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38 Lanterns for MASS MoCA’s NYC Gala

All images and text excerpted from coombscriddle.wordpress.com.

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Last winter, local glass artist Debora Coombs was onsite at MASS MoCA for a few weeks, faux-painting and creating gold texture for interior surfaces in Darren Waterston’s Uncertain Beauty exhibition at MASS MoCA. For the museum’s annual gala this fall, Coombs and Waterston showed off their latest collaboration, a sold-out edition of 38 hand-made lanterns.

Here’s a peek inside Coombs’ studio and the lantern-making process.

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Darren Waterston, painting landscapes onto glass

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Coombs and Waterston at the NYC Gala in October

Learn more about Darren Waterston’s MASS MoCA exhibition Uncertain Beauty here and visit Coombs’ website to learn more about the glass process and her work.

Posted December 3, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty, Design, Exhibitions, Local Artists
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Calling all Massachusetts Artists!

assets-for-artists2 assets-for-artists2 MASS MoCA’s Assets for Artists program is in its seventh year of helping Massachusetts artists build financial stability and entrepreneurial success. Founded in 2008, Assets for Artists is a matched-savings and entrepreneurship training program for low-income artists in all disciplines. If you are a Massachusetts artist and you are eligible to apply, don’t miss out. Assets for Artists is accepting applications through November 7, 2014!

Assets for Artists helps artists access capital, grow their artistic ventures, and gain the financial stability that promotes creative freedom. Artists selected to participate in 2014 will benefit from a “matched savings” program that provides $2,000 in grant funding, two free professional development workshops, and one-on-one business and financial counseling, including support in writing a business plan.

The program, born from MASS MoCA’s commitment to community revitalization through the arts, was piloted at home in Berkshire County, enrolling nine local artists during its first year. Today, Assets for Artists — administered by MASS MoCA in collaboration with ArtHome, the Midas Collaborative, and many local partners — has expanded to serve nearly 200 artists across the state of Massachusetts and in New York City, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine. Here are just a few of the Massachusetts artists we enrolled last year:

From now until November 7, Assets for Artists is accepting applications from low-income creative entrepreneurs throughout the state of Massachusetts. To learn more and to download the application, visit the Assets for Artists website.

Posted October 30, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Assets for Artists, BLOG, Local Artists, North Adams
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Inside Moisture Content

By Hannah Pivo

I recently spent three days inside a work of art. Yes, literally inside of it. The piece, an enormous labyrinth of fabric and plastic, is called Moisture Content, and it’s one of four works that make up Lee Boroson’s exhibition Plastic Fantastic, currently on view in Building 5, MASS MoCA’s largest gallery space. For this exhibition, the artist used an array of manufactured materials — plastics, fabrics, glass, and goo — to create immersive environments that replicate natural phenomena, including a waterfall, an underground cavern, a lava field, and fog. Together, they offer a thought-provoking commentary on the relationship between humans and the environment, both natural and built.

Blog-Moisture_Content1 Lee Boroson, Moisture Content, 2014, fabric, acrylic, mylar, Lexan, aluminum, webbing, cord, variable dimensions. Photo by Andreas Engel.

As the Visual Arts Intern at MASS MoCA, I’ve faced my fair share of odd assignments — most of them for this exhibition. I’ve placed strange online orders for items such as flanges and portable dust collectors and goo (who knew goo was available for bulk purchase?). I’ve shown up without an appointment at a large chemical manufacturing plant, hoping to track down the salesman who promised us bottles of flowable silicone sealant. I’ve packed materials in trash bags and labeled them “THIS IS ART — PLEASE DON’T TRASH” because they really did look just like trash. So, when I joined MASS MoCA’s fantastic art fabrication crew for the last two weeks of Boroson’s installation, I was ready for things to get a little strange. What resulted was a particularly close acquaintance with Moisture Content, the artist’s stunning recreation of the experience of moving through fog.

Blog-Moisture_Content2A peek at what lays beyond the white curtains… Richard Criddle (left) and Mason Hurley (right) hard at work and looking splendid in khaki. Photo by Lauren Clark.

