Assets for ArtistsÂ â€” Â founded in 2008 by then MASS MoCA Director of Real Estate and Community DevelopmentÂ Blair Benjamin â€” Â is a matched-savings and entrepreneurship-training program for low-income artists in all disciplines. If you are a Massachusetts-based artist, you are eligible to apply; Assets for Artists is acceptingÂ applications through October 11, 2013.
The program helps artists access additional capital, grow their artistic ventures, and gain the financial stability that promotes creative freedom. This program, born from MASS MoCAâ€™s commitment to community revitalization through the arts, was piloted at home in Berkshire County, enrolling nine local artists during its first year.
Today,Â Assets for ArtistsÂ â€”Â administered by MASS MoCA in collaboration with ArtHome, the Midas Collaborative, and many local partners â€”Â has expanded to serve over 100 artists across the state of Massachusetts and in New York City, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine., including:
Kelly Carmody, painting
Shawn Brewer, printmaking
Jessica Delfino, comedy
Beth Brandon, printmaking
Caitlin Berrigan, performance
Juan Hinojosa, mixed media
From now until October 11, Assets for Artists is accepting applications from low-income creative entrepreneurs throughout the state of Massachusetts. To learn more and to download the application, visitÂ assetsforartists.org/apply.
Over 3,500 happy, exhausted festival-goers filed out of MASS MoCA after The Del McCoury Bandâ€™s third encore performance ended FreshGrass 2013. Just three years ago the same band played at the first FreshGrass festival in front of a crowd of 400.
FreshGrass has grown from a fall gathering to a full-fledged festival. Bluegrass lovers filled our courtyards and galleries, picked in every corner of our campus, and enjoyed back-to-back performances on two stages totaling 30 hours of live music.
Enough words… here are some pictures and videos from the eventful weekend.
(Above) FreshGrass Award winners Cricket Tell the Weather perform a pop-up concert under Xu Bing’s Phoenix. (Below)Cricket Tell the Weather’s winning performance.
Mason Jar Music, a Brooklyn-based creative collective, filmed this intimate performance, along with many others, of returning FreshGrass performer Sarah Jarosz during the festival.
Bluegrass fans of all ages enjoyed the show.
A train interrupted The Gibson Brothers’ performance in Joe’s Field.
In 2011 MASS MoCA decided to celebrate the onset of fall in the Berkshire hills of northwestern Massachusetts with some bluegrass and roots music. The first year was a small affair â€“ two days, nine bands, and one courtyard stage. It caught on.
Now in its third year, FreshGrass is gearing up for a weekend of killer afternoon and after-dark programming, featuring 25 traditional and cutting-edge bluegrass bands performing on three stages, industry and instrument workshops, and plenty of pop-up performances, on September 20-22.
Legendary local brewery The Peopleâ€™s Pint is busy brewing FreshGrass IPA just for the occasion. The stage in our concert meadow is assembled. Food trucks are lined up, and late night hoedowns, fueled by MASS MoCAâ€™s high-octane moonshine slushies, are in the works.
Tease your ear buds with intimate performances by FreshGrass 2013 artists, produced for the festival by the creative collective, Mason Jar Music.
â€śHe who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.â€ť- Albert Einstein
Over the last two weeks, Providence, Rhode Island-based artists Megan and Murray McMillan have been in residence at MASS MoCA creating elements for a new work that explores the complexity of the idea of wonder. Once finished, the new work will be installed as part of a 2015 MASS MoCA group exhibition, exploring what it feels like to stand in awe of something, and how one goes about attaching meaning to that experience.
Since 2002, the McMillans have been crafting elaborate sculptural sets and then directing performers in the activation of â€“Â and interaction with â€“Â the sets. The performances are filmed; the footage is then edited and installed, along with elements of the original sets, to create an immersive video and sculptural experience.
About a year ago, MASS MoCA curator Denise Markonish invited the McMillans to come to the museum, explore the campus, and make a proposal for a new piece to be created and installed on site. At the time, Markonish, along with artist Sean Foley (who exhibited at MASS MoCA in 2010), were preparing the group exhibition exploring wonder and awe. The McMillans’ work has often centered on these ideas, making it an ideal match for the exhibition.
During their visit and tour, the McMillans immediately identified the former Boiler House as a site of interest for their video. They were taken with it not only for its complicated and beautiful former industrial structure, but also for the conceptual idea of shifts in sustainable energy â€“ from coal, which once heated the factory, to greener methods such as solar power and wind turbines â€” it represents.
Many months after their initial visit, the McMillans and their studio assistants arrived at MASS MoCA with nine wooden boulders. With MASS MoCA’s dynamic Art Fabrication and Installation department, led by Preparator and Supervisor Derek Parker, the boulders were craned into the more than 2-story high coal bin, through the Boiler House roof, and attached to cranks that allowed the boulders to be lifted through the space by a series of performers. The MASS MoCA team also built a tea house that nestled into the space at the top of the coal bin.
