Clark Eyes Mass MoCA Location
|Building 12 at Mass MoCA.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mass MoCA and the Clark Art Institute are on the verge of a major step that will redefine the museums' relationship and give the Clark a permanent presence in the city.
The Clark, home of old masters and impressionists, is poised to take over three prominent buildings on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts campus — including Building 12, which carries the eye-catching Mass MoCA sign.
But just what the Williamstown museum plans to do there is still hush-hush. Clark Director Michael A. Conforti and MoCA Director Joseph C. Thompson readily described the undertaking in superlatives but deferred divulging any details until the end of the month.
"We're extremely, extremely excited about the prospects of this significant collaboration which is probably an order of magnitude larger than many significant things we've done already," Thompson said. "Stay tuned for exciting news to come."
Both directors were in attendance at City Hall on Friday morning as the Mass MoCA Commission unanimously approved the long-term leasing of the buildings to the Clark Art — a move Mayor John Barrett III described as a measure of the Clark's commitment to all of Northern Berkshire.
"The investment being made is tantamount to actually owning this particular building," said Mayor John Barrett III, the commission's chairman. "It will also cement a relationship that's been going on for the last several years between MoCA and the Clark Art Institute."
The commission represents the city in overseeing the former Sprague Electric plant; the museum leases the 13-acre property from the city as the Mass MoCA Foundation. Details of the lease were not being released until the Clark's board of trustees could approve it and other requirements could be fulfilled. The buildings are currently unoccupied.
"This is good not just for Mass MoCA but for North Adams and the entire Northern Berkshire County. We can't wait to talk about it," said Thompson.
Conforti called the approval the fourth good bit of news he'd received before 10 a.m. — following on the heels of a laudatory review by The New York Times this morning, that the museum would appear on CBS Sunday morning and that 1,300 people had visited the museum Thursday — including an in cognito Gov. Deval Patrick and his wife.
The Clark and Mass MoCA have a long relationship, dating to the initial efforts to transform the defunct mill into the largest contemporary art museum in the nation.
"In our early days, they gave us credibility when we didn't have much. Along with Williams College Museum of Art, we probably wouldn't be here today it if hadn't been for the involvement of Michael Conforti and, of course, the directors of the Clark Art Institute," said Barrett. "They really helped bring Mass MoCA to the next level."
The Clark has annually sponsored exhibits at MoCA, including the well-known "Tree Logic," and collaborated on a number of shows, internships and the popular KidSpace. It's a partnership that's stayed under the radar, said Conforti. WCMA has been heavily involved with MoCA from the start: Its then director Thomas Krens joined the mayor in promoting the museum idea and his colleague Thompson became MoCA's director.
The Clark also has strong ties to Williams College through the college's graduate program in art history. What role might WCMA or Williams College play in this collaboration? Conforti had a one-word response: "Later."
While the Clark director stressed that the commission only approved the idea and hope of a permanent collaboration, commission members Barrett, Shirley Davis, Richard Czarnecki and Peter Markou were upbeat if tight-lipped. Wait a month, they said, until the particulars are announced.
"It will blow you right out of here," said Markou.
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