Moisture Content was built from the inside out. First, a series of giant concentric wooden rings were mounted to the ceiling. Inner layers of gauzy fabric came next, followed by the artwork’s glimmering core — a cluster of spheres made of thin metal rods and origami-folded plastic circles. Now these globes dangle tantalizingly from the ceiling, but their assembly was a painstaking process. At the center of each one hides a clear plastic ball punctured by carefully drilled holes. Hundreds of plastic circles were cut and folded, then attached to metal rods using itsy-bitsy nuts and washers. The rods were then screwed, one by one, into the drill holes in the plastic spheres. At the end of the day, the tips of my fingers were numb from twisting and turning the rods into place. With these sparkling globes in position, the rest of the layers of fabric could be hung, and Moisture Content really began to take shape.

Blog-Moisture_Content3 Posing in Building 5 with my favorite fellow shop girl, Lauren Clark. Photo by Lauren Clark.

The central fabric portion of Moisture Content is flanked on both sides by a galaxy of suspended orbs. Each sphere is made of dozens of plastic cones of various sizes, all held together with staples. The fabulous Lauren Clark and I hung hundreds of these spheres from nylon shoelaces dangling from the ceiling while jamming to The Pixies and Weezer’s Blue Album. For direction, Lee told us to imagine water molecules moving randomly through space. “Think water, think fog, think Moisture Content,” he said. Work halted when we ran out of shoelaces. I was sent on a mission to get more, and discovered that though you can buy mass quantities of goo on the Internet, you sadly cannot purchase shoelaces in bulk at the drop of a hat. So, I found a nylon cord at the hardware store that’s a near match. If you look closely, you’ll notice that two different cords — one flat and one round — are used in Moisture Content.

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Hanging out with some plastic spheres. Photo by Lauren Clark.

I thought the piece was nearly complete, but when I arrived the next morning, I noticed that something had changed. Lee had pinned together many of the outer layers of fabric, transforming the central column into a maze. Suddenly, it was all too easy to get lost in the “fog.” Lee used safety pins to adjust the length of the curtains and join them together, and each of the pins needed to be replaced with a few stitches of nylon thread. I mentioned that I had experience hand-sewing ribbons onto pointe shoes from my years dancing ballet in high school, so without delay I was put to the task.

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Sewing curtains inside Moisture Content. Photo by Harriet Lauritsen-Smith.

I spent the next three days sewing inside of Moisture Content. I had some helpers along the way, including the exhibition’s curator, Denise Markonish, whom I had the pleasure of teaching how to sew. I also had a lot of time alone. I imagined myself empress of an icy fortress (both Queen Elsa from Frozen and Queen Frostine from Candy Land came to mind). Occasionally, people would wander through, struggling to find Lee or Denise hidden inside. Their confused efforts at navigation were an early indicator of the artist’s success in constructing a foggy sense of disorientation.

Blog-Moisture_Content6 Moisture Content (detail), 2014. Photo by Andreas Engel.

The final step to perfecting Moisture Content? A good old-fashioned steaming. Lingering creases covered the shiny, perforated pieces of fabric that hang near the center of the piece. These twist and turn as you move past, and they were in desperate need of de-wrinkling. I lugged a standing steamer (borrowed from the fine folks in MASS MoCA’s performing arts department), a chair, and a rolling cart around the inner circle of the artwork, because both the steamer and I needed to be elevated to reach the highest parts of the fabric. And with that, Moisture Content was complete, ready for visitors to wander and ponder, just hopefully not for three days.

Blog-Moisture_Content7 Enjoying the opening reception with Harriet Lauritsen-Smith (center) and Lauren Clark (right). Photo by Jane Burns.

Lee Boroson’s Plastic Fantastic is now on view in MASS MoCA’s Building 5 gallery through September 7, 2015.

Posted October 22, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, Lee Boroson: Plastic Fantastic
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Peeping Leaves from a New Perspective: Your Guide to a Fabulous Fall Weekend in the Northern Berkshires

By Julia Leonardos

Bags of apples straight from the orchard line your pantry. Your stoop is overrun with decorative gourds and festive hay bales. You’ve swapped your shorts and t-shirts for cardigans and lacquered leather boots. You spent the last three hours bushwhacking your way out of a corn maze, your house smells like the Yankee Candle store and Starbucks had a baby, and the Monday Night Football theme song echoes constantly throughout your hallways. That’s right, folks, fall is upon us: nature’s final, fiery burst of beauty before crisp air turns frigid and brilliant trees become barren.

