DownStreet Art Promotes Community Engagement in the Arts in the Northern Berkshires

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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Multimedia Exhibit at MASS MoCA Brings Extinct Pigeon Back to Life

Video Installation Commemorates a Species’ Centennial of Extinction at MASS MoCA through Spring 2015

When you think about pigeons, what immediately comes to mind? Chances are, you’re remembering an encounter with a rock pigeon–a gray bird with black stripes on its wings, often spotted pecking at the sidewalks or perched on architectural features in urban areas. These birds are so eponymous with the word “pigeon,” and so closely associated with cities like Boston and New York, that it may surprise you to learn that this particular breed of pigeon is actually native to Europe – and that, long before the rock pigeon arrived in North America, a native breed called the passenger pigeon dominated the skies. Prior to the 20th century, this one breed was so populous – estimated at between three and five million – that they represented more than one-quarter of all the birds in North America. They lived and traveled in enormous flocks: their numbers were so great that a migrating flock could darken the sky, concealing the sun, for several hours at a time. By the end of 1914, however, the breed had become entirely extinct.

“I was so moved by this exhibit, and my daughter was fascinated!” – Sarah Rankin (Hilltown Families reader)

Eclipse, a new multimedia exhibition at MASS MoCA, explores the phenomenon of species extinction through the history of the passenger pigeon, a century after the death of the last known bird. On view through spring 2015, the exhibition is comprised of an immersive video and audio installation in the four-story “lightwell” at the center of the MASS MoCA complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Ticket Giveaway: Milkshake at MASS MoCA

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets & museum passes to see…

A Family Concert at MASS MoCA
Saturday, November 23rd

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets & museum passes to see Grammy-nominate Milkshake in concert at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, on Saturday, November 23rd at 11:30am. Deadline to enter to win: Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 11:59pm (EST).

Hilltown Families and MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) have partnered up to offer a family 4-pack of free tickets and museum passes to one very lucky family to see the Grammy-nominated band, Milkshake, live at  MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, November 23rd at 11:30amFind out how you can enter to win below:


Milkshake began in 2002 as a musical experiment on the part of vocalist Lisa Mathews and guitarist Mikel Gehl , longtime bandmates from Baltimore’s indie rock group Love Riot, who vowed to “grow” their music right along with their own young children. Since then, Milkshake and the band’s legion of fans have been living an exciting, real life, growing up adventure, moving from early childhood through the early elementary years, as the group toured the country and produced several multi-award-winning CDs, a DVD, and a multitude of music videos seen all over the kid-friendly networks. Along the way, as the kids grew and the music grew with them, Milkshake grew from a duo to a six-piece band.

Known for their pop-rock style that fairly crackles with energy, Milkshake indeed has a following of all ages…

Read the rest of this entry »

MASS MoCA Hosts Three Art Assemblies for Students

Art Assemblies for Students
at MASS MoCA in North Adams

MASS MoCA will host three art assembly performances with two performances of each: Roy Nathanson on Thursday, Dec 13, 2012, LAVA on Friday, Feb 15, 2013, and Radio Jarocho on Thursday, Jun 6, 2013. Performances are at 9:30am and 12:30pm.

Mass MoCA in North Adams, home to galleries full of unique and interesting contemporary artwork, is offering a series of Art Assemblies for students!  The performances, which will take place once each between December and June, feature a wide variety of music, dance, and storytelling and are meant to expose students to new forms of artistic expression.

Performances include: Radio Jarocho’s Mexican folk music; a jazz and spoken word hybrid by Roy Nathanson and his band Sotto Voce; and Lava, a troupe combining dance, theater, and acrobatics to present social commentary and and explore relationships. Download the Art Assemblies brochure for days, times and costs.

Shows are open to school and home-school groups, or individuals, and are designed for a pre-K through 3rd grade audience.  Pre-registration is suggested, as space is limited and the performances tend to be popular!  Attending one (or all!) of the events can help teach young students about the may different forms of artistic expression that exist.  For more information, call the museum at 413-662-2111 or visit

Family Fall Adventures at MASS MoCA

Family Programming at MASS MoCA: Fall 2012

Kidspace visitors can delve into a world of dinosaurs, superheroes, dragons, cowboys, and monsters at the newest exhibition, Curiosity.