A 50-foot camera track installed on the side of the coal bin and out of the roof of the building captured a single vertical shot of a central boulder carrying performer Thea Ulrich. The vertical movement of the camera allows a narrative to unfold, similar to that of Japanese landscape scrolls. As the boulder travels upwards, portraying a travelers journey, Ulrich exits to the Japanese tea house, and then to a platform, overlooking all of MASS MoCA and the rolling mountain landscape that surrounds the museum.
With their residency completed, the McMillans have returned to Providence to edit the footage and develop the final installation for their 2015 exhibition.
The McMillans’ work is just one of the hundreds of new performing and visual artworks createdÂ on the MASS MoCA campus through the fabrication and performance residency programs. Friend, follow, and subscribe to receive updates on MASS MoCA projects and all the other fun MASS MoCA happenings.
When I joined MASS MoCA I had an idea Iâ€™d be involved in projects of great scale; the museum has an interesting penchant for being the genesis for many of the artworks shown in its galleries. Itâ€™s a non-collecting institution, focused primarily on providing a platform for emerging artists and performers, constantly reaching to the limits of its abilities and housed in a massive city industrial mill complex. Tack on a few sleepless nights and you have a pretty aggressively dynamic environment.
Some would say that the MASS MoCA concept short-circuits the traditional role of the museum. However, I havenâ€™t had much time to ponder such things since working here. Frankly, having a â€ślittle sparkâ€ť to life keeps things interesting. Wild, forward-thinking projects, undertaken with teams of extremely dedicated and talented individuals on shoestring budgets… feels like a front-row seat in the trenches of our ever-evolving culture warâ€¦ albeit in the middle of the â€śwoodsâ€ť. But the museum has grown and matured over the past 14 years. Things are changing as we move into our teens. Retaining its youthful vitality, itâ€™s an institution working with more and more creative people while also developing a little more depth at its core. MASS MoCA is becoming more and more a â€śthink tankâ€ť for the arts, and what a contemporary art museum can be if itâ€™s open to collaboration.
So, when someone came up with the idea of taking an 10,000 square foot, concrete water tank, used to filter sediment from the untamed waters of the Hoosic River, and turning it into an exhibition space… I thought… well, thatâ€™s a good idea!
But hold on… how about a little back story, you say?
There once was a sculpture that lived in the front yard of an interesting husband and wife who were fearless collectors:
It was a striking contemporary sculpture by an artist recognized by the nation of France as an official National Treasure (as he was German, one would have to assume that the French thought he was a good artist).
Oddly enough, the sculpture was misunderstood (a recurring theme in history), and neighbors of this interesting pair of collectors thought the sculpture to be an abomination; indeed they disliked the sculpture to such a great extent that they made the couple remove the sculpture from their yard by act of law on the pretext of historical preservation, or building code, or some other made-up reason.
Dismayed by the turn of events, and weary of the fight with neighbors, the couple (Andy and Christine Hall) called Joe Thompson at MASS MoCA to see if the museum might be interested in showing the sculpture; MASS MoCA was indeed very interested! And so in 2007 there was a fabulous exhibition of the Anselm Keifer sculpture Ă‰troits sont les Vaisseaux, 2002, accompanied by several of the artistâ€™s magnificent paintings, also generously lent from the Halls.
It was a great success, drawing interest and patrons from far and wide. It was such a positive experience, in fact, that in the wake of our recent experience with the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective (a 25-year temporary exhibition) the thought of creating a more lasting representation of the Anselm Kiefer works of The Hall Collection at MASS MoCA took root. And the search for a space was onâ€¦
After several feasibility studies of potential spaces, interest eventually focused upon the defunct water tank located at the southern extreme of the campus. The Hall Art Foundationâ€™s Alex Haviland, who helps oversee the Hallsâ€™ collection, became convinced that this daunting structure could be converted.
The water tank once stood embedded in a five-story building but was left exposed after the exterior structure was raised. As Joe put it, â€śWe saved it, not quite knowing what it might one day be used for, but sensing that the beautifully austere structure would one day find a new purpose.â€ť Our structural engineer believed that the tank was likely cast within the building in the early 1920â€™s, the concrete and hand-laid stone foundation carted in wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. He dated the concrete casting from the horizontal board marks still evident in the tank. These forms were assembled from lumber, predating the invention of plywood.
One of the issues was the elaborate structure which keeps the 20-inch thick tank walls from bursting outward when filled with water. This veritable maze of interior walls, columns, and purlins would need to be removed to make way for the exhibition. In order to do this, a massive concrete cutting claw was brought in to chew the concrete in to pieces that could be trucked away.
The claw could grasp and crush while at the same time have a jackhammer-like ability that would pulverize the water-cured concrete to a powder, exposing the steel rebar which would then be burned away with torches. It was a labor-intensive, and machine-intensive, process.
