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My Favorite MASS MoCA Moments

Katherine Myers reflects on her 14-year relationship with MASS MoCA as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations.

Besides my 16-year marriage, 14 years is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere. These have been particularly milestone-filled years:  I’ve lost two parents and a lot of eyesight, gained a daughter and a legion of remarkable friends and colleagues, and witnessed more great art than anyone living in a town of less than 15K could possibly dream of.

Given that long history, it’s a challenge to provide a “Top 10” List, but a recent plane trip offered me time for contemplation. Here’s what I came up with, presented in no particular order.

1. Michael Oatman has popped up regularly over the last decade and a half.  I first met him when he was in Unnatural Science (2000) where his incredibly detailed installation schooled me in Vermont’s scandalous history of eugenics. When I was introduced to his collages in Becoming Animal (2005), I was even more taken with him. His suspended Airstream trailer is an absolute marvel and he is a delightful person. Every institution should be so lucky to have an artist like Michael in their “stable.”

2.  I love that MASS MoCA does some events that are pure camp, simultaneously high quality and totally over the top.  On this list: Tragedy (2011), our heavy metal BeeGees cover band who repeatedly told us “We love you North Adams City!” and Corn Mo and the Wau Wau Sisters (2005) which involved a trapeze, a sparkly jumpsuit, Meatloaf covers and Catholic school uniforms.  What a night.

3. Hotel Pool (2005) was produced by MASS MoCA but took place in the pool at the Williams Inn. It was a play and a water ballet with some shocking moments. Incredibly well-crafted and enjoyable.

4. It’s probably no surprise that the shows I like best are the ones with the coolest stuff to see. Crowd pleasers are easiest to sell and, when attendance rises, everyone is happier. On my favorite shows list: Oh, Canada (2012), Unnatural Science (2000), Huang Yong Ping’s retrospective (2006), Uncommon Denominator (2002), Becoming Animal (2005), and Cai Guo Qiang’s exploding cars in Inopportune (2004).

5. Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screentests (2009): The films are completely mesmerizing on their own and Dean & Britta’s score and live performance only served to enhance them.

6. Ann Hamilton’s corpus (2003) taught me the magical power of an art installation.  My father-in-law passed away while Ann’s falling paper was on view.  His death was not unexpected and he had lived a good, long life. When my husband called me that morning with the news, there was no reason to head home but a pause for reflection did seem appropriate. It was before the museum opened; I just started to wander in the galleries and, without thinking, found myself in corpus which was truly the ideal place to reflect on a loss and a life well-lived.

7. Anouk Van Dijk’s Stau (2006) started with dancers emerging from underneath your seat. Then, somehow in the middle, you were standing and all the seats were gone and you were milling about in a pitch black theater when suddenly spots came up illuminating dancers, sometimes right in front of your nose.  The piece ended with dancers and audience writhing against the wall to a deafening percussive soundtrack. Sound crazy? It was, but it was also probably the most viscerally affecting performance I’ve ever experienced.

8. Of All the People in All the World (2007), which involved millions of grains of rice representing various population statistics arrayed in the Hunter Center, brought a 100% lovely group of British actors from Stan’s Café to North Adams for a couple of weeks.  We get to know many wonderful artists but these Brits count among the most delightful. Coupled with the beautiful, clever, moving installation, it was an exceptional experience.

9. Material World (2011) made great use of MASS MoCA’s strengths; the exhibit utilized our remarkable space to great effect from the Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen’s paper forest to Tobias Putrih’s illuminated fishing line, inspired by our local Hoosac Tunnel.  It was accessible, jaw-dropping, fun, and interesting for all ages.

10. Canadian singer Patrick Watson’s performance this past summer (2012) was nothing short of magical.  At first, we were disappointed that the show was inside on a beautiful summer night. Yet, when we saw what he did with the lights, we were so glad that he had insisted on the darkness that only Club B-10 could provide at 8 PM on an evening in late June.

