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Secrets of MASS MoCA: If These Buildings Could Talk

What went on in MASS MoCA before it held artwork and performances?  Ever wondered what our Sol LeWitt building functioned as before we were a museum or what Building 5 was used for  before installations such as Katharina Grosse’s One Floor Up More Highly filled it up?

If you’ve ever visited, it’s obvious that MASS MoCA was not the first tenant in these buildings.  It is easy to be reminded of our site’s history with hand-cut stone, covered bridges, and exposed brick creating the backdrop for our artwork.

In the late 1800’s, the textile company Arnold Print Works, which was one of the largest cloth-dying companies of its time, built the brick buildings that our museum calls home today.   After Arnold Print Works moved out in 1942, a company named Sprague Electric occupied the space until 1985.

Here’s what our buildings were originally used for during the Arnold Print Works Era: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted November 7, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Architecture, BLOG, Secrets of MASS MoCA
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Goodnight Irene

Director Joe Thompson reports on how we coped with hurricane Irene:

We’ve never, ever closed MASS MoCA for a weather event, but Irene was spooky and we decided to play it safe.  (During one of last winter’s blizzards we proudly announced online that we would be open, and several people took me to task for requiring employees to trudge to work in the snow…which I confess took me aback.  I felt like I lived on a different planet.  It might have been a mistake to have employees make a long drive, but by and large, we actually like getting the museum open, and our tough-weather visitors are some of our best. They really want to be here, and so we’re really happy to host them). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted August 29, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Architecture, Berkshires, BLOG, North Adams, Weather
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Iced MoCA…Get it?

It seems like everyone has a case of the winter-time blues, but MASS MoCA is here to remind you to ENJOY the winter while it lasts!…It’s worth a try…

Hopefully the sun will keep shining and MELT AWAY all the snow!

MASS MoCA is so chill that even our ICICLES do cool things!

(Puns intended.)

Frederico Diaz’s Geometric Death Frequency: 141 has icicles too!

So if you’re feeling a little melancholy today, come to MASS MoCA! Get outta the cold and into a better mood!

Posted February 8, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Architecture, BLOG
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Old Couples Look Alike

Marketing Intern Will is at it again with this blog about a few awesome comparisons he’s noticed recently…

Now I would hardly call the relationship between our Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings and our factory Building 7 old, but they have been dating for a year now, something has to be said for that. In our modern world relationships are tough and staying together for a year or more is a big deal! I’m sure the drawings and the building have their little nothing fights, the walls complaining that “Its too cold in here we need insulated windows!” or “Pull down the blinds! That blaring sun hurts me!” while the building retorts “Why should I? You never do anything around here. All you do is sit around all day in the same spot!” But regardless of these little qualms I know that they have a strong relationship; one that will go the distance, that is longer than any relationship Buildings 4 and 5 have ever had with a work of art.

As I have been giving tours of the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective, I have been noticing a few peculiarities within Building 7 that weren’t apparent the first time I walked through and have only become noticeable after some time. What I have come to notice is that the walls of Building 7, in certain places, look a lot like some of the Wall Drawings on exhibit. Pretty crazy, I know, but take a look at these comparisons and I’m sure you’ll be convinced too:

Pretty crazy huh!? I can’t decide if it is actually like the saying “Old Couples Look Alike” or if the guys who renovated Building 7 or executed the Wall Drawings were all playing tricks on us by leaving the walls with these patterns. I’d really like to know. So next time you come around to North Adams be sure to stop by and check Building 7 and Sol LeWitt out for yourself and let me know if you can see it or if I’m just going a little crazy.

Posted January 7, 2010 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under Architecture, BLOG, Interns, LeWitt
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What’s in a name?

Our resident blogging rockstar Marketing Intern Will has a comment or two about our Sol LeWitt walls…

YAY! The Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective is ONE year old! One down, twenty four to go. Twenty four more years of visitors with an average of 100,000 visitors per year would mean 2,500,000 people could see the exhibition in its lifetime! That’s a lot of people and I think it is awesome that that many people will be able to see and experience this amazing display of Sol LeWitt’s most notable art medium.

