Artist Spotlight: Chatting with Victoria Palermo

In honor of the opening of the Bus Stand on Main Street in North Adams,  Kidspace sat down to chat with the artist, Victoria Palermo. Palermo’s work will be installed in mid-June 2012… But make sure to check out the festivities and the ribbon cutting with Mayor Alcombright on June 28 at 6 PM.

Kidspace: You have exhibited in museums and galleries (including Kidspace!) in the past, but your Bus Stand is a public work of art designed to be a permanent installation on Main Street in North Adams. Do you approach a project differently depending on the different audiences? If so, how?

VP: In a public work of art, the artist has the chance to catch the viewer by surprise.  Go to a museum, you expect to see art.  Wait for a bus, expect transportation.  In this case I hope to transport bus patrons in an additional way—as if they had entered a three-dimensional painting.  Looking out from inside the shelter, familiar streetscapes will appear in blocks of color.

I love the idea that someone might have an aesthetic experience while engaging in a mundane necessity of life—waiting for a bus.  I think that color has a tremendous impact on state of mind.   We are a secular society, but people used to spend more time in cathedrals, churches, and got a spiritual uplift from seeing the colored light streaming through stained glass windows.  If sitting in the bus shelter gives someone an emotional lift, makes the day a little bit better, I’ll be happy.

Kidspace: Do you have a preference for which kind of project you would rather do?

VP: I think the idea of communicating to a large diverse audience is the most exciting, but also the most scary.  I think of it as a reality check.  Hopefully people will respond on a fundamental level.  The work is about visual perception; appreciation requires eyes, not a knowledge of art theory.  I love it when small children, in particular, respond positively to my work.

There are practical considerations to be considered in a project like this; I am very mindful that the shelter must function from a practical point of view.  I hope that North Adams folks will see it as a gift that belongs to them; something to be taken care of and preserved.  Within a museum or gallery, the artist has certain assurances that the work will be protected.  In the case of a public work, all bets are off.

Kidspace: As I understand it, the inspiration for the Bus Stand project started with a residency you did with North Adams public school students in spring of 2010. How did working with these kids influence your decision to start this project, or the evolution of the project design itself?

VP: Kids respond in such a genuine way.  Again—terrifying—because they are savages and feel no compulsion to respond politely. Yet, they came to the project with open minds with no negative preconceptions.  I had already been working with the idea of creating an “art” shelter that could have a practical application.   I worked with several groups of junior high students during their last week of school.  I was afraid that they would rather be playing outside, but they were great and made an array of structures that could function in a public arena.  Their energy and responses were very confirming.

Kidspace: As a professional artist, what do you gain from doing a residency project in the schools?

VP: It’s good practice to learn to communicate ideas in the most direct  (no bull—-) way.  Students respond to authenticity.  They’re not worried—“is it art?”, but react on a gut level.  There’s no tougher audience.    This is my second residency project with Kidspace; both have been very energizing, confirming experiences.  One could say—a blast.

Kidspace: How do you think artist residencies influence students?

VP: Hopefully, the students begin to see the experience of art as a part of life, not just an isolated experience. I think also that students come to realize that artists are not so very different from them, and that important work may be achieved through a sense of play.

Kidspace: What’s next on the horizon for you, after the Bus Stand?

VP: Perhaps more public works in a similar vein?  I have ideas and models.


More about Victoria Palermo:

Victoria Palermo, a sculptor residing in Queensbury, New York, holds a Bacehlor of Science degree in Art from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Skidmore College and previously was a scenic painter and art department director for Adirondack Scenic, Inc., in Glens Falls, New York. In addition to Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, her work has been in solo and group shows in such galleries and museums as: Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts; The Arts Center in Troy, New York; The Tang Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York; Pierogi 2000, Brooklyn, New York; ART/OMI Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; and Galerie Du Tableau, Marseilles, France. She is represented by the John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York. 


Posted May 17, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Exhibitions, Kidspace, Museum Education, North Adams, Openings
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Feeling curious about the summer at MASS MoCA?

Laura Thompson, Director of Exhibitions and Education at Kidspace, blogs about the upcoming season.

A mastodon. Baseball player. Cowboy. Ninja.  Monster. Fire-eater. Tattooed grandma….Curious?

You know I must be talking about another wacky exhibition organized by Kidspace. Curiosity, to open on June 23, will fire up the curious nature of young people. Art materials range from LEGOS to fiberglass, prints to paintings. Ten internationally recognized artists will be featured in this action-packed installation, which will also include an “art cabaret,” where children can place an order for art materials to work with at café-style seating.

Colin Boyd’s work above… that is one big mastodon!