And one more for good measure…

11. Solid Sound Festival is really non-stop work for our staff. At the first Solid Sound (2010), the only music I actually listened to was the first three songs of the Mavis Staples set which included “The Weight.” Bone-tired late in the day on Saturday, I enjoyed Mavis’s performance from a special rooftop vantage point and received a much-needed spiritual boost (and sitting down for 15 minutes didn’t hurt either).

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What did you like the best over the past 14 years?

Posted December 7, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Exhibitions, Film+Live Music, Material World, Music, Oh Canada, Staff, Theater, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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Alt Cabs: Where Are They Now?

Our Alt Cabaret series presenting work by emerging performing artists has exposed Berkshire County to lots of unique talent over the years. Beyond bringing unconventional originality to MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 or Courtyard CafĂ©, these artists come away from their performances here with more fans and a clearer path toward greatness. (And so many of them have truly ascended to greatness!)

So the question is, where are these artists now? 

Living Colour’s Corey Glover played a Valentine’s Day weekend show at MASS MoCA on Saturday, February 15, 2003, focusing on songs of love and yearning. His hard-rock edge combined with soulful vocals simultaneously soothed and energized the audience that filled Club B-10.

So where is Glover now? In 2006, he started co-headlining a national tour of Jesus Chris Superstar, a rock opera by Andrew Lloyed Webber, where he assumed the role of Judas with rock and roll drummer, singer, actor, composer, and record producer Ted Neeley. In 2008, he rejoined Living Colour; the band released their fifth album, The Chair in the Doorway, in 2009. A year later, Glover toured with Galactic, a funk and jazz jam band, and in 2011 he recorded his second solo. This year, Glover has been on tours and on the Conan O’Brien TBS show with Galactic and Soul Rebels Brass Band.

Glover as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar

Glover with Living Colour

New York City-based Antony and the Johnsons brought orchestral pop to MASS MoCA on Saturday, March 8, 2003, in conjunction with the opening of MASS MoCA’s Fantastic exhibit, which explored fantastic and outlandish utopian ideals. Antony’s captivating alto voice, along with a velvety combination of strings, bass, piano, and drums took the audience’s breath away. The band’s melodies seemed other-worldly in themselves, making it the perfect partner for Fantastic. 

After their visit to MASS MoCA, Antony and the Johnsons produced several more albums. In 2005, their album I Am a Bird Now won the Mercury Prize for the best UK album. In 2006, they pitched TURNING, an autobiographical film about their journey as musicians. Their third album, 2009’s The Crying Light, ranked number one on the European Billboard charts. The band toured through North America and Europe, concluding the trip at the 2009 Manchester International Festival. Antony and the Johnson’s 2010 album Swanlights received high praise – Stereogum ranked the album eighth in its Top 50 Albums of the Year. The band has performed on Later with Jools Holland and The Late Show with David Letterman. Click here to watch their performance.

Antony performing at the Manchester Opera House

Canadian-American singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright brought her unique style of folk-rock to MASS MoCA on Saturday, August 21, 2004. Wainwright’s success in the Berkshires foreshadowed her ultimate breakthrough as a performing artist.

In 2005, Wainwright released her self-titled debut album, and in 2008 she released her second album, I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too, both produced by Brad Albetta. Her brother Rufus Wainwright and her mother Kate McGarrigle, also a Canadian folk singer-songwriter, contributed to the album, along with The Who’s Pete Townshed, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, and The Band’s Garth Hudson. Wainwright’s performance at Leonard Cohen’s tribute concert was featured in the film and album, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (click here to watch her live). In 2007, she performed at Bonnaroo and Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, collaborated with her brother at the Hollywood Bowl, and partnered with over twenty female artists to create Sing, a single released on World AIDS Day to raise awareness about the transmission of HIV.

