What I REALLY think about my job

Here is a note from our fabulous Kidspace Director Laura Thompson:

Every time I tell people where I work they say that I must really like my job because for the past six years I have commuted to North Adams 3 -5 days a week from Saratoga New York.  On good days it takes me 1 ½ hours to drive through upstate New York and part of Vermont to get to the Berkshires.  On bad days, it could take up to 2 ½ hours. A bad day is when I have to follow a log truck going 35 miles an hour all the way up Route 7 because there is no place to pass.  Or during a rainstorm when people forget how to drive.  Springtime sometimes makes me late for work when the ducklings are crossing at the farm in Pownal (or that day that a large old turtle was crossing, ugh!).

But what I really think about my job is this… I am consistently impressed with the amazing things that the museum accomplishes.  I have worked for some really difficult and struggling organizations, where staff animosity was deathly and unproductive to say the least.  MASS MoCA, on the other hand I call “my happy place” where there is a great deal of support and positive energy, and fun (how about that in the workplace!).

The perception some have of the museum field is that the more renowned the organization the more pretentious the staff.  Some friends once said to me that staff at many museums take themselves too seriously and from my early experience in museums I can bear witness to this: for example, at one museum I worked for, staff was not allowed to call the museum director by his first name.

What inspired me to write this blog entry was in response to an impromptu family outing Joe (MASS MoCA director) planned a few weeks ago where all staff and their families were invited to go bowling and have pizza. My husband sometimes kids me when I tell him I want to go up to the museum on my day off for a staff event or museum program…”it’s work”, he says.  But I know, he knows my work is so different from his work in the cubicle-filled, florescent-lighted for-profit world. (Don’t even get me started on the difference: just know that the people on the tv show The Office and comic strip Dilbert are not fiction!)

The bowling party was a simple thing to do but really reinforced my belief that museums (or any job excluding brain surgeons) that take themselves too serious are a drag. Or as Martinetti said in 1908 “Museums, cemeteries! But to take for a daily walk through the museums our spleen, lack of courage, and morbid restlessness, we will not grant it!…Why will you poison yourselves? Why will you decay?” I don’t think he had MASS MoCA in mind when he said this.

(The Thompson family at the bowling party)

Laura Thompson
Director of Exhibitions and Education
Kidspace at MASS MoCA

Posted February 3, 2009 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Blogroll, Kidspace, Staff
1 Comment »

Digg | | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit

The Best of 08′

Happy 2009! I am squeaking this blog in just a few days before the time to stop talking about 2008 arrives (by my calculations exactly two weeks after the turn of the new year).

I polled a few of my colleagues to find out what their various favorites from 08′ were. Below are our picks, but I would love to get your answers too. Comment with your thoughts for the Best of  08′.

Best news story of  08′ (National)

– Obama elected President. (This was a staff favorite!)

-Michael Phelps winning 14 gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. (Meg, Performing Arts)

Best news story of 08′ (Local)

North Adams bank robbery attempt. (Rebecca W, Development)

-The mysterious disappearance, and thank goodness, subsequent return of Northern Berkshire’s landmark poultry. (Sarah, Performing Arts)

Mercury spill at Conte Middle School and mercury’s strange similarities to the Simon Starling sculptures in the galleries. (Alison, Education)

Best art piece featured in the MASS MoCA galleries

-Devorah Sperber’s installation in KidSpace. (Laura, Kidspace)

-Simon Starling’s Nanjing Particles. (Joe, Director)

-Marine Hugonnier’s Ariana. (Rebecca R, Membership)

-Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing # 146A . (Gene, Curatorial)

Best performance at MASS MoCA

-Bollywood Dance Party. (Alexis, Box Office)

-Sweet Divines at retro Soul Dance Party. (Katherine, Marketing)

-Yo La Tengo Concert. (Alison)

-Upside-down flute playing girl at an afternoon Bang on a Can Gallery recital. (Rebecca R)

-Steve Malkmus and the Jicks. (Jodi, HARDWARE Store)

Best Herrell’s Ice Cream Flavor

-Chocolate Peanut Butter. (Sue, Performing Arts)

-Mud Pie. (Another staff favorite!)

