NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Arts Commission got a rundown on the "Big Bling" that's going to be sited at the so-called "Leu lot" this fall.
And while the commissioners were supportive of the efforts being made by Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts in developing the empty lot into a park to entice its visitors to the downtown, they acknowledged they had no control over the 40-foot by 40-foot installation that's going to be facing Main Street.
Or any murals or other artwork that might be proposed on private property in the future. Any previews, such as was provided by Mass MoCA's David Rees and Tracy Moore is purely a courtesy, observed Chairwoman Anna Farrington.
"There is no authority that regulates or recommends art work that's being placed on private property," she said Monday. "So like the Mass MoCA's 'Big Bling' project, we don't really have any authority to approve or not approve, or make recommendations."
The commission was established several years ago to oversee the placement or installation of artwork on public property, a function that had been largely confined to the mayor's office. However, the authority of the commission had been subject to changes — including two rewrites of its establishing ordinance — and all but two of the original commissioners have departed.
That's left the new members feeling out their role and trying to reconcile their limited jurisdiction within the dictates of the city's burgeoning art scene.
One aspect of that is "public facing art," or art that has high visibility but is on private property. For example, the murals painted for the O-Plus Festival did not require commission approval but they were presented to the commission as a matter of courtesy.
Farrington said she had spoken with Mayor Thomas Bernard and Building Inspector William Meranti and learned there was nothing in ordinance related to public art other than the commission.
"One of the things that I had had a conversation with Bill Meranti regarding was whether or not there were any regulations or guidelines in place that would put some boundaries or restrictions on what might happen with private property," she said. "And there aren't any, which I found a little bit surprising, because there are so many restrictions and regulations and guidelines, for example, for signage."
She said she had nothing specific to propose but asked the commissioners if this was an area they wanted to explore further.
Commissioner William Blackmer noted that the "Big Bling" could trigger other city ordinances, such as sight lines and setbacks, but not over its artistic value.
Commissioner Sarah Sutro thought guidelines might be helpful.
"Just so we can offer our thoughts," she said. "It does seem like it would be nice to be involved in some way. We can't impose ourselves, but we can offer something."
Farrington thought it could at best be a vetting process, where those installing a highly visible art display would come in and at least inform the commission what they were planning. She knew of one person who is excited about the idea of putting a mural on her building.
"It becomes a question of do we have a right to influence what she's putting up?" Farrington said. "Do we have to be able to just trust that people are going to do the right thing and do something that's not going to be detrimental to the city's value?"
She said she would have a followup conversation with the mayor on the topic and bring it back to the commission.
"I think, is that our ordinances, or sign ordinances, were written in a time that public art wasn't an issue," said Commissioner Bryan Sapienza. "And now that it is an issue, I think that maybe down the road that the city ordinances may have to be brought up to date as far as regarding public facing art."
Mass MoCA's two new deputy directors, Rees and Moore, presented the plans for the lot, also called the Mohawk Plaza, that were approved at last week's Planning Board. In response to questions about the 40-foot sculpture's integrity, Rees said the engineer who installed the work in both New York City and Philadelphia is also doing it here and that artist Martin Puryear has checked out his work that's been stored behind Big Y for a couple years.
"He said it's actually doing very well," Rees said. "So there's some restoration that has to happen. But it's holding up pretty well. He's very happy."
Commissioner Derek Parker expressed some concern that people may try to climb the sculpture or place items inside it. Rees said that would not be possible because of the way it's constructed and noted it had been in two major cities without incident.
Francis "Bigs" Waterman of Waterman Excavating is preparing the site for demolition and the plan is to have the work done before the snow falls. However, the plantings won't be done until spring, Rees said, based on the recommendations they were given.
Rees couldn't speak to the fate of the interactive sound installation placed in the lot two years ago. The work is not owned by the museum and it could end up "going home," he said.
In other business, Farrington reported that the PAC finally has a City Hall liaison in Zachary Feury, project coordinator in the Office of Community Development. Previous iterations of the commission had felt at loose ends trying to develop processes and procedures on their own while other boards had city personnel for support.
She also said the commission's website is has been moved over to the city's site and asked the commissioners to review the FAQ before the old site is shut down.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Helme last year receiving the PopCares Community Partner Award for her efforts on behalf of local nonprofits and other groups.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's director of tourism has been named the 2019-20 Woman of Achievement by the Northern Berkshire Business and Professional Women's Club.
Suzy Helme began as the part-time events coordinator in 2015, later becoming the full-time director of tourism and community events. In her role, she organizes much of the city's annual events such as the Downtown Celebration and the concert series at Windsor Lake, as well as coordinating with organizations and institutions such as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts and local charities on affiliated activities within the city.
The club will make the award at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Bounti-Fare Restaurant
in Adams. Networking will begin at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6.
Instead of focusing on what people were afraid of with new challenges of community investment, participants in the October forum were asked to instead look at what "inclusive development" they would like to see. click for more
Trustee Chairwoman Robin Martin told the rest of the board last week that she has solicited input from the public and those close to Cariddi and there was a consensus that something visual should be done to memorialize the late state representative at the library.
click for more
And now Honig and a group of other regular contributors on the page are targeting one specific need in the community: resources for those without housing stability. That grew from a post on the page where someone was searching for a tent to provide shelter while they were without permanent housing. click for more