Wainwright in concert

Wainwright and her brother Rufus

Brooklyn-based comedian Eugene Mirman brought his wit and silly humor to MASS MoCA on July 3, 2009, leaving his spectators with full-fledged smiles and aching bellies from laughing so hard.

He is known now for his roles on Flight of the Concords, Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, and much more. In 2009 the Village Voice recognized Mirman as the Best New York City Comedian, and Paste Magazine ranked him as one of the top ten best comedians in the last ten years. Eugene has released three comedy albums, and published a book titled The Will To Whateva. Every Sunday night, Mirman, along with Julie Smith and Caroline Creaghead, performs a comedy show called Pretty Good Friends. These three jokesters also created the annual Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival, which both celebrates and mocks such events.

Providence, RI’s The Low Anthem came to MASS MoCA on Saturday, March 5, 2011 and hypnotized the public with their vintage instruments and warm melodies. Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowski formed the band in 2006, and now they have four singles and four albums. Indie folk enthusiasts are calling them the next Bon Iver.

Since their enchanting performance at MASS MoCA, The Low Anthem has partnered with British folk rock band Mumford and Sons, toured with folk rock singer-songwriter Iron and Wine, and hosted the Newport Folk Backstage Benefit (July 30, 2011) with Deer Tick’s John McCauley to support the Newport Festivals Foundation. They also performed at Jazzfest in New Orleans and at the first Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire, UK in 2011.  Their cover Stories of the Street was featured on the tribute CD The Songs of Leonard Cohen. The band also collaborated with T Bone Burnett on Lover is Childlike, for the soundtrack of 2012’s The Hunger Games, a film based on the eponymous novel by Suzanne Collins. The Low Anthem recorded a self-produced soundtrack for Arcadia, an indie film by Olivia Silver, which won a Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in February. The Low Anthem also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman (click here to watch) and opened for Bruce Springstein and the E Street Band at SXSW in March.

Newport Folk Festival (2010)

The Low Anthem

Part concert, part performance piece, and part electrifying call to action, The Love Show appeared at MASS MoCA on Saturday, October 1, 2011. Featuring five of New York’s most powerful and soulful vocalists, including 1999 Grammy Award nominee Carla Cook and internationally acclaimed singer and WNYC/WQXR/Q2 radio host Helga Davis, The Love Show offered MASS MoCA a riveting and sublime celebration of the concept of love thy neighbor as thyself.

New York-based artist Helga Davis co-starred in The Temptation of St. Anthony, directed by Robert Wilson, from 2001-2006. Since 2007, starred in The Blue Planet, written by Peter Greenaway and directed by Saskia Boddeke, and appeared in VOX, the Contemporary American Opera Lab run by the City Opera of New York. She earned a leading role in the iconic Robert Wilson/Philip Glass production of Einstein on the Beach, and performed in Elsewhere with cellist Maya Beiser and Oceanic Verses by Paola Prestini. Jazz singer/songwriter Carla Cook’s debut album, It’s All About Love (1999), received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Performance. In 2000 she won the AFIM Indie Award for Best Jazz Vocal, released two more albums, and recorded a rendition of Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which appeared on jazz percussionist Steve Kroon’s album, Without A Doubt (2011). She formed The Carla Cook Quintet, and digitally recorded her voice for Sony PlayStation games.

Carla Cook in concert

Written by Hannah Schiff

Posted June 1, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Alternative Cabaret, Artist Spotlight, BLOG, North Adams, The Low Anthem, Uncategorized
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Stepping into the Spotlight

 
Our performing arts intern Emily shares her experience of curating an Alt Cabaret show. See the show for yourself on Saturday, January 21, 2012, at 8:00 pm, and dance with us for free during the community workshop on the same day at 2:00 pm!

