image description

North Adams Arts Commission Seeking Input on Placemaking Plan

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Public space for art — and where that art may have the most impact — are among the priorities being laid out in the city's public arts master plan.
The Public Arts Commission began the process last year of developing a plan that aligns with the city's master plan. The vision sees public art as part of the community's identity as an "arts destination and center for creativity" in terms of culture, community, economy and design. 
The commission recently completed a section prioritizing placement of public art and is seeking feedback from the community. The draft can be found on the city's website.
Last week, the commission members agreed that the city's gateways, connection and gathering areas would be the prime locations for future public art projects. 
"The goal of the placemaking priorities in this review is really to confirm the places that we've identified for potential public art in the future ... best serve our commission's vision," said Chairwoman Anna Farrington. "There are currently no projects or proposals on the table that would be appropriate for these locations, however, the intent of incorporating this section into the master plan document is really to give us a point of place to look to when projects come forward so that we understand where public art might make the biggest impact in the community."
Farrington said she had been able to get a list of city-owned properties (about 169), though it may not be a complete list. She worked with Zachary Feury in the Office of Community Development, the commission's liaison, to overlay the list with a zoning map to highlight where the parcels were located and "prioritized, in terms of effectiveness and supporting our goals and vision."
The commission had determined that gateways were prime areas conducive to public art but not necessarily where the three welcome signs are on the main arteries coming into the city but rather the entrances to business districts or downtown areas.
One example is the welcome garden at the far edge of the Eclipse Mill's west parking lot on Union Street. Others are the overflow parking area at Noel Field Athletic Complex, the Armory on Ashland Street and the field in front of Harriman & West Airport, where one of the city's welcome signs is located. 
"I think it's good because you want visitors as you come into the city to see that we're an arts community and you want to be able to see that," said Commissioner Bryan Sapienza. "And by having works of art placed in those particular locations, I think that would really get the message through." 
Farrington suggested switching "connections" with "gathering places" in the priority list. Connections included several roadways such as Marshall and Church streets, and the Phelps Avenue footbridge; gathering places covered areas like Windsor Lake, Noel Field, and the Eagle Street pocket park.
"I think that prioritizing public art in the gathering places will make a bigger impact on the community and the day-to-day experiences of the community," she said. 
Some may offer limited space, such as City Hall, but that may depend on the type of art being proposed, Farrington said, noting that some spaces such as the Eagle Street parklet that's now hosting artworks through the NAMAzing Initiative may offer collaborative options. 
"We could coordinate with the NAMAzing Initiative if someone came forward with a project for the Eagle Street pocket park," she said. "It's a little bit of a nook out of the way, but it's become quite a popular destination within the city."
Commissioner Alyssa "Laini" Sporbert thought Windsor Lake, which was at the top of the priority list, should be shifted down in priority in favor of greater opportunities at Noel Field, which is downtown.
"Not that I'm opposed to the other places on the list but I think Noel Field is the most available," she said. "I think we should move Noel Field to the top of the list and just switch it with Windsor Lake."
The commissioners agreed, listing the priority gathering spaces as Noel Field, the lake, City Hall, Heritage State Park and the Eagle Street park. 
There was some agreement that Marshall and Main streets had less opportunity than some other areas but their locations in the downtown and as connecting points warranted them being at the top of the list. The Phelps Avenue footbridge had been suggested for inclusion at a previous meeting but Farrington wondered if it was more of a "need to know" location since it was not prominent. 
Sapienza thought it was a good indicator of how the city values art for Appalachian Trail hikers. The bridge was decorated a few years ago with colorful handprints by children at nearby Greylock Elementary School. 
"We have a lot of hikers that come through during the summer season on the Appalachian Trail, and that would be a good invitation for the city to make them want to possibly explore the city further by having that connection," he said.  "I see that as a very valid connection in the Main Street area but in some ways it is actually kind of a throughway-type thing."
Farrington agreed and recalled that it had been pointed out in the past that the bridge is visible to tourists and may be part of the potential bike path between the city and Williamstown.
City Councilor Benjamin Lamb, also a founder of the NAMAzing Initiative, said he agreed with the priority listing and that having locations all in one document will make it easier for people, particularly creatives seeking representation in public art spaces. 
"It's great to see a comprehensive vision along these lines," he said. "I think that it's going to be really helpful especially as we go through the next phases of creative placemaking."
The commission voted to accept the draft and solicit comments from stakeholders. Questions and comments can be directed to until Feb. 12. The commission will review comments at its next meeting and determine which will be incorporated into the master plan. 

Tags: public art,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at

BRO MX Ordered to Comply With Conservation Restrictions

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission gave BRO MX until July 28 to place signage marking conservation-restricted area they improperly mowed as well as hire a botanist to review the area.
The commission on Thursday went over some conservation restrictions included in the deed of motocross track owners Jason and Jessica Langenback that they unknowingly violated.
"The reason why you are on the agenda is that there have been suggested anomalies of the management and the use of the conversation restriction … wetlands encroachment and things along those lines," Chairman Andrew J. Kawczak said. "So I am hoping … this gets the conversation started." 
Specifically, the restrictions control mowing in a meadowed area as there are endangered insects and plants.
View Full Story

More North Adams Stories