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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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Phyllis Criddle on the Rise

A few months ago, we blogged about of one our best-kept secrets, Phyllis Criddle. Phyllis has worked at the museum for several years now, first as part of the Art Fabrication team and now as the Assistant Manager of Hardware, the MASS MoCA store. But what she’s fast becoming known for are her amazing dresses made of scrap materials such as old MASS MoCA logos, ribbons, pieces of blankets, and most famously, hundreds of wrist bands from the Solid Sound Festival curated by Wilco. Check out her first Wilco dress, modeled by the artist last December:

Since then, Phyllis has created many more pieces out of Solid Sound wristbands. Check them out below.

Last month, Phyllis was invited to be part of the Alchemy Initiative‘s Earth Day Designer Auction, where she had the opportunity to show her patchwork dress made of recycled fabric, clothes, curtains and sheets:

We can’t wait to see what Phyllis does next. In the meantime, check out her website and stay tuned for future blog posts.

 

Posted May 25, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Secrets of MASS MoCA, Staff, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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Secrets of MASS MoCA: Phyllis Criddle

Every museum has a well-kept secret.  Whether it’s a stolen sketch, a haunted hallway, or a hidden painting tucked beneath another print, such covert wonders are proudly guarded as they help form each cultural hub’s individuality.  Today we reveal one of our favorite secrets—Phyllis Criddle.  You may not have heard of her (yet) because we have been keeping her all to ourselves.

Though only 23, she’s worked at MASS MoCA for 7 years, more than half the life of the museum! Starting as a member of the Art Fab crew, she went from working with hardware to working at Hardware, the MASS MoCA Store, where she is now the assistant manager.  Phyllis does more than run the store.  She has created a custom line of MASS MoCA clothing and accessories, embodying the museum’s mission of catalyzing new, bold art, which includes her famed Wilco dress (seen above, modeled on Phyllis).

Her first MASS MoCA creation was a dress crafted from the museum’s logo-splashed t-shirts.  Completely hand-sewn and definitely one-of-a-kind, the dress was rumored to be purchased by one of the creators of the video game phenomenon Rock BandHis wife even appeared at MASS MoCA this past summer, wearing the dress to the Bang on a Can Festival.  Phyllis also was commissioned to create Katharina Grosse inspired tablecloths, which were draped over every table at the museum’s 2011 Benefit in New York.

The buzz around Phyllis has recently grown ever since she debuted her Wilco fashion line, created out of hundreds of wristbands from the Solid Sound Festival held at MASS MoCA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted December 19, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Hardware, Secrets of MASS MoCA, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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The good, the amazing, the M.Ward fiasco… Summer 2011

On her last day our wonderful marketing intern Kathryn offers these reflections on her summer at MASS MoCA.

Family dinner

 

The summer is coming to a close, and I cannot believe how fast my time at MASS MoCA came and went. I still feel like I just sat down at my desk for the first time, with a lovely note from the previous intern Marissa. Yet, in reality I’ve experienced a ton of new things, seen some amazing art and performances, and best of all, I’ve met some truly incredible people (especially my fellow Summer Interns of 2011: Porkshire Edition) Read the rest of this entry »

Posted August 25, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Interns, Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum, North Adams, Staff, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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Reflections on Education


Our delightful education coordinator Cortney Tunis had her last day at MASS MoCA on Friday. (She moonlighted as our t-shirt model too as you can see.)   She shared this blog about her memorable MASS MoCA moments from the last few years here.

The past two and a half years have been filled with many triumphs during my time here at MASS MoCA. I haven’t written a blog since I was an intern here, but I figured my last duty as MASS MoCA Education Coordinator could be to share what I consider to be my “Personal Best Of” list: the highlights of my time here at the museum. So, here goes (in no particular order): Read the rest of this entry »

Posted August 16, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Gallery Quest, High School Art Show, Museum Education, Staff, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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MASS MoCA and The Wassaic Project

 

Curator Susan Cross on the  Wassaic Project:

Our neighbors from down the street in Wassaic were here at MASS MoCA for the  Solid Sound Festival.  If you aren’t already familiar with The Wassaic Project (run by three Williams College grads: Eve Biddle, Bowie Zunino, and Jeff Barnett-Winsby), we hope you had the chance to learn more about this exciting arts organization.

Located in a sprawling agricultural complex in the hamlet of Wassaic, New York (located off Route 22 right near the Metro North train line), this artist-run space hosts an international residency program (with studios in the gorgeous Luther Barn – see above photo) and features art exhibitions and works by their artists-in-residence in the towering grain elevators of the former Maxon Mills (photo below).  Their annual music and arts festival drew over 2000 fans in its second year in 2009, and this year the festival (August 5th-7th) will include 100 artists, 25 bands, poetry readings, dance performances, film screenings, and more.

The Wassaic Project offers artists and audiences a unique setting for making and engaging with art while working to save the historic buildings of Wassaic and engage with the local community. And admission to their exhibitions and the festival is FREE! (Donations welcome).

Their vision and energy are inspiring, and we love to think of them as a sister institution.

For Solid Sound, The Wassaic Project partnered with the Bureau for Open Culture to bring artists Breanne Trammell and her kite-making workshop as well as Jen-N-Outlaws Fish Fry Truck and Crawfish Boil to MASS MoCA.

The Wassaic Project is having a fundraiser on July 9th from 5:00 to 8:00pm. I’ll be making remarks to celebrate the great work the Wassaic Project is doing at 6 PM.

Posted July 6, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Bureau for Open Culture: I Am Searching for Field Character, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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