NORTH ADAMS -- On Thursday, Jan. 24, artists from around the country gathered for "100 Hours in the Woodshed," the biannual collage marathon at MCLA’s Gallery 51. The 30 or so artists will work throughout the weekend in the gallery’s two downtown spaces, where visitors are invited to stop in and watch the creative process unfold.
The program began on Thursday, when artists arrived at the studio for a public reception and to begin working. Through Sunday, they will work from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the galleries open each day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
On Monday, the work will be curated by C. Ryder Cooley, the new manager of Gallery 51, and Susan Cross, a curator for Mass MoCA. The resulting exhibit will run at the gallery through Jan. 31.
In 2006, collage artists Daniel O’Connor (who lives in North Adams) and Scott Zieher staged an early version of "Woodshed" at Zieher’s studio in Chelsea, N.Y. (O’Connor, Zieher and others had been meeting informally on weekends to make art together for almost 20 years). In 2007, O’Connor brought the project to his hometown, where it now is in its fourth cycle.
Ironically, the phrase "take it to the woodshed" usually implies dealing with someone or something in the privacy of a dark, secluded place. "100 Hours in the Woodshed" turns the entire process of art making - from conception through to exhibit - into a public, communal event that artists and viewers can experience together.
Kristen Parker of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center helped organize this year’s marathon, and was a participating artist in 2011. The event alters the typical relationship between artist and community, she said, by allowing visitors to see "what the artists are working on and actually experience their process one-on-one, rather than experience the work that’s adapted from their processes."
As before, artists will work two-to-a-table, where they can easily interact and share ideas.
"It’s a very, very tight space," said Parker, "but everything has always been successful. You meet new friends, you get to see faces that you haven’t seen in two years or so. It gives you the chance to kind of come out of your own artistic shell and you’re able to see how other people work."
Part of the fun, said Cooley, is seeing how the public atmosphere influences the artwork.
"What you would make when people are walking in and out of the room as opposed to what you would make if you were just completely by yourself is obviously going to be different," she said.
In 2011, "Woodshed III" included gallery performances by Boston-based singer-songwriter Max Jeffers, who will return this year and also perform at Public Eat+Drink on Saturday, Jan. 26.
In the past, artists have worked in a range of media, including paper, video, sound and quilting, and ideas continue to evolve.
"I didn’t see anybody doing digital collage two years ago," Parker said, "but I wouldn’t be surprised [this year] if someone came in with that."
One unique feature of the marathons is their inclusion of artists at many different stages in their careers, Parker said. "Anywhere from student artists to fully established artists" have participated, adding to the spirit of openness and variety that surrounds the event.
While artists often arrive with a general idea of what they want to create, Parker said, the idea is not to have a specific project or a specific outcome in mind. "Because part of the whole thing is being able to experience your own process, and experience other artists’ process and kind of feed off each other and go back and forth," Parker said, "and really just try to share and take in the energy of the rooms for the three days."
"100 Hours in the Woodshed IV" will begin Thursday, Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. at Gallery 51 in North Adams. Info: mcls.edu/gallery51, 413-664-8718.