Fall is the perfect season for children and families to explore MASS MoCA in North Adams together. Educational programming at the museum abounds, with the exhibition Curiosity and art-making at Kidspace, curriculum-based performances through Art Assembly, a Halloween-themed gallery quest, and the Muppet Music Extravaganza concert (All this within the restored campus of 19th-century factory buildings, making MASS MoCA the largest center for contemporary art in the country!).


Kidspace at MASS MoCA, a child-centered art gallery and hands-on studio, collaborates with professional artists to present exhibitions and educational experiences for children and families. Right now, Kidspace visitors can delve into a world of dinosaurs, superheroes, dragons, cowboys, and monsters at the newest exhibition, Curiosity. Chock-full of unexpected, outlandish, fantastic objects-turned-artworks that kids likely already have questions about, this exhibition instills a sense of wonder in visitors of all ages. Curiosity features nine internationally acclaimed artists, each of whom inspires viewers to indulge the urge to investigate.

Colin Boyd of Troy, New York, weaves elements of folklore, natural history, and the future into his large-scale sculptures of a mastodon and an elephant bird in the exhibit, Curiosity.

For starters, Colin Boyd of Troy, NY, weaves elements of folklore, natural history, and the future into his large-scale sculptures of a mastodon and an elephant bird. Former comic-strip artist Dave DeVries renders children’s artworks into images with a striking realism.  Ephraim & Sadie Hatfield of Adams, MA, re-imagine Renaissance cabinets of curiosity (which originally contained natural and human-made wonders collected by kings and queens). Kids can open drawers and doors of the cabinets to uncover mysterious specimens!

Curiosity also includes several LEGO sculptures by Nathan Sawaya (including the frozen Hans Solo from Star Wars), Muir Vidler’s photograph of grandparents with wild tattoos, Yoram Wolberger’s lifesize sculpture of a blue cowboy, and other treasures. In addition to viewing art, kids and families can also create their own at the Art Cabaret, Curiosity’s hands-on studio, which serves up inspiring art-making challenges for tactile learners. Kidspace is open from 11am-5pm every day except Tuesdays; art-making takes place Fridays through Sundays and during school holidays.


You can also download an Educators’ Guide for the Sol LeWitt Retrospective and plan your own tour and activities!

School groups are invited to attend Art Assembly performances throughout the academic year. These live events are educational, entertaining, and designed to adhere to the Massachusetts Learning Standards. Before the performance, teachers receive a curriculum guide chock full of pre- and post-performance activities to prepare their students for the experience. Activities might include writing exercise, movement games, instrument-making, readings on history, or group brainstorming projects. For more information about upcoming Art Assembly programming, or to reserve space at an upcoming performance, contact Courtney Parker, Assistant to the Manager of Performing Arts, at 413-664-4481 x8109.

Read the rest of this entry »

Art Adventures Await at MASS MoCA

Free Day at MASS MoCA
Saturday, February 11th, 2012

Along with the museum’s exhibits will be special events just for FREE Day, including an elevator music festival, mermaid parade, art making, tours, and a dance party!

Have you been wondering what’s inside the tall, 19th century industrial buildings at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA?  Now’s your chance!  The museum’s annual FREE Day takes place on Saturday, February 11th from 11am-8pm.  Visitors will be able to view the museum in its entirety- no exhibits will be excluded!  Along with the museum’s exhibits will be special events just for FREE Day, including an elevator music festival, mermaid parade, art making, tours, and a dance party!

The elevator music festival takes place (where else!) inside an oversized elevator, where musicians will play short, intimate concerts for the elevator travelers, bringing new meaning and purpose to elevator music.

Inspired by James Grashow’s colorful sea creatures, Under the Sea is featured as the current KidSpace exhibit, where the mermaid parade will have visitors parading through the museum while decked out in mermaid garb and/or sporting cardboard fish created at the museum!  There will be prizes for creativity (BYO flippers, triton, and seaweed).  Along with the opportunity to create ocean-inspired art, there will be activities inspired by other exhibits, as well.

Kids can make bridges from toothpicks and clay, as inspired by the film work of Oded Hirsch (it’s a study in architecture and design!).  Another project asks visitors to create works in the style of Sol Lewitt, and another will create a community installation inspired by Mary Lum’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor.”

