taken inside to wait for a taxi because there was nowhere to sit on Main Street. "North Adams is one of the few cities that doesn't have any benches."
City Launching Development Association
The formation of a new business association in the city is being announced Thursday afternoon.
Mayor Richard Alcombright and Brian Miksic, president of Axiom Multimedia and a member of the board of directors of the new group, will talk about the initiative on Thursday, April 29, at 1 next to Persnickety Toys.
Develop North Adams Inc. will be a private development corporation (it does not yet appear in the state's corporate database) "focused on growing and promoting businesses in North Adams," according to a release from the mayor's office.
The group is an outgrowth of talks between city officials, local businesses, cultural and educational entities and former members of the old Downtown Development Inc. to spur creation of a local association to take on marketing and development for the city. It's been merged with the grass-roots NorthAdamsIdeas.com, a Web site created shortly after Alcombright was elected last fall to allow residents to share ideas. The site is now "Develop North Adams."
The first initiative out of the Web site is the Community Day of Service on Saturday that will bring residents and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts students together to work and socialize. DNA (like those initials for a rejuvenation group) will presumably also work with the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce on North Adams-specific projects. Merchants have complained over the lack of a city association after the Northern Berkshire Chamber merged with the larger Berkshire Chamber some years ago.
Chamber President Michael Supranowicz will be a member of the new DNA board, as will Miksic.
Also on board are Blair Benjamin Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; Tom Bernard of Massachusetts College of Liberal Art; Seven Blakeman, photographer and owner of the Elf Parlor; City Councilor Michael Boland; City Councilor Keith Bona of Bona Marketing; David Carver of Scarafoni Associates; Lois Daunis of Papyri Books John DeRosa of Freedman, DeRosa & Rondeau; Ryley Gaudreau of Edward Jones; retired MCLA administrator Steve Green; Paul Hopkins of Northern Berkshire Healthcare; Mary Morrow of MountainOne Financial Partners and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce; artist and real estate developer Eric Rudd; and Jonathan Secor of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.
|Tags: Develop North Adams|
Antiques Shop to Open on Main
Crafty Creations was closed last week while the wall between 68 and 63 Main St. was opened up.
Wondering about that working going on at 63 Main St. in the Empire Building? That's the preparation for Empire Antiques, which is opening in the former Suncatcher Glass studio. We hear the opening could be this week.
The antique shop's a bit of a collaborative venture. It's going to be owned by James Montepare (who was issued a antiques dealer license from the City Council last month) but share an accessway with Crafty Creations.
A doorway's been opened up between the adjoining spaces. Creations, now in its sixth year, will help manage sales for the antiques side for Montepare, who's the city superintendent of schools. Montepare has been selling his pieces at a couple other locations.
The two spaces combined will come to about 4,000 square feet, making the two shops the largest retail space on the sunny side of the street.
Suncatcher was operated by Anna Kronick for several years. Kronick's known for her beautiful stained-glass and papercut work. We hear she's planning a career change by will still be creating beautiful items at home.
Oops, Creations is the name of the store. I just can't get that old Crafty part out of my head.