Fall is a pretty big deal out here in the northern Berkshires and so is the weekend that lands closest to the date of October 12. Some call it Columbus Day Weekend, but I’ll refer to it as most Berkshire locals do: the peak of leaf-peeping season. Yes, it is this weekend that the leaf peepers pack up their cars and head to the Berkshires from all directions to see the leaves at their most vivid. And we welcome you, leaf peepers, with open arms, warm hearts, and plenty of picture-perfect landscapes for you to Instagram, no filter required.

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After a while, though, staring at trees can get a little boring. We get it — you might get hungry, decide to do some activities, or feel a sudden, overwhelming urge to stare at something else (maybe some art?) for a few hours. That’s where we come in. MASS MoCA and a bevy of other northern Berkshire institutions are here for you if (and when) you decide you want to peep some leaves from a new perspective this weekend. Here’s our guide for the upcoming fall weekend, designed to enhance your leaf peeping with art, events, food, and merriment…

 

Day 1: Friday, October 10
Arrive at the Porches Inn in North Adams, MA, after work, then, head to Public for dinner and drinks. By 8pm, be at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center for The Source, Beth Morrison Projects’ latest music-theater work-in-progress. It’s all about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s decision to leak the most classified material ever released to the public, and the worldwide media hysteria that ensued. The Source premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on October 22, so this is an exclusive chance to be a part of the process and see the show before it premieres.

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Day 2: Saturday, October 11

View the Radical Words, Make it New, and Raw Color exhibitions at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown before they come down. In the evening, head back to MASS MoCA for the opening reception of Lee Boroson’s Plastic Fantastic, in Building 5, our largest gallery space (yes, that’s the gallery where Xu Bing’s Phoenix was) at 5pm. You can make reservations for the reception here. Next up, just a few steps away in Building 10, is guitar hero Gary Lucas, who is playing his original live score to the 1935 Chinese cinematic touchstone The Goddess (for only the second time in North America!) up in Club B-10, starting at 8pm. That leaves you plenty of time to chow down on some burritos/sandwiches/ice cream at Lickety Split in between the opening and the show.
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Day 3: Sunday, October 12
In the morning, dive into the 900-acre Berkshire wood for some up-close and personal leaf-peeping at Ramblewild forest adventure park. You can zipline, swing, climb, and slide from tree to tree on one of their many forest trails. If you’re like me and you want to have both of your feet on solid ground as often as humanly possible, you can also (free of charge) take a meditative walk in the forest as you watch the other members of your party jump from tree to tree above you.

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In the afternoon, head to the MASS MoCA galleries to relax and rejuvenate by taking in all of our exhibitions at your own pace. As you head home, look out your car window and admire the rolling Berkshire mountain range that has inspired so many literary greats, and Instagram a couple photos so your friends know that you did, in fact, take in some foliage during your fall weekend in the northern Berkshires.

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Posted October 9, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Berkshires, BLOG, Exhibitions, Lickety Split, North Adams, Openings, Theater, Uncategorized
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FreshGrass and R.O.P.E.S Team up for FreshGround

By Alliey Pevay

With FreshGrass around the corner, I am busy readying the campground for festival-goers. I have realized that FreshGround camping has become an important part of the North Adams community since its inception. As a resident of this city, it is exciting to see its culture intertwines with the culture of MASS MoCA and the bluegrass festival. A portion of camping pass proceeds is given to the R.O.P.E.S. program, which in turn provides organization and logistics to operate the campground, while a local sports team often provides concessions. In the past, campers from R.O.P.E.S. have helped lay out campsites in addition to helping FreshGround campers move in their gear.

R.O.P.E.S. is a camp run by local law enforcement and emergency personnel. The acronym stands for “Respecting Other People Encouraging Self-Esteem.” Campers divide into six teams, each led by an officer, and are challenged by low and high ropes courses to encourage teamwork and friendly competition, as well as overcome difficult obstacles physically and mentally.