Nathan Sawaya’s piece, “Han Solo in Carbonite.”

Relating to the curiosity theme will be our new Summer Teachers’ Institute, organized in collaboration with our partners The Clark and the Williams College Museum of Art. To be held on July 30 – August 3, the institute will explore different approaches to encouraging creativity and curiosity in the classroom. I am so excited to have as our keynote Jessica Hoffmann Davis, a renowned scholar in the field of art education who will make clear that the arts are essential to the well being of children, and foster healthy schools and communities. We are still accepting applications for the institute; for more details, follow this link.

Isobel Varley holds the Guinness World Record for “World’s Most Tattooed Senior Woman” with 76% of her body covered in ink!

Another exciting event to be held this summer is the opening of our Bus Stand Project by Victoria Palermo:

You might recall Vicky’s work in Kidspace’s Nature Park exhibition of 2003: think grass chairs and rubber trees! While not made out of natural materials, the steel and colorful glass bus stand will be a permanent fixture on Main Street in North Adams, replacing the old stand outside of Radio Shack. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on the opening night of DownStreet Art on June 28, 2012.

Posted March 30, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Kidspace, Openings, Staff
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Putting Kids to work at Kidspace


Fun was had by all at Kidspace’s Merpeople-making session on December 29.   Here some of the participants display their mermaids and mer-gents.  James Grashow’s spectacular cardboard mermaid (shown above with her school of friends) and Aurora Robson’s recycled plastic bottles were the inspiration for the art project.  Photos of some of the participants with their creations follow.



















Posted December 30, 2011 by MASS MoCA
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Minding the Kids

Our terrific Kidspace intern Amanda contributes this blog about her experience here since September:

It was hard to imagine six months ago, during the stress of final exams and scrambling for post-graduation plans, that my first full-time gig as a college graduate would have turned out to be so relaxing. Especially when I was looking only at jobs that involved working with kids.

But here I am, listening to ocean sounds all day long at my desk. And I’ve been meditating more often in this past month than I have in my entire life. Did I mention that this counts as work? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted November 8, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, Kidspace, Museum Education

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Under the Sea at Kidspace!

, the newest exhibit in Kidspace at MASS MoCA, opens this Saturday, October 1! There will be a special opening party this Saturday from 11-4pm, featuring demonstrations from the artists.  Visitors can learn how to create intricate pipe-cleaner weavings, cardboard fish, and even a surfboard!

The artists providing our under-water world are hard at work transforming Kidspace into the ocean.  We checked in on the progress and couldn’t believe our eyes…

Using cardboard, sculptor James Grashow created a rainbow of fish swimming through Kidspace with their mermaid friend (Under the Corrugated Sea). Read the rest of this entry »

Posted September 28, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Kidspace

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“The Known Universe”

Northampton-based artist Samuel Rowlett and a dynamic crew of 15 local high school students collaborated on The Known Universe at “TEENSPACE” a project of Kidspace at MASS MoCA  in downtown North Adams as part of the annual DownStreet Art festival. Visit the space at 26 Holden Street to see the results.

Samuel Rowlet has written a guest blog for MASS MoCA, check out what he has been working on:

With sketchbooks filled after a month of meeting twice a week on the 3rd floor of MASS MoCA as part of my residency with the Teenspace crew, we finally saw the space for our installation this summer.  The site of the old Artery Lounge at 26 Holden Street was perfect!   With a patina of character and quirky architectural palimpsests it was just the raw space we needed to take the ethos of the sketchbook (the artist’s equivalent of a diary), blow it up large scale and make it environmental.  The process, based on my own studio practice of turning the unpolished immediacy of sketchbook drawings into wall drawings, certainly gave the project an uncertain future.  Especially having 16 sketchbooks to source from!  However, after seeing the sketches the Crew had made, I knew we had the makings of something great.

Perhaps the most pleasing part of the project (in addition to the rocking installation: a mash-up of social commentary, angst, honesty and satire, that somehow reminds me of a Nirvana music video) has been the camaraderie and sense of collaboration that has developed within the group throughout the installation process.  As we helped draw each other’s drawings, we got to know one another, to rely on one another, riffing off each other’s ideas, and (quite literally) drawing connections between our sketchbook worlds.  I had charged them with the task of mapping their own universes, however it has become less about individual paradigms and more about stewardship of the work as a whole and the conversation they have put into motion through the process of working together.  Which, primarily, is what I hope for them will be the real take-away from this experience.  One that they can repeat in the future in whatever their chosen field may be:  a sense of creative collaboration.  “The Known Universe” expands…

Posted June 30, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Kidspace, North Adams, Work-in-progress
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