Tours of the museum will leave the lobby every 30 minutes.  There are many of activities, but there is ample time to fit in everything!  A visit to the museum this Saturday (or any day, really!) will teach kids about contemporary art and will allow kids to practice working with different mediums and learning to use artists’ work as inspiration.  Perhaps they’ll learn to see connections between artists, too!  For more information, call 800-662-2111 or visit

[Photo credit: (ccl) Timothy Valentine]

Explore Ocean Myth & Habitat in the Berkshires

Under the Sea
At Kidspace at MASS MoCA
Oct 1, 2011–May 28, 2012

Click on image to see the progression of the installation. Opening and meet and greet with the artists is this Saturday, Oct. 1st from 11am-1pm at Kidspace at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA.

MASS MoCA’s Kidspace is now home to a new ocean-themed exhibit, Under the Sea! Visitors to the space will be engulfed in a literal sea of artwork – there are waves, a mermaid, giant photos of sea life, a coral reef, and more! Each piece is made by a different artist and represents a different response to or relationship with marine life. Visiting the exhibit is a great way to not only see wonderfully inspired art, but also is a way to learn about the importance of ocean life and humanity’s impact on it. Bring your kids, do a walk through, and then ask what it made them think of. You can’t see a coral reef made out of bottles without thinking about how many bottles end up in reefs!

On Saturday, October 1st from 11am-1pm, Under the Sea will open to the public with art-making activities and a meet and greet with the artists. For more info, visit

Ticket Giveaway: Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell at MASS MoCA

Win a family 4-pack of free tickets to see…

Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell
A Family Concert at MASS MoCA
Saturday June 11th @ 2pm

"True children's music, but executed with such sweet (and un-gooey!) humor, casual multiculturalism and shambling groove that you can call it your own," says The New York Times about the music of Dan Zanes. - Enter to win tickets below. Deadline to enter is Wed., June 8th @ 7pm (EST).

Hilltown Families and MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA) have partnered up to offer a family 4-pack of free tickets to one very lucky family to see Grammy Award-winner Dan Zanes, and critically acclaimed children’s folk musician, Elizabeth Mitchell, live at  MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, June 11th at 2pmFind out how you can enter to win below:


Dan Zanes is the former lead singer of the Del Fuegos, a garage pop band that was named “best new band” in 1984 by Rolling Stone Magazine. The birth of his daughter, Anna, in 1995, lead Zanes to start playing children’s music due to a dearth of intelligent musical options on the market at that time. Since 2000, Zanes has released 9 albums for children and was nominated for a Grammy in 2003 for the album House Party. His 2007 album, Catch That Train! won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children in 2003… among many other noteworthy awards and honors.


Elizabeth Mitchell has been recording music for children since 1998 and will offer a solo performance this month at MASS MoCA. She has release 4 children’s music albums, including the gospel-folk-reggae album, You Are My Sunshine.

Hilltown Families contributing writer Amber Bobnar reviewed Elizabeth’s newest album, Sunny Day in her column, Must-Hear Music Monday. She writes: “Elizabeth sings many traditional folk songs from around the world, but combines them in her seamless style. Her voice and arrangements are soft and safe; you can’t help but feel comfortable and comforted while listening to her music. It’s perfect music for after-school-wind-down time, for snuggling, or for just feeling happy and at home.”


Your chance to win a family 4-pack of free tickets to see Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell live at the MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center on Saturday, June 11th at 2pm is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:
  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting “Like” below
  • TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES CONNECTS YOUR FAMILY WITH LOCAL MUSEUMS  below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline to enter to win: Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 at 7pm (EST).

Tickets for Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell in concert at MASS MoCA are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.  Mueseum members are eligible for a 10% discount.  Tixs are available through their Box Office (Marshall St., North Adams, MA) or can be charged by phone by calling 413-662-2111 during Box Office hours, or online at any time.

Giveaway: 5 Annual Family Memberships to 5 Western Mass Museums!

At the turn of the year, Hilltown Families will be turning five years old … and we will be celebrating all year long! We started off our celebration by offering 5 Gifts Locally Handmade by Hilltown Mompreneurs (see who won here).

