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 »

MASS MoCA’s “It’s Only Human” Illuminates Art, Science & Education

Art Using X-ray Scans Sparks Discussion of Body Image & More at MASS MoCA
Saturday, June 14, 2014 through Tuesday, May 26, 2015

MASS MoCA’s Kidspace kicks off the summer with a new exhibition and activity program. The exhibition, “It’s Only Human,” features work by British artists Nick Veasey and Marilene Oliver, who are both internationally recognized for their innovative uses of medical imaging technology in their art. Both artists’ works illuminate the complexities of human bodies and the systems by which they are regulated, and inspire dialogue about the inner beauty of all human beings, regardless of our outer appearances, and serve as a creative jumping-off point for discussions of anatomy, health, and wellness, as well as self-image. While this exhibition is on display at Kidspace, visitors of all ages – especially those interested in science and medicine – will find it engaging and educational.

Veasey’s work is often focused on the human skeleton and inner structural elements. He is famous for creating one of the largest X-ray scans in the world – of a Boeing 777 airplane! – and this exhibition at Kidspace features a similarly gigantic X-ray of a bus filled with passengers. Do you think you will be able to distinguish the structure of the bus from the skeletal structures occupying it? Veasey has also X-rayed a person on a motorcycle. What can you infer about his choice to scan vehicles used for human transportation, including their passengers? Why might this be significant? Why it is important to be able to identify the structures embedded within everyday objects and people? 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.

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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]

12 Years of World Class Performances for Students at MASS MoCA

Art Assembly Program in the Berkshires

For the 12th consecutive year, MASS MoCA presents a series of student programming, featuring live music, dance, storytelling, film, and theater performances that give regional students the opportunity to see world-class performers, including Lady Bee, Alloy Orchestra and Zany Umbrella Circus. (Courtesy photo)

MASS MoCA has released this year’s schedule of performances for kids! The shows are designed to allow students a chance to learn about the arts, and the museum offers free curriculum materials for educators to use before and after the performances. This year’s shows include music and dance with Lady Bee, musical ensemble Alloy Orchestra, and the Zany Umbrella Circus! Educators can use the performances as a platform for discussion that touches on topics in language arts, history, social studies, and perhaps even science! (Talk about the physics of music, for example!)

All school choices are welcomed. “Registering in advance is helpful, because there are study guide companions for each performance,” writes Courtney Parker, Assistant to the Managing Director of Performing Arts + Film at MASS MoCA. “If you are unable to register in advance, we are happy to include you and your children on the day of the performance. Not a problem.”

For more information, call 413-664-4481 or e-mail Courtney at

Suggested Events 01/10/09-01/16/09

Ice Storm 2008-7SUGGEST AN EVENT

If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.


This week we are offering four free tickets to see The Harmonica Pocket at Mass MoCA on Saturday, January 24, at 1 PM in North Adams, MA.  Click HERE to discover more.


Maira Sangiolo, winner of the 2007 Parents Choice Award, will bring her happy folk music for kids to Cup & Top Cafe in a free show in Florence, MA.  Warm, gentle, happy music everyone will enjoy.  Presented by Spare the Rock.

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

Events Happening in the Hilltowns

Saturday – 01/10

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HFVS Giveaway: (Tickets) The Harmonica Pocket at Mass MoCA

For The Family to See
The Harmonica Pocket
Live at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA
January 24th, 2009 @ 1pm

We are pleased to offer four free tickets to see The Harmonica Pocket perform live in North Adams, MA at Mass MoCA on Saturday, January 24, at 1 PM in Club B-10.


The Harmonica Pocket’s live children’s show aims to get families singing and moving in their seats. The shows promote literacy by making reading fun and bringing books to life by setting the texts to original music. As their favorite animals and insects dance with them, children are exposed to lessons in science, history, and arts. The group also introduces non-western instruments such as the Australian didgeridoo and the mbira, a thumb piano from Zimbabwe.


  • The School Library Journal comments, “Harmonica Pocket defies classification and should be commended for experimenting with non-western musical traditions and mixing it up with western practice.”
  • Commonsense Media raves, “This album is a nearly perfect example of tasteful, adult standards of excellence applied to music meant for kids.”
  • Hilltown Famillies review: “SOLAR POWERED & WORLDLY! I love the ecological awareness behind both the production of Ladybug One and the lyrics of the songs. This truly “green” recording was produced off the grid at their solar-powered studios on Marrowstone Island, Washington. That impressed me. What impresses my daughter is their songs about bugs, including fireflies, bumblebees, spiders and ladybugs. But it’s not just that the songs are about insects and spiders that makes it the most appealing, it’s their creative exploration of each song that leaves me wanting more. Their songs are truly unique, blending world-music with Americana, and quirky fun with serious issues. The blend of acoustic instruments played on Ladybug One gives the album a rich tapestry of unique sounds, including the didgeridoo, mbira, ukelele, harmonica, jaw harp, music saw, Japanese gong, sitar, tabla and even a hula hoop! The educational opportunities (cultural, ecology, science) a parent could take with this album are multifold! Ladybug One is a new favorite of mine! Visit them on-line at and sample a few of their tunes.


Your chance to win tickets to see The Harmonica Pocket is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply

  1. POST A COMMENT BELOW and be sure to tell us your
  2. NAME and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) PLEASE include your town and state to be eligible. We’ll randomly draw a winner(s) from those who leave a comment (along with their name and town/state) and post the results below.
  4. We have up to four free tickets to offer, so be sure to include how many tickets you would like to win.
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  6. The winner will be contacted with details on how to retrieve tickets via email upon the close of the contest.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 01/21/09 @ 7pm (EST).

If you don’t win you should still go!  Tickets for The Harmonica Pocket are $6 per person and are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located off Marshall Street in North Adams from 11 A.M. until 5 P.M. (closed Tuesdays). Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or purchased on line at


MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings.  MASS MoCA is an independent 501C3 whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy.  Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and occasional competitive state and federal grants for specific programs, MASS MoCA is not government-funded.

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