 

As the 2011/2012 performing arts administration intern, a position that is grant-funded by the Tin Man Fund, I get to curate my very own show… and I can’t believe how quickly the date is approaching! When I started my job at MASS MoCA seven months ago, I had no idea how much work (and joy!) would go into booking, planning, and finally bringing the stunning modern-Irish steppers of Darrah Carr Dance to the museum:

1. RESEARCH: Before I could book a performing artist, I needed to figure out what my interests were. What was I passionate about? What did I want to see more of in the Berkshires? As a recent grad of Connecticut College (go camels!) with a double major in Human Development and Dance, I immediately knew that I wanted to bring accessible and innovative modern dance to MASS MoCA. My Human Development interest in communities and education also fueled my desire to curate dance that could interact with the public, possibly through a workshop of some kind. I spent a few days in NYC visiting our performing arts curatorial team and researching dance companies that appealed to my interests and to MASS MoCA’s audience. In the end, I decided on Darrah Carr Dance – Darrah blends traditional Irish step dancing with modern dance vocabulary and techniques, and also has a developed educational outreach program, so she was a perfect fit.

2. MAKING THE DEAL: Next, I reached out to Darrah, to see if she wanted to partner with MASS MoCA – she did! I drafted an offer letter outlining the basics such as show date, compensation, and travel arrangements for Darrah, the curatorial team, and my cool boss Sue (Manager of Performing Arts + Film) to sign… and voila! We were set to do a show together. That meant that Darrah and I had lots and lots of questions for each other. I wanted to know about which dance pieces she might bring, who her audience was, and the specifics of her community programs. She wanted to learn about the size of the performance space, our tech capabilities, and if our hotel served continental breakfast! Darrah and I were (and still are) in constant phone and email contact to iron out all of the details that go into producing a show. We eventually both signed a much more in-depth contract together, so that all the details we discussed on the phone and via email are put into one organized document.

3. SPREADING THE WORD: I was excited about the performance, Darrah was excited about the performance, so then it was time to get everyone else excited about the performance! Under the guidance of Katherine, our amazing Director of Marketing, we started spreading the news about Darrah’s performance. Our talented graphic designers printed beautiful posters, the super marketing intern Cora put up flyers all over the Berkshires, and Keifer down in the Box Office enthusiastically plugged the show to all incoming patrons. We also created advertised on many types of social media, contacted local professors of dance or Irish culture, reached out to Irish dance academies all over New England, and asked a few newspaper and radio stations to give us a shout-out. Getting butts in seats is important for obvious reasons (we want MASS MoCA to always have the funds to showcase inspiring performances in the future!), but it’s also important because Darrah and I want to share our passion for dance with as many friends as possible. 

4. BEHIND THE SCENES: I can’t even express how much  backstage work went into producing this performing arts show! First, there were a billion technical aspects that need to be prepared; luckily I had the hilarious duo of Eric and Eric, who keep the Production department running smoothly, to help me through it. Together we decided on a seating set-up, a one-of-a-kind stage plot, ad-hoc wing space, necessary lighting and sound equipment… the list goes on and on. With Meg (Company Manager and, more importantly, my MASS MoCA Mom), I arranged all the artist services components of the show. I booked hotel reservations, organized meal plans, and prepared the dressing rooms. I also organized ushers, planned house management, and wrote the program with the help of Court, who coordinates volunteers and coordinates front of house during performances.

CURTAIN CALL: And now, finally (finally!), the show is looming only a few days in the distance – soon, Darrah Carr Dance will be at MASS MoCA in the flesh (the shuffle-ball-changing, pirouetting, flying leaping dancing flesh)! I’ll have a busy day helping Darrah and her dancers with their arrival, community dance workshop, tech and dress rehearsals, and the evening performance, and I absolutely can’t wait. Curating my own show was a huge undertaking that opened my eyes to just how much effort and how many people it takes to produce a performance. I am so, so thankful for all the generous, cooperative, wacky-wise-wonderful friends who helped me pull this off. Darrah, Sue, Katherine, Keifer, Eric & Eric, Meg, Court, and everyone else who was involved: you guys are the bee’s knees.