One would think that this particular medium of art, a wall, would be very easy to maintain and conserve for many years. I mean some of the walls in our museum are over one hundred years old and the simple drywall walls in our homes are basically self-maintaining. When it comes to a wall as a work of art it would seem that it would be just as care-free, they don’t even collect dust! However, I have to remember that all works of art are not safe from one particular, almost uncontrollable conservation and preservation threat, the human finger!

Call it art and people seem magnetically attracted and subconsciously encouraged to touch it. Why do we do that? I honestly don’t have an answer for it. I think there is something about the fact that were aren’t supposed to touch that sprouts the little devil on our shoulder and makes us want to touch it.

It seems pretty silly to me especially when the art is made out of something so familiar, like concrete, cloth, stone, or even a wall. Yet the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings are not free and protected from curious fingertips. You would think that all walls are the same and if you’ve touched one you’ve touched them all! But I can see how these Wall Drawings are different. They just seem to be SCREAMING for someone to touch them and feel them as if they are different somehow. And as a consequence of this tactile characteristic I have noticed that during its inaugural year the Wall Drawing Retrospective has suffered a few smudges and marks:

Yet we all know that smudging, scratching, and smearing a Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing is not the end of the world. The physical wall and the pencil or crayon marks on a painted ground are not what really hold the value. It was Sol’s idea and/or concept behind each wall drawing that holds the importance and for that reason the physical wall can be damaged and smudged. All you have to do is paint the whole wall white again and start over.

I guess that is easier said than done. For that to happen we would have to hire a handful of artists to come to North Adams to execute the damaged wall drawings again. We would also have to hire at least one Professional Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Draftsperson to oversee all of the repairs so they are executed to Sol’s standards. While all of this would be fine and dandy, although costly, wouldn’t it be easier if we just didn’t touch the walls?

This whole situation reminds me of Romeo and Juliet, when the two love birds are cooing at each other through the balcony and Juliet famously states

“that which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Just before that Juliet said, “what’s in a name?” And that is exactly what puzzles me. Why do we have a desire to touch these walls when they are named art and yet we know that they are the same as the walls we have at home?

That which we call a Wall Drawing

by any other name would feel as ordinary;

so a Wall Drawing would,were it not a Wall Drawing called.

I see two solutions to this dilemma:

1. We could utilize the six practice wall drawing walls to our advantage. Why don’t we move them into the gallery space somewhere and then visitors can touch away! Everyone can get all of their touchy curiosity out on these practice walls, that are technically not actual works of art, and then continue to enjoy the rest of the exhibition without any temptation to touch the actual works of art.

2. Maybe it is a problem with our disclaimer wall labels:

We have numerous of these wall labels littered throughout the galleries and in a plethora of different languages.

In an ideal world we would be able to read these signs and remind ourselves that we are not allowed to touch the walls. But maybe we don’t have enough languages? I am now on a mission to expand our signage to as many languages as possible. My first translation is Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs (and about one million native speakers in modern Mexcio):

Assuming not all of these smudges and fingerprints were left by Nahuatl speakers I will continue my mission, expanding our wall labels to many more often overlooked languages: Elfish, Klingon (for our Star Trek visitors), Bocce (for our Star Wars visitors), maybe Russian or Hindi, and I still can’t decide if Braile would be a good idea or not…

Anyways, this has probably gone long enough, check out our Flickr photo set for all of our multi-lingual disclaimer labels, and remember

“If you’ve touched a wall you’ve touched ‘em all!

Posted December 28, 2009 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under Architecture, BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, LeWitt
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A day without cranes is like a day without sunshine

Richard, Dante, John, Jason, and Denise are hard at work moving the frame for Inigo Manglano-Ovale’s glass house into Building 5. We got a couple of shots of the start of the installation.

We couldn’t ask for better weather high 50s and clear.  No surprise, we lose a lotta heat when that overhead door is open.

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Attaching chains from crane to one piece of the house.

2009 11 10_0823

The crane getting ready to lift its load.

2009 11 10_0824_edited-1

They’ve moved in quite a few pieces already.

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Once the house is assembled over the next few days, Kapiloff’s Glass will come in and measure and then cut glass to fit.  Dante has been taking a bunch of pictures today. We’ll post them to flickr tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Posted November 10, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Architecture, BLOG, Work-in-progress
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