-Chocolate Coconut. (Joe)

-Burnt Butter & Sugar. (Eric, Development)

Best Noth Adams event

-Beach Day. (Rebecca R)

Steeple Cats games; Downtown Celebration in August. (Paulette, Administration)

-Pancake Breakfast at the Houghton Masion Masonic Lodge (last Sunday of every month). (Sarah)

-Phillippa from Bang on a Can leading “Take me out to the Ballgame” on her musical saw @ the Steeple Cats. (Sue)

Open Studios Weekend. (Rebecca W)

Best non-MASS MoCA related event

North Adams Prom (for adults). (Alison)

-Okkervil river, Crooked Fingers, and What Cheer? at Pearl Street in Northampton, October 8th. (Gene)

-2 Dave Matthews Band shows back to back at SPAC. (Meg)

-GATZ at EMPAC. (Brittany, Marketing)

-Open Mic Comedy Night at The Alley. (Katherine)


Summer Highlight– A Lovely BBQ at Duncan and Susan Brown’s House with the Sol LeWitt Professionals and Apprentices in early June. (Meg)

Best Super Bowl upset– Giant over the Pats in Super Bowl XLII. (Gene)

Best Sight– Seeing thousands of people enjoy themselves at the Sol LeWitt Opening. (Paulette)

Most Satisfying and Beautiful Event– Watching the Sol LeWitt wall drawings slowly unfold over 6 months time. (Joe)

Best HARDWARE Staffer of 08– Noelle Barlett (Jodi)



Posted January 13, 2009 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Blogroll
1 Comment »

Digg | | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit

Show us your biospheres!

I became the proud parent of three lovely biospheres after our interns offered adoptions at Downtown Celebration last week. Already made but lacking a home I signed the paperwork and brought these adorable pieces of moss up to my office where they have been living on the top of my computer ever since.

Looking at my biospheres yesterday made me think about all the other adoptions we have facilitated this summer to museum visitors.

If you’ve got a biosphere I want to see it! Reply to this post with a link to photos of your own adopted biosphere in whatever environment it may live in. If enough of you post I may even start a Flickr group devoted to our mossy friends.



Posted August 28, 2008 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Blogroll, Interns

Digg | | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit

Thumbs up for Abena Koomson

Last month spoken word poetess Abena Koomson performed as part of our Alt Cab series for an audience that was awestruck by her talent and her presence. A group of Summer Seminar students from MCLA attended the performance and were lucky enough to meet Abena after the show and have their photo taken with her (see below). One of the organizers of the program wrote, “There a number of students in this year’s Summer Seminar who enjoy writing poetry, so this event was perfect for them (and for all of us!)” the students also shared their enthusiasm for the event adding “I’ve never attended anything like this before” and “she really moved me.” One student even ranked the performance as her favorite event of the summer.

In the photo: (from left to right) Kim Harris, MCLA ’08, academic tutor counselor in writing, (Burlington); Tanya Germain (Sharon); Monique Symes, academic tutor counselor in writing (Boston); Jarred Jeter (Boston); Ms. Koomson; Tyeson Bell (Roxbury); Marlene Romero (Boston), and Georgiana Swaray (Dorchester).

We are glad these students were able to join us for the show and hope we will see them all again.



PS. Check out our next installment of the Alt Cab series with Dark Dark Dark this coming Saturday, August 9.

Posted August 5, 2008 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Blogroll, Music, North Adams

Digg | | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit

Rain or shine

Summer holds a very special place in my heart. Below are the top five things I love about summer.

1. Having the opportunity to soak up the sun as much as I can.

2. Flip flops. Now that I have moved into mine I’m not likely to abandon them until there is snow on the ground.

3. Summer foods like cold salads and watermelon, that somehow taste so much better on a warm day.

4. Summer rains. There is something so refreshing about the intense humidity just before these rains and the cool that follows.

5. Outdoor shows at the drive-in, in the middle of town, at an institution, it doesn’t really matter to me as long as I am outside enjoying a movie or a live performance.

At MASS MoCA we try to host as many outdoor performances as we can during the summer, although sometimes the weather does not always cooperate with us which is why we have rain calls. Although the process is extremely necessary, sometimes it can seem downright funny when it is pouring down rain or the sun is shining brightly. A few weeks ago I took this photo of my friend Sarah, who works in the performing arts department, right after the rain call on a beautiful day. Of course this is a spoof on the actual process, but you get the idea!



Posted July 9, 2008 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Blogroll, Staff

Digg | | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit

1000 photos or bust

Photo from

Have you looked at the MASS MoCA Flickr Group lately? Today we are celebrating our sixth month anniversary on Flickr AND the addition of our 500th photo! Thanks to you and your cameras we are on our way to compiling an excellent collection of photographs capturing nearly everything MASS MoCA related… even our bathrooms!

I have two challenges for you faithful blog readers….

1. Let’s get some discussion going over on our Flickr Group board. To get you started I have posted a topic asking whether photography should be allowed in art galleries or not.

2. Let’s expand the group to 1000 photos by January 1st of 2009. That’s only 6 months, but I know you are up to the challenge.

Wishing you insightful discussions and happy photo posting,


Posted July 7, 2008 by Brittany Bishop
Filed under BLOG, Blogroll
Leave a comment »

Digg | | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit