Graphic designer Anna Farrington bought the old Army-Navy store building as a way to help reinvigorate the city's downtown.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — For the past five years, graphic designer Anna Farrington has hosted a free installation art experience with her gallery Installation Space, located at 49 Eagle St.
A lot of work she does professionally involves creating an environment, something Farrington said has always been an attraction to her.
"For me, installation art provides this sense of sort of transporting you to a different place. It's coming into a space that's out of the ordinary. It's coming into a space that's presenting someone's creative idea, and in an immersive and interactive way," Farrington said.
"So I want people to feel sort of that tingling excitement of seeing something new, and seeing something they weren't expecting."
Originally Farrington had been looking for a three-family house as an investment property and to use as office space but had an epiphany when she saw Eagle Street.
"It was literally like a light bulb going off and I had this idea that I wanted to do something to help revitalize downtown," she said. "I had this really crazy opportunity to buy a piece of downtown North Adams and do something that was going to have a positive impact."
She purchased the building at 49 Eagle, better known to longtime residents as Jack's Army and Navy, in 2017 and as she became more familiar with the community, she decided to make it a gallery space featuring installation art.
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is known for exhibiting that type of art and Farrington wanted to bring a tiny piece of the Mass MoCA experience downtown, for free.
Not only does it provide art lovers a range of experiences, it provides installation artists an opportunity to show their work outside the constraints of a typical gallery where they are expected to sell their work, she said. Those types of galleries can be difficult for installation artists because there isn’t something to sell, rather it is an experience.
One of the most gratifying aspects of having this space is being able to see the community interact with the space and have conversations about the works with patrons with varying knowledge on the craft.
"I think I've gained some notoriety in the local community. Folks who come in see that I'm doing it, I'm doing it regularly, and I'm doing it in a professional way. They come in and maybe they don't get the art, but we have a conversation about it and at least they're looking and I think that that to me is really gratifying," Farrington said.
"One of my favorite repeat visitors is a young girl named Emma, and she comes in, and it's just always such a delight to see her. Sometimes her parents come in or adults come in with her, sometimes they don't. But it's always fun to see the community people interacting with the space."
Every show that the gallery puts on is radically different so the space changes every time.
The day of the interview, the space was empty, which is one of Farrington’s favorite ways to see it because of the endless possibilities of what the artists can make it become.
"Like an empty space to me says possibility and there's like so many crazy things that could happen in here and they will," she said.
The Installation Space is going into its sixth year and will feature five shows this season that will go through Thanksgiving weekend.
The first show, "Spectral Strata," opens on Friday in collaboration with "Venus Spectra" at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Art Lab on Main Street. Both installations are designed by students from Massachusetts College of Art's Studio for Interrelated Media as part of its travel program. The opening reception is Friday from 4 to 8 p.m.
The Installation Space exhibit will be on view for eight weeks, and then followed by four more shows through the summer.
"I'm just super excited for the upcoming season. I think people are going to be excited when they see the installations that we're bringing to North Adams this season," Farrington said.
Farrington has been personally funding the gallery but has been working to organize sponsorships so that she can be more formal about receiving gifts from donors so the space can fund itself.
Up until this season, the gallery has been showing work from local and regional artists but she would one day like to put a call out to national artists.
"Getting fiscal sponsorship would help me do that and being able to help provide artists with travel and shipping accommodations, things like that," she said.
The gallery sends out a request for proposals to a shortlist of artists in December and about a month later a small jury made up of local artists, curators, and arts administrators review the proposals with Farrington to determine who should be in the next season's lineup.
Farrington said her first experience as an artist was a child, since children have an innate need to create art. She attended Smith College to get a bachelor of fine arts with a focus on printmaking.
She got her start in the sign industry as a printmaker, moving on to a silkscreen printer and then fabrication.
Now she works as a graphic designer creating architectural signage and wayfinding systems for universities, colleges, hospitals, health-care facilities, municipalities, park systems, and museums. Farrington designed the donor recognition wall for Building 6 at Mass MoCA.
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MCLA Considering Temporary Homeless Housing on Campus
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is considering turning the vacant Berkshire Towers dorm into a temporary homeless shelter.
President James Birge said on Friday that the college is considering a partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development that would supply needed housing for 50 homeless families.
"I look at the mission of the institution, and we talk about educating students to be responsible citizens," Birge said. "I think this models that mission."
Birge said residents would be mostly younger families. He assumed 50 families would generate 25 school-aged children in the Berkshire Towers.
The 26-foot steel structure's poor condition is well known and it was listed with 19 other bridges in the Berkshires requiring repairs or replacement using funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
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