Over the years, Hilltown Families has had the great pleasure of letting families throughout the region know about all of the wonderful events happening at the plethora of world class museums we have access to here in Western Massachusetts.

We are continuing our 5 year celebration with the Berkshire Museum, The Eric Carle Museum, Historic Deerfield, MASS MoCA and Springfield Museums! These 5 Western Massachusetts Museums have joined our party and are offering our readers an annual family membership! One very, very lucky family will win a family membership to all five of these local cultural gems! How wicked awesome is that!? It’s our birthday, but you get the presents!

Each week on our list of Weekly Suggested Events, we share family and community activities offered by these local gems, along with educational opportunities, performances and camps. We’ve featured many stellar museum exhibits including:  The Art of the Brick at the Springfield Museum;  Color Forms I: Pink and Blue Projects at KidSpace at MASS MoCA; and Armed & Dangerous: Art of the Arsenal at the Berkshire Museum.

Contributing writer Karen Bayne has shared her family day visits to Historic DeerfieldSpringfield Museums, and the Berkshire Musuem — and our outings have always been equally enjoyable: like our visit to Historic Deerfield for A Cozy Winter DayMidwinter Magic puppet show at the Springfield Museum; and Constant Wonder’s educational performance Wings of a Feather at the Eric Carle Museum.

The Berkshire Museum continues to delight us with their activities and exhibits. We discovered  truly amazing amphibians at the exhibit Frogs: A Chorus of Color; delighted in the Berkshire Children’s Theater’s performance of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid in the auditorium;  enjoyed soul food and a performance of Hip-Hop, African and modern dances at their Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday party; and dressed up and attended a fabulously kitchy retro gala to celebrate the exhibit, Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood.

Over the years we’ve also shared ways to participate at the Eric Carle Museum, including the Be Kind to Animals Week contest and an invitation to create a butterfly for their Batches of Butterflies community display. And we’ve offered several opportunities to win tickets to family concerts hosted in their auditorium, including Gustafer Yellowgold, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, and Elizabeth Mitchell.

The educational opportunities with our local museums are constant. Historic Deerfield has hosted a Homeschool Harvest Day and a historic look at chocolate during their American Heritage Chocolate Celebration.  The Springfield Museum has offered many opportunities to learn a bit of American history, including a reading of  Frederick Douglass Speech and an Underground Railroad Lecture.  And the Berkshire Museum has many programs for homeschool educators and teachers and has participated in the citizen science project, Firefly Watch!

To read more about how you can make your family visit fun to one of our local museums read the post, The Wonderment of Museums.

Deadline to enter to win an annual family membership to all 5 museums: Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by 7pm (EST).  Find out more about these museums below and the benefits of membership.



MASS MoCA is located at 87 Marshal St. (North Adams). Since opening in 1999 in North Adams MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) has become one of the world’s premier centers for making and showing the best art of our time, exhibiting large-scale and complex installations by many of the most important artists of today. An essential and integral part of MASS MoCA’s mission are the more than 75 performances staged year-round, including popular music, contemporary dance, alternative cabaret, world music dance parties, outdoor silent films with live music, documentaries, and avant-garde theater. (413) 662-2111

Benefits of a family membership:  MASS MoCA is offering a free family membership ($90 value), which gives inside access to the best of contemporary art and performance. Members enjoy exclusive benefits, including free gallery admission, invitations to exhibition openings, opportunities to meet artists and performers, and discounts at MASS MoCA concerts, films, and live theater; Hardware: The MASS MoCA Store; The Porches Inn; and the Lickety Split Cafe.


The Berkshire Museums is located at 39 South St. (Pittsfield, MA). At the Berkshire Museum, there’s something for everyone. The museum offers a unique blend of exhibitions, galleries, and attractions for families of all ages. See exhibitions, fine art, and sculpture from around the world. Pet a live starfish in their touch tank and discover their 20 aquarium tanks and assorted terrariums. Be amazed at their collection of artifacts from Native American cultures and ancient cultures. Marvel at the technology that awaits in the new Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation. And their Natural Science Galleries incorporate hundreds of rocks, minerals, fossils, and animal specimens into interactive exhibits, serving visitors of all ages and learning styles with hands-on experiences. (413) 443-7171

Benefits of a family membership:  The Berkshire Museum is offering a free annual family/household membership ($75 value). Annual membership benefits include: unlimited free admission to 1st floor galleries and Aquarium; invitation to exhibition openings; discounts on Museum programs (including performances, camps & lectures); reduced tickets to Little Cinema; discount on Museum Store purchases; and free admission to 260+ museums participating in the ASTC Passport Program worldwide.


