North Adams

Northern Berkshire art overlaps

In 1999, the summer Mass MoCA opened, Robert Rauschenberg came several times to see his work installed in the football-field-sized gallery in building 5. The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece gathered images from athletes and animals to umbrellas and planets. In collage or silkscreened onto fabrics, aluminum and copper, they formed a massive record…

Building 6 resounds on opening day

On Sunday, on opening day, I walked through sunlit halls and wide open gallery spaces in Mass MoCA’s new Building 6, taking a look at the new exhibits, from Robert Rauschenberg to Louise Bourgeois. In Gunnar Schonbeck’s No Experience Necessesary a whole family was coordinating to bang four clangers at once. In Thumbs Up for the Mothership,…

Are You Really My Friend? Tanja Hollander connects

In 2010, on New Years Eve, Tanja Hollander was at home alone. She was sending a Facebook message to a friend working on a film in Jakarta and writing a letter in pencil to a friend deployed in Afghanistan. She began thinking about the group of people who made up her 626 Facebook friends. And she…

I wonder as I wander at Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA could have a writer-in-residence — I’ve thought that before. Imagine the stories someone could write. Walking through “Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into Wonder” one more time before it closes on March 19, I listened to whale song in a dark room over glinting hermit crabs and thought it again. The show takes it’s name from a quote from Ray Bradbury, and looking at these installations I can easily see fantasy or science fiction spinning off from them: luminous bindweed — a philosphy kit in a portable cabinet like a case for metal type — a giant bottle rocket carrying a thread of blue light, like the Tesseract in a Marvel comic.

I don’t know whether it would sound more phantasmagoric or futuristic, but I can imagine echoes of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose of or David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks — time travel, hidden libraries or hidden worlds.



MCLA women take on Henry V — #OurNorthAdams

North Adams is welcoming Small Business Revolution today — so in their honor, here’s a #ThrowbackThursday look at a North Adams story that moved me this fall. They can’t sleep. It’s nearly dawn, and they may not be alive by sunset. They are sitting in the dark in a rough camp, hungry and angry. They…

Small Business Revolution — Why #OurNorthAdams

You’re in North Adams for a day in the heart of winter, and you want to get to know the town? I can see the challenge at a glance. It’s January. The sidewalk tables have rolled inside, and next summer’s pop-up galleries and concerts in the park are still a glint in the eye. Even the college is on break.

But even in winter this old mill town can reach around the world. On a well-below-freezing night, a Grammy-winning musician who has performed for the United Nations can get a crowd of 300 on their feet and singing.

You can find comedy and calligraphy, a bookbinder running a letterpress, an entrepreneurial meetup at a microbrewery or a menu with farm-grown purple potato chips, if you know where to look.

I’ve been looking for more than 15 years now, off and on — come on and share my table at BrewHaHa, take half of my pumpkin chip muffin, and I can show you. Take a look at what we’ve seen in the last year alone … (At the top, Nick Cave’s ‘Until’ shimmers at Mass MoCA. Photo by Susan Geller.)

Standing Together podcast with the Greylock Glass

In the wake of the November election, people across the country have seen fear and anger and exclusion become part of a national public conversation. Many people are sharing the experience of feeling that they do not belong in their familiar places. I’ve written about that feeling here. It’s called othering — making someone feel pushed…