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Each course has a different objective and a new lesson to be learned. One example of this would be the “Leap of Faith.” This obstacle is a high ropes course in which a camper is hooked to a harness and grounded (via a thick climbing rope) by his or her group leader. A call-and-response communication method is used: a camper starts with, “Team can I trust you?” and the team echoes back, “You can trust us.” “Spotters ready?” comes next, with the leader responding, “Spotters ready.” Finally: “Ready to climb?” and the leader responds, “Climb away.” The camper then begins ascending thirty-five feet up the pegs hammered into a tree until he or she reaches a one square foot platform. Once at the platform, the camper is challenged to leap in an attempt to touch or grab a ball hanging about three feet away before flying back down to the ground.

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As a young camper, I sat on that platform and was too scared to jump, as both my leader and teammates yelled up to me that I would be okay and could make the leap. Eventually someone suggested that I climb back down, and I did so with haste. After one year of R.O.P.E.S., campers may return as mentors who assist leaders in getting the kids through the obstacles. As a mentor, I still was afraid of the aforementioned course, but somehow the campers talked me into putting that harness and helmet back on and trying again. As I reached the platform and gazed down at my team, I was struck again with fear. This time, as my leader picked me up off my feet and scooted me closer to the edge, I heard one camper yell that I would be doing push-ups for the rest of the week if I did not jump. So I laughed and took the plunge and on my way down learned that trust really is key to any relationship.

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As a member of the R.O.P.E.S. program, not only did I learn about teamwork, trust, respect, and all the other usual camp “take-aways,” but having law enforcement officials trust me with campers up in a tree while they set up the next event taught me a great deal about responsibility and accountability as a mentor. This experience gave me the opportunity to take the work I did and use it to form connections through my teenage years and into adulthood. As an intern for FreshGrass I now work with Lieutenant Dave Sacco – who I know well as the head of R.O.P.E.S. – as we map out campsites for the FreshGround area.

R.O.P.E.S. is not only meaningful to me, but to many North Adams families. Having a positive, organic experience with law enforcement has the ability to open the eyes of local youth. The proceeds from each FreshGround camping pass help the program continue growing for years to come, and for that I am grateful.

If you want further information check out R.O.P.E.S.’ website, as well as MASS MoCA’s website for tickets to FreshGrass.

Posted September 10, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, FreshGrass, Interns, North Adams, Uncategorized
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MASS MoCA: A Fusion of Arts

By Danelle Cheney
Previously published on August 15th, 2014, by AEQAI 

In fall of 2009, I sat on my bed in a small apartment surfing the web with the fervor only a student soon-to-be graduate has. I wanted an internship — preferably an affordable one (a tall order in today’s arts economy, to be sure)— at a decidedly Really Cool Place.

Somewhere along the way, I found a link about MASS MoCA’s internship program. It sounded too good to be true, and to be honest… it very nearly is. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is a collection of mind-boggingly huge galleries and venues located in the Berkshire mountains, an area that looks straight out of a fairy tale (and — fittingly perhaps — is the place Herman Melville wrote his famous tale). No, it’s not in Boston (a running joke among staff); it’s as far as you can get from Boston while still in the state of Massachusetts.

A little history: the galleries and performance venues are in renovated factory buildings constructed by Arnold Print Works (from approximately 1860 to 1890) along the Hoosic River in North Adams, Massachusetts. Arnold Print Works was forced to consolidate as a result of the Great Depression and sold the site to Sprague Electric Company in 1942. Sprague played a major role in the manufacture of materials needed for WWII and later government projects such as the Gemini Moon Missions, but closed in 1985 due to overseas competition. The director of the nearby Williams College Museum of Art was looking for a large space to exhibit contemporary art and the mayor of North Adams, John Barrett, suggested the huge former Sprague campus (13 acres, to be exact) — voilá. Joseph Thompson, also working at the Williams College Museum of Art, was named founding director of MASS MoCA, and after a lot of work to acquire funding, conduct feasibility studies, and complete renovations, etc., the rest is history. Thompson still spearheads the museum today, working with plenty of other dedicated folks who have been there since before the doors opened; they celebrated MASS MoCA’s 15th anniversary in May of this year.

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North Adams is small, with neat rows of colorful houses and an overload of cute churches. There’s good food (Jack’s Hot Dogs and The Hub) and plenty of other cultural attractions nearby: Williams College Museum of Art, the Clark Art Institute, Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Natural Bridge State Park, and Mount Greylock (the highest point in the state). It’s a cozy, unassuming place for either a weekend getaway or a longer vacation. Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, is adjacent.