Historic Deerfield is located at 80 Old Main St. (Deerfield, MA). Historic Deerfield, an authentic New England experience, is a great place for families to learn about early American Life. Their museums and programs provide today’s audiences with experiences that create an understanding and appreciation of New England’s historic villages and countryside. Explore 11 museum houses with trained guides, world- class collections of antiques, special exhibitions, and an outdoor garden and meadow walk. Experience early American life from the 1704 Deerfield Raid and the French and Indian War, to the American Revolution and the first decades of the new Republic. Enjoy family programs, hands-on activities, special events, distinctive shopping, and tavern lunch—all in a 330-year-old village. (413)

Benefits of a family membership:  The Historic Deerfield is offering a free annual family membership ($60 value). The benefits of a family membership includes: free, unlimited admission to all museum houses; a subscription to Historic Deerfield; Special advance notices and member discount information for trips, classes and workshops; Free admission to all of their Hands-On History family programs; Discounts at the Museum Store and Deerfield Inn.


The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, located at 125 West Bay Rd. (Amherst, MA), is a stunning, 40,000 square-foot facility in the heart of Western MA, is loved by families, art aficionados and book lovers alike. The Carle houses three Galleries with rotating exhibits of picture book art from around the world, and a permanent collection including works by artists. A hands-on Art Studio allows visitors to create their own masterpiece any time The Carle is open. The Auditorium hosts regular live performances, films, lectures, and guest appearances by renowned authors and illustrators. The comfortable Reading Library is the perfect spot for Storytime. The Museum Shop is stocked with unique gifts and a beautiful array of picture books. (413) 658-1100.

Benefits of a family membership: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is offering a family membership ($65 value).  Benefits of membership includes free, unlimited admission for two adults plus up to four children. Enrollment of up to four children in the Caterpillar Club which includes: A Certificate of Membership with each child’s name. Invitations to Members-Only events. Subscription to the Museum Newsletter, Event Calendar, E-newsletter, 15% discount in the Museum Shop (30% during the annual holiday sale), Advance notice and discounts on various Museum events including classes, workshops, performances, films, and lectures. Free museum exhibition poster.


Springfield Museums, located at 21 Edwards St. (Springfield, MA). A welcome committee of larger-than-life Dr. Seuss characters greets you at New England’s own “mini Smithsonian” – four outstanding museums filled with science, art and history, plus the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. Encounter a life-size Tyrannosaurus rex in Dinosaur Hall, blast off to new worlds in the planetarium, take a safari through Africa, play among statues of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters, meet some critters in the live animal center, see Springfield-built antique cars and Indian Motocycles, enjoy hands-on activities in the Art Discovery Center, and much more. Picnic on the beautiful Quadrangle green in nice weather. One admission fee. Free onsite parking. Museum Store. (413) 263-6800

Benefits of a family membership:  Springfield Museums is offering a household membership ($75 value) for all 5 of their museums. Become a member at the Household level and enjoy unlimited free admission to all museums and the planetarium for two adults and all children. Get discounts on Museum School classes, birthday parties, and Museum Store purchases. Receive invitations to members-only events. Get the museum event calendar, course and travel catalogue, and program flyers in your mailbox. Plus free admission to a host of other science and children’s museums nationwide.


Your chance to win annual family memberships to the Berkshire Museum, The Eric Carle Museum, Historic Deerfield, MASS MoCA and Springfield Museums is as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5)! To win simply:

  2. TELL US HOW HILLTOWN FAMILIES HAS BENEFITTED YOUR FAMILY THESE PAST FIVE YEARS in the comment box below, and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner from those who participate and contact the winner via email.  So be sure to leave an
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL in the email field of the comment box (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! —  Deadline to enter to win is Monday, January 3rd, 2011 by 7pm (EST).  All five annual family memberships will be awarded to one family and issued separately from each participating museum.  If you have any questions, please contact us before entering to win at

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