Come see what we’ve all been working so hard on – Darrah Carr Dance at MASS MoCA on Saturday, January 21 (free workshop at 2:00 pm/ticketed performance at 8:00 pm)! Call the Box Office at 413.664.4481 for more information.

See you there! Love, Emily

 

Posted January 13, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Alternative Cabaret, BLOG, Dance, Darrah Carr Dance, Interns
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Maya Beiser’s All-Star Team

Maya Beiser, founding cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, comes to MASS MoCA with a seriously impressive team for her psychological cello opera Elsewhere, being shown on Saturday, December 10 at 8pm.

Incorporating cello, vocals, spoken word, video, dance, and elaborate sets, she’ll be accompanied by choreographer Karole Armitage and four dancers, producer Beth Morrison, director Robert Woodruff, projection designer Peter Nigrini, and composer Eve Beglarian.

Here’s the All-Star Line-up for Elsewhere: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted December 2, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Alternative Cabaret, BLOG, Dance, Music
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Best of Winter 2011

The sun is shining, the birds are flying, and just when we thought winter would never end – summer is here and Bureau for Open Culture is kicking it off at MASS MoCA with Beer Garden!

Beer Garden? That sounds pretty great!…Well it is. And it’s happening THURSDAY MAY 27 and FRIDAY MAY 28 alongside the Hoosic River at MASS MoCA.  It is a platform for conversation, community, and beer.  Join us for discussions and local brews.

Don’t worry.  We’re not going to forget the amazing season we had this Winter/Spring.  Let’s review the Best Of’s for the 2011 Winter/Spring Season!

Best Way to Work Up a Sweat in January: Free Day and Bhangra Funk Dance Party

Best Icicle: The One on Geometric Death Frquency: 141

Best Use of the Audience: Rory Scovel

Best Opportunity to Watch Someone Sleep: Habit

Best Picture of Our Crew: This One. (by Danelle Cheney)

Best Double-Take Performance: The Low Anthem

(Club B10. March 5)

(Hunter Center. April 16)

Best Use of Leather: Tragedy

Best Before and After: Nari Ward Sub Mirgae Lignum

Best Sold Out Performance: Iron & Wine

So get out those tank tops. Slip into those flip-flops. And let’s get this party started THIS WEEKEND with Beer Garden, The Workers Opening Reception, and Rosanne Cash!

The best is yet to come…

Posted May 25, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Bureau for Open Culture: I Am Searching for Field Character, Free Day, Iron & Wine, Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum, Openings, Rory Scovel, The Low Anthem, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees
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MASS MoCA & Its Love For Contradictions

Yes. Here at MASS MoCA we are literally built on contradictions. I mean…Come on people, we are a contemporary art museum that used to be an old factory!

…And we have quite possibly the ONLY exhibition in the world that combines elements of North Adams, MA with Jamaica.

On Saturday, April 23, MASS MoCA will be housing yet another contradiction!

Ladies and gents, we are here to introduce to you: THE SHANGHAI RESTORATION PROJECT!

TSRP mixes traditional Chinese instruments with hip-hop and electronic music for an exhilarating juxtaposition. TSRP blends musical elements from the East and West.

Supplying its audiences with danceable, evocative, traditional, and innovative compilations TSRP’s music will accompany a virtual tour of the Shanghai created by some of the best existing filmmakers.

The Shanghai Restoration Project combines a number of different sounds such as classical piano and Chinese instruments, echoes of children playing, the noises of building houses, and impressive synth-work while exploring mixed-media using song and film. Join us in Club-B10 to discover new music and hear something DIFFERENT!

Click here to listen to a song by TSRP!

The Shanghai Restoration Project will perform on April 23 at 8pm. Tickets for the performance are $12 in advance and $16 day of show. Student tickets are $10. MASS MoCA members receive a 10% discount. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.

Posted April 21, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Alternative Cabaret, BLOG, The Shanghai Restoration Project
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