MASS MoCA’s campus feels comfortably human and welcoming. Maybe it’s because when we go to a museum, we’ve come to expect sterile white rooms, gilded gold frames, and plenty of signs saying “Don’t Touch the Art.” Maybe it’s because we don’t usually get to look at fine art before a rock concert. It’s a little intoxicating to see art — visual and performance — among exposed brick walls and pipes and old metal staircases and nice big picture windows with breathtaking views. You still shouldn’t touch, but, well… maybe you won’t get yelled at if you do (like being at Grandma’s house: don’t touch, and here’s a cookie instead).

As an intern, I was lucky enough to get a tour of some buildings still awaiting renovation. They’re full of potential and history, and are a little haunting with old Sprague office supplies and hardware hanging around. The MASS MoCA crew is ever resourceful (naturally) — Nari Ward’s 2012 exhibition Sub Mirage Lignum  repurposed old Sprague capacitors as part of an installation of giant foam sculptures. That exhibition also included a suspended 30-foot wooden boat and 60-foot replica of a basket-woven fish trap that made me feel like I was standing at the mouth of Jonah’s whale.

Ward’s exhibition wasn’t even in the largest gallery space, which is roughly the size of an American football field. Previous installations in that gallery have included nine cars suspended from the ceiling (Inopportune by Cai Guo-Qiang), light projections and large comfy bean bags from which to observe them (Projections by Jenny Holzer), an upside-down house with exterior glass walls (Gravity is a Force to be Reckoned With by Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle), silver particles fabricated at a scale of 25,000 times their original size (The Nanjing Particles by Simon Starling), psychedelic piles of soil and shards of styrofoam during my internship (One Floor Up More Highly by Katharina Grosse), and, most recently, two awe-inspiring birds constructed from discarded construction materials in China (Phoenix by Xu Bing: watch an installation video here).

MASS MoCA’s must-see exhibitions are an enormous Sol LeWitt Retrospective and a new long-term exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Anselm Kiefer. Both occupy an entire building: three floors are dedicated to LeWitt’s wall drawings, and 10,000 square feet house Kiefer’s rich and layered work.

LeWitt’s wall drawings were executed with great care and precision over six months, and ordered semi-chronologically. The number, scale, and variety of this installation is staggering — this retrospective alone is worth the trip to the Berkshires (TIME named it top exhibition of the year when it first opened). It’s a dizzying maze of color, texture, and pattern that one really doesn’t mind getting lost in. Luckily it’s in place until 2033 at least, because it’s an installation that gets better each time you visit. If you’re not a conceptual art connoisseur or familiar with Sol LeWitt, I recommend taking a tour.

In addition to stunning galleries, MASS MoCA attracts crowds for both music and theatre performances. Recent shows have included Beck and Iron & Wine, and huge crowds (we’re talking 5,000+) appear for the Solid Sound Festival that is curated by Wilco. The museum also hosts the Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival, which provides composers and performers a chance to explore contemporary music and share it daily in the galleries (sadly, this just ended the first week of August, but take note for next year). There are films showing both indoors and outdoors in the courtyard, and a beer garden during warm summer months. Oh, and, of course, there’s Kidspace, a set of galleries and exhibitions and activities especially for the small ones.

Currently on view (in addition to the year-round Sol LeWitt Retrospective and seasonal exhibitions including Anselm Kiefer) are Uncertain Beauty by Darren Waterston (a contemporary interpretation of James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room; review by The Boston Globe here), Eclipse by Elizabeth Kolbert and Sayler/Morris (exploring extinction through the story of the once-plentiful passenger pigeon), The Dying of the Light: Film as Medium and Metaphor featuring the work of six artists, and… plenty more.

What made me fall in love with MASS MoCA? Several things: the love and dedication of the staff, from the interns to security to senior management. Their ability to ask “What’s art? We’re not sure, but let’s find out.” The inclusive nature, where experimentation and questions are not only encouraged, but actively sought. The fusion of visual art, installation, performance, music, and festivals defines this most contemporary of art spaces. I’m looking forward to seeing what MASS MoCA does over the next 15 years.

By Danelle Cheney with gracious help from Marissa Kurtzhals

More information can be found at massmoca.org and explorenorthadams.com.

Posted September 5, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Uncategorized
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