Once essentially eviscerated of the interior walls, ramps, purlins, and other non-essential architecture, and the entrances cut, the interior floor was poured. As the previous use was a water tank, the floor had an exceptionally steep pitch from one end to the other for drainage. The entire building was loaded with flow-able fill, and then a concrete floor (dyed to match the walls) was poured in the building. Above you can see the insulating curing blankets used to protect the floor from cold-weather conditions. Another interesting aspect of the project is that the sculpture, Ă‰troits sont les Vaisseaux, 2002, was dropped into the shell of the tank and covered with a protective platform, and then the buildingâ€™s upper walls and roof were installed around itâ€¦solving the ship-in-the bottle problem and making for more efficient craning.
After the concrete is poured, the steel structure of the pre-engineered building was installed.
The insulation and exterior panels.
This space is much more pristine, white, and classical in feeling than MASS MoCAâ€™s typically warm masonry and wood-framed galleries. And while MASS MoCA is rather well-known for its beautifully side-lit galleries, this one will feature an amazing skylight, which is a first for MASS MoCA. It should make for an interesting and refreshing juxtaposition. We rather like the idea of MASS MoCA becoming a museum and performing arts space that also houses a collection of distinct curatorial points of view and long-term art â€śmilestonesâ€ť within our roster of changing exhibitions: LeWitt, Kiefer, and the Clark. The design of the building was worked out collaboratively between the Hall Art Foundation, which funded most of the work; the artist; his installation designer, Bill Katz; and local architects from the multidisciplinary design consulting firm, Guntlow & Associates, Inc. There will also be quite a bit of exterior landscape work done, opening up our â€śSpeed Wayâ€ť for future outdoor sculptural installations.
And now for the installation of artwork inside the building â€¦ youâ€™ll have to come visit beginning September 27th. Stay tuned.
Blog by Dante Birch, Director of Exhibition Planning
New York-based conceptual sculptor Marko Remec has created five contemporary totems by adhering ready-made objects such as mops, brooms, and mirrors to utility poles and our iconic water tower. These modern-day totems play with the tensions between the built and natural worlds while hinting at some of the uglier aspects of urban and suburban living.
We spoke with Remec about his work and the process of installing Totally Totem on MASS MoCAâ€™s campus.
Tell us about the conception of Totally Totem.
The Totem series originated from a site visit to MASS MoCA. My departure point was a set of telephone poles left over from a previous installation that I saw in one of the undeveloped buildings on campus. I had for years been fascinated by totem poles and had already gathered several large logs in my studio in anticipation of such a project. In addition, I had recently replaced some rearview mirrors on my Jeep, so I was experimenting with the old ones. When I saw that pile of poles, after having just walked around the museumâ€™s outdoor spaces, the idea for what became Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear (Circle Totem) very quickly gelled. I sketched this out for the museum and was encouraged to develop the work further. Once I had the idea of using mirrors and poles, the other works like Tall Totem and Fat Totem seemed the natural next step.
What are the formal concerns of reflectivity? Scale and iteration seem to be thematic in these works. How does that figure in your practice?
My practice is more on the conceptual level. Reflectivity is what a mirror does, and it provides a very accessible initial layer to a viewer. I am keying off of the attributes of what the mirror does. Safety turns into paranoia through massive iteration of reflection. When up close to so many mirrors, the overpowering opportunity for self-reflection references todayâ€™s rampant narcissism.
Why MASS MoCA?
Aside from it being the largest contemporary art museum in the world? It is kind of a homecoming. I went to college nearby. My first studio art teacher at Williams was very involved in the founding of MASS MoCA. Many artists I respect and follow have shown their work here. And most importantly, Joe [Thompson, MASS MoCAâ€™s Director] is somewhat of a maverick in the museum world who delights in introducing new artists.
Tell us about the installation process of Totally Totem?
I had five works to install that were all constructed on site. First, field work is challenging as you are out of the comfort zone of your studio. Second, you are working outdoors and have to deal with the weather. For the most part, I was able to make the first four pieces with the help of one of the museumâ€™s installation staff. I thought this left plenty of time for the largest and most complicated work, Fat Totem, which covers the museumâ€™s water tower (35 foot high and 45 foot in diameter). This last work was going to be difficult, and I needed the assistance of the installation team. It has almost 24,000 individual components to support and hold the 442 convex mirrors, each almost three feet wide. We used almost a mile of wire! There were some procurement issues, and a critical component we needed to mount the mirrors did not arrive at the museum until four days before the show opened. At this point, my only comfort was Joe telling me late Monday, â€śThis is no problem; if this was Wednesday, then I would be worried.â€ť It is a testament to Richard Criddle MASS MoCA’s Director of Fabrication and Installation, and his crew, that the work got done. We had the entire six-man team working overtime, including a number of walk-ons (Joe and Larry Smallwood [MASS MoCAâ€™s Deputy Director] both put in their time). On top of that, it rained miserably almost that entire week. In the end, it got finished. I guess I shouldnâ€™t have worried.
What is one interesting thing you learned about MASS MoCA?
MASS MoCA is almost like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark when the government stores the Ark of the Covenant for safekeeping, and then the camera pans back and you see it is in this immense space with all these other presumably amazing objects. There is a lot of intriguing stuff there.