What We Do
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest centers for making and enjoying today’s most evocative art. With vast galleries and a stunning collection of indoor and outdoor performing arts venues, MASS MoCA is able to embrace all forms of art: music, sculpture, dance, film, painting, photography, theater, and new, boundary-crossing works of art that defy easy classification. Much of the work we show in our light-filled spaces, on our technically sophisticated stages, and within our lovely network of late 19th-century courtyards is made here during extended fabrication and rehearsal residencies that bring hundreds of the world’s most brilliant and innovative artists to North Adams all year round.
We thrive on helping artists make work that is fresh, forward-looking, and engaging of the mind, body, and spirit…but we also believe that both our guest artists and audiences should enjoy their time with us. Our campus features free parking, affordably priced cafés, a full-service restaurant, delicious ice cream, great coffee, and an innovative microbrewery that spotlights locally malted grains and hops grown in our own Berkshire valley.
MASS MoCA exhibits art by both well-known and emerging artists, focusing on large-scale, immersive installations that would be impossible to realize in conventional museums. The broad-shouldered, raw industrial character of our soaring galleries (with 110,000 square feet of open and often naturally lit space) has proven both inspiring and liberating to artists. (And with the opening of our Phase III renovations in May 2017, our gallery footprint will more than double.)
MASS MoCA presents more than 75 performances year-round, including contemporary dance, alternative cabaret, world music dance parties, indie-rock, progressive bluegrass, outdoor silent films with live music, documentaries, and avant-garde theater. Indeed, the word “museum” in our name is misleading because fully 50% of MASS MoCA’s programmatic resources, staffing, and emotional bandwidth is devoted to the performing arts, and our commitment extends to hosting work-in-progress showings, residency workshops, and support of experimental R&D.
MASS MoCA offers a wide range of participatory learning opportunities for students, teenagers, teachers, adults, and families, including: hands-on art-making classes; lectures; Art Assembly performances for schools; artist Q&As; docent-guided tours; art camps; after-school programs; and Kidspace, a child-centered art gallery and hands-on studio that offers in-depth art education through curricular-based classroom programs with local schools, as well as free public admission all year round (call for free public hours).
Through innovative collaborations, MASS MoCA helps artists and their supporters create and show important new work, bringing to our visitors bold visual and performing art in all stages of production, creating a stimulating center of creativity and commerce that brings life and economic vibrancy to its region.
And if you will allow us to expand on that…
If conventional museums are protective boxes, MASS MoCA strives instead to be a dynamic open platform—a welcoming environment that encourages free exchange between the making of art and its enjoyment by the public, between the visual and performing arts, and between our extraordinary historic factory campus and the patrons, workers, and tenants who once again inhabit it. That is, we strive to make the whole cloth of art-making, presentation, and participation by the public a seamless continuum… invigorating, enjoyable, and inclusive. We want you to feel at home here, whether it’s your 100th visit to a contemporary art museum, or your first.
MASS MoCA’s performing arts residencies offer well-equipped and professionally staffed technical facilities and stages, and a sophisticated, diverse, and sympathetic audience for new work. MASS MoCA’s vast galleries and expert fabrication staff offer visual artists the technical tools and time to create works of a scale and duration difficult to realize in the time-constrained and space-cramped conditions of most museums. While supporting the production of new work, we also take every opportunity to expose our audiences to all stages of art making; rehearsals, sculptural fabrication, and developmental workshops are frequently on view (as are finished works of art, of course).
If MASS MoCA’s mission is to nurture and present exciting new art of the highest quality in all media—and in all phases of its production—then we work equally hard to leverage that activity as a catalyst for community revitalization: the creation of new markets, good jobs, and the long-term enrichment of a region in economic need are all central to our purpose. We are ardent believers in the power of the creative economy at MASS MoCA and we are convinced that advancement of the arts, increased tourism, deeper community participation, and regional economic redevelopment are mutually reinforcing and inextricably linked: The arts create and bestow community identity. A strong sense of identity and pride rallies confidence, hope, productivity, and economic vibrancy. Those are base conditions for a healthy community; they cannot be created, however, without risk, adventure, and the willingness to embrace the new… all of which implies having the courage to fail from time to time. We act on those beliefs.