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The North Adams Exchange

  • Archive, Collaboration

  • Ongoing through the summer
  • North Adams

Amplifying Art, Food, And Retail In Downtown North Adams

This summer the North Adams Exchange (NAX) — a private-public collaboration of the City of North Adams; downtown merchants and local community members; and the North Adams Partnership, focused on increasing foot traffic between Main Street and MASS MoCA — will light up the downtown with synchronized light beacons atop four church steeples and the museum’s iconic Clocktower. Additional initiatives will provide art, commerce, and social enterprises throughout the city, all designed to extend and deepen visitor experiences across the downtown shopping district during the first season of MASS MoCA’s Phase III expansion.

Pop-Up Retail
On weekends throughout the summer, food and retail vendors will pop-up at the corner of Main and Marshall Streets — connecting the MASS MoCA campus and Main/Marshall Street parking to the downtown with a circuit of brightly colored tents and food trucks. The pop-up retail kiosks and rotating roster of food vendors will complement long-time downtown retailers, such as Berkshire Emporium Antiques and Persnickety Toys, and will focus on locally sourced, locally made goods. An indoor recreation and social center will feature an analog arcade complete with indoor “corn hole” and a community performance space, all to be situated at the corner of Main and American Legion Drive in the former “Sleepy’s” building.

Additional temporary retail offerings will be sited inside a concourse at 87 Main Street, ranging from vintage clothing to lifestyle publications by Storey Publishing and stationery products manufactured by Crane & Company, two leading national brands that are headquartered in North Adams, as well as local independent publisher Tupelo Press. The temporary retail and food trucks will be open on summer weekends from Memorial Day through Labor day, from Friday noon through 6pm Sunday.

The historic Mohawk Theater, an anchor location on North Adams’ Main Street, will feature railroad model construction and the preliminary plans for the Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum — one of the most prominent and promising among a host of newly proposed commercial development projects across the city. (The model building operation will be open to the public 4-8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and noon-4pm on Sundays, all summer.) Other informational displays will feature local history and the plans for Greylock Works and TOURISTS, two substantial private commercial development projects underway on Route 2, in North Adams’ west end.

To increase visibility and pedestrian circulation between the downtown shopping district and the MASS MoCA campus, the chain-link fence along the southern perimeter of the main MASS MoCA Marshall Street parking lot will be removed, fresh stone and paint will be added under the Route 2 overpass, and the parking lot of the former Leu building will be improved with more hospitable pedestrian access and temporary lighting.

As part of the effort, MASS MoCA will extend its growing roster of sound art installations and encourage visitors to explore that exhibition, much of it sited outside the museum campus. The Harmonic Bridge, situated under the Route 2 overpass; Music for a Quarry, which plays at astronomical sunset every evening at the marble quarry in Natural Bridge State Park; and Sun Boxes — a moveable, solar-powered soundscape by Craig Colorusso, which will make occasional appearances throughout the downtown this summer – will all be linked to MASS MoCA’s on-campus collection of sound art installations in printed and online map guides. In conjunction with the opening of TOURISTS, a riverside resort being developed on the banks of the Hoosic River in the city’s west end, an interactive, large-scale Music Box by Klaas Hübner and Andrew Schrock, of the artist and music collective New Orleans Airlift, will be sited at the corner of Marshall and Main. Additional elements of Airlift’s “musical architecture” will be unveiled at TOURISTS later in the summer. Other downtown art experiences that MASS MoCA has developed and will promote this summer include Bus Stand, a 2012 work by Victoria Palermo located on Main Street, and a cluster of formerly upside-down trees at MASS MoCA, recently planted right side up at the city’s Colegrove Park on North Eagle Street near the east end of Main Street.

Light: Thoreau’s Cloudland in Morse Code atop the Steeples
MASS MoCA’s Clocktower — in concert with four church steeples that define North Adams’ skyline — will be joined in a dramatically synchronized work of light art inspired by the newly re-illuminated light tower atop Mt. Greylock, with a summer-long installation by the Chicago-based collective Luftwerk. Beginning May 26, and running all summer from dusk to midnight, the steeples and Clocktower will broadcast — using Morse Code beacons activated in unison — the Henry David Thoreau poem Cloudland, which the poet wrote after hiking up and spending the night at the mountain summit, the highest peak in Massachusetts. Upon waking to find himself caught above a solid deck of clouds hiding the valleys below, Thoreau wrote:

As the light increased 
I discovered around me an ocean of mist,
which by chance reached up to exactly the base of the tower,
and shut out every vestige of the earth,
while I was left floating on this fragment
of the wreck of the world,
on my carved plank in cloudland;
a situation which required,
no aid from the imagination
to render it impressive.

The light installation will be on view every night from May 27 through September 5, from approximately dusk to midnight.

Stay up-to-date with a full calendar of events at explorenorthadams.com/nax.

Luftwerk, study for Cloudland, 2017