DownStreet Art Promotes Community Engagement in the Arts in the Northern Berkshires
Previously in our series spotlighting arts-based community organizations, we featured Easthampton City Arts+ , Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays, Turners Falls RiverCulture, and Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts, all of which support a community’s cultural identify. Across western Massachusetts, many communities have become havens for artists of all kinds. The area is chock-full of painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, performers, and other creative types, their work saturating our communities with artistic expression in a wide variety of mediums. Connecting these artists and their work to the the rest of the community are arts organizations, which serve as valuable resources for connecting families with events and community-based learning opportunities.
This month, we feature DownStreet Art, an arts organization in North Adams that works to facilitate dialog between the local community and the arts, with the goal of creating social and economic capital as a result. A town formerly dependent on industry, North Adams has seen a rise in the role of the arts in the city community – a change that has helped the city to increase in both tourism and resident participation in community events. Following, largely, the establishment of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), the northern Berkshires have seen a rise in the role of the arts in the local community, and since its founding in 2008, DownStreet Art has connected over 100,000 people with arts-based events in North Adams’ downtown district, helping to fuel the cultural resurgence that brings the city to life.
Boasting a very full calendar of events, the local offerings that DownStreet Arts works to promote cover an incredibly wide range of themes and styles. Upcoming cultural events supported by the organization include concerts, community conversations, and gallery openings for everything from photography of the local landscape to sculpture inspired by a combination of European decorative arts, Puerto Rican heritage, and graffiti. In addition to promoting one-time events, DownStreet Arts offers a comprehensive listing of all of the places and spaces in North Adams where art can be seen. The city is lucky in that art is accessible to the community both at indoor art spaces such as museums and galleries, as well as outdoors in the form of public art.
During the summer months, DownStreet Art not only promotes local artists and arts-based events and learning opportunities – the organization creates its own monthly event spotlighting local arts and culture. Called DownStreet Art Thursdays, such events combine gallery openings, creative performances, participatory art, live outdoor music, and sometimes a parade or an after party with opportunities to learn about additional community programs (arts-based or otherwise). DownStreet Art Thursdays allow artists and other community organizations to connect with community members, making for an immersive exploration of the local arts scene. The next DownStreet Art Thursday will be held on Thursday, August 27th, 2015 from 4-9pm. August DownStreet Art Thursday is the second-to-last such event of the 2015 season.
Founded by the City of North Adams, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), DownStreet Art is run by MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resources Center, an organization that provides training and resources to artists and creative workers in Berkshire County. For more information about DownStreet Art or the Berkshire Cultural Resources Center, contact the organization at 413-663-5253.
[Photo credit: (cc) Trees at Night, Mass MoCA, North Adams, Credit: NW.cmyk]