NORTH ADAMS -- For the sixth consecutive year, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Berkshire Cultural Resource Center will provide North Adams with a summer of creative events when its annual public arts festival, DownStreet Art, opens with a downtown celebration on Thursday, June 20, from 5 to 10 p.m. DownStreet Art will run through Oct. 31.
This summer's events, which are free and open to the public, will include gallery openings, a dance party on Main Street, a wandering light show, a community reading of Frederick Douglas's famous Fourth of July address, new murals in the downtown, and musical performances to include Montreal-based, multi-cultural, multi-lingual hip-hop band Nomadic Massive. The June 20 kickoff celebration happening throughout downtown North Adams will coincide with Wilco's Solid Sound Festival weekend at MASS MoCA. Main Street will shut down traffic for a World Music Dance Party, which starts at 8 p.m.
This year's DownStreet Art theme is "Beyond Industry," reflecting a North Adams that attempts to progress beyond its post-factory town and industrial past by using the arts as a catalyst for socioeconomic growth. The season's exhibition line-up will include a wide array of renowned visual artists whose works tackle the scope of industry, whether within the narrow focus of the art industry or the broader context of industrial structures formed by society.
DownStreet Art's initiative for this season additionally reflects the theme of progression, with four new "pop-up" (temporary) galleries and the commissioning of a multi-piece mural project created by artist Peter Dudek, which visitors will discover throughout downtown North Adams.
For "Mural Series: Peter Dudek," Dudek will create an ongoing series of architectural cartoons where different forms of housing represent a world in which buildings not only have a consciousness, but also the desire and ability to perpetuate.
In addition, in "Paint it Big! Paint it Public!," a teen workshop led by local artist Andrew Davis as a program of the Clark Art Institute, students will create a public mural based on Albrecht Durer's famous 16th-century woodcut "The Rhinoceros." This mural will be formed in the Main Street alley, between Shear Madness Salon and Eagle Street, July 15-17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"Once again, we have some truly amazing art and artists," said Jonathan Secor, director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. "We had great submissions from around the world, giving our curatorial committee - made up of representatives from MASS MoCA, the Clark Art Museum, the Mount Holyoke Museum, Williams College
"Over the course of the next four months we will feature 75 different artists in over 30 exhibitions. The great news is that because downtown now has more year-round, permanent businesses than it has in decades, DownStreet Art is opening fewer pop-up galleries this season."
According to Secor, people literally will be dancing in the street for the first of the DownStreet Art Thursday performance series, as Main Street closes down for traffic at 8 p.m. on June 20. Featuring music by Nomadic Massive, the dance party in the streets will cap off eight new exhibition openings downtown, other musical acts and roving art happenings.
Last summer, DownStreet Art strove to revitalize the facade of North Adams when it facilitated the creation of three large-scale public murals. The primary focus of the 2012 summer season was to bring art to public spaces that were easily viewable for both residents and visitors alike in the effort to attract more economic flow to Main Street.
"I smile every time I turn the corner at Main and Holden streets and see that beautiful mural," said North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright. "This sort of thing is what sets our community apart."
Since the creation of DownStreet Art in 2008, its events and exhibitions have attracted more than 100,000 visitors to the downtown North Adams area.
"There are many pieces of the puzzle that must be healthy and grow for downtown North Adams to continue on this wonderful path to a more vibrant future," said Glenn Maloney, president of the North Adams Chamber of Commerce. "DownStreet Art has brought life to one very important aspect of a healthy downtown: culture. In addition, it has brought both visual interest and commerce, but most important of all, DownStreet Art has been a catalyst for other growth and ideas."
The DownStreet Art Thursdays performances are as follows: On Thursday, June 20, from 6 p m. to 9 p.m., Nomadic Massive will come to North Adams to shut down Main Street with a performance and dance party celebration to prepare the City for MASS MoCA's Solid Sound Festival. Also performing will be "Wandering Night House," a vehicular light show that will amble along the streets and corridors of North Adams at a very slow pace, dousing street facades with subtle light projections. The performance will be featured during the DownStreet Art kickoff event on June 20, as well as June 21 for North Adams' Late Night.
On Thursday, July 26, Eiko and Koma, Japanese-born choreographer-dancers, will perform in a specially modified trailer to reveal their piece titled, "The Caravan Project," which recently exhibited in New York's Museum of Modern Art. Timur and the Dime Museum, a dark glam opera band, will present a galactic multimedia show fusing avant-garde, pop and vaudeville sounds.
On Thursday, Aug. 29, Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin will commandeer MCLA Gallery 51's physical space with "A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia)," a blend of performance art, video, sculpture, drawing and sound, to create an immersive, building-wide mixed media performance that reveals the artists' experiences of their same-sex marriage and expresses their deep ambivalence towards their new status as a Normal American Couple.
On Thursday, Sept. 26, Great Small Works will perform excerpts from their "Toy Theater of Terror As Usual," a news-based series' trajectory from 1990 to 2002. The Great Small Works productions seek to renew, cultivate and strengthen the spirits of their audiences, reanimating the public sphere and promoting theater as a communal activity and a model for participating in democracy.
Also, James McBride, an author, musician and screenwriter, who toured as a sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott, will cap off the evening with a musical performance.
On Thursday, Oct. 31, Ryder Cooley and friends will present a macabre "All Hallows Eve" masquerade performance with live music, projections, costumes, taxidermy and mystical happenings. The audience will be serenaded with sinister accordion, gothic ukulele, chilling singing saw and disembodied voices. DownStreet Art will end with a final Halloween celebration on Thursday, Oct. 31, with exhibition openings, performances and more.
DownStreet Art is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Culture Resource Center, in partnership with the City of North Adams, Develop North Adams, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Orbit Visual Graphic Design.