Whether you’re a budding, amateur, or professional artist, or just a lover of art, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is a must-see. In fact, MASS MoCA is one of the most dynamic museums for powerful and contemporary art today. Here is your guide to MASS MoCA in North Adams MA to help whet your appetite. Once you visit, you’ll be sure to return again and again.
The Buildings & Grounds
MASS MoCA is so much more than just a building housing historic art collections. For one, the buildings and grounds alone are part of the area’s history and are listed in the National Historic Register. The museum encompasses 16 acres of 26 19th-century buildings connected via courtyards and passageways. The vast complex takes up almost one-third of the North Adams downtown business district.
The buildings were once home to 18th and 19th century businesses that manufactured shoes, bricks, lumber, cabinets, hats, machines, marble, wagons, sleighs, and iron. In fact, the ironworks forged armor plates for the famous Civil War ship, the Monitor. Eventually, the complex became a textile mill and then an electronics plant, which played a vital role in designing and manufacturing critical components of high-tech weapons for the government during World Word II.
In 1986, after Sprague Electric Company closed its doors, area businesses and political leaders wanted to put the buildings to good use. They worked with Williams College Museum of Art to design a place to exhibit large works of contemporary art, which opened in 1999. Thanks to the leadership of the museum’s director, Joseph Thompson, MASS MoCA evolved into an art center that displays changing exhibitions, houses performing arts events, and fosters the creation of new artworks that don’t fit into any mold. The philosophy of supporting innovation and experimentation continues down to this day.
Visiting MASS MoCA
Today, as you stroll the grounds over bridges, viaducts and elevated walkways, you’ll come to appreciate the architecture and magnitude of this fascinating hub of history and art. You’ll discover an array of galleries and performing arts venues both inside and out. The museum supports all forms of art, including: painting, photography, sculpture, music, dance, theater, film, and art that is yet to be categorized. The variety of mediums is displayed in several ways: in light-filled spaces, on sophisticated stages, and within their beautiful network of courtyards from the late 1800s.
There are too many exhibitions to list, so here’s just a sampling:
- Richard Nielsen – This is Not a Gag
The artist began painting people wearing their pandemic masks in 2020. On display are the first 49 of these paintings. They’re colorful depictions of other artists, writers and friends with unique expressions and personalities reflected in their eyes.
- Blane De St. Croix – How to Move a Landscape
This impressive exhibition both in size and its message, includes drawings, sculpture, and large-scale installations such as a three-story high sculpture designed to look like a sheet of dissolving ice and a towering snow-covered arctic landscape. De St. Croix reminds us all of the fragility of the planet, while sharing scientific data to document and question changes to our planet.
- Northern Berkshire Art Outside
Looking for a safe outdoor tour to do on your own? Grab your Google Maps and enjoy this online walking or biking tour which features 30 works of outdoor art across 10 miles of country roads in both North Adams and Williamstown. The artworks include:
- Martin Puryear’s Big Bling
- Walter Fähndrich’s Music for a Quarry
- Klaas Hübner and Andrew Schrock’s Corrugarou
- Louise Bourgeois’ Eyes
- Thomas Schütte’s Crystal in Williamstown
- Sol LeWitt – A Wall Drawing Retrospective
Occupying nearly one acre of specially-built interior walls, this landmark exhibition features 105 large-scale wall drawings, which took over 60 artists and art students to complete in 6 months. The artist, LeWitt, is widely known as one of the leading advocates of Minimalism and Conceptual Art, and primarily known for his deceptively simple geometric structures and architecturally scaled wall drawings.
Performing arts at MASS MoCA shine just as bright as the art. Offering over 40 weekends of live events throughout the year, there is literally something for everyone. You’ll discover everything from trending music and world music dance parties, to avant-garde theater and outdoor silent films with live music.
This list of exhibits and performing arts is just a hint of what’s in store for your visit. View all of the current exhibits and upcoming performances to choose your favorites. If you’re traveling from out of town, be sure to book your stay at Cornell Inn. We are taking reservations for June 2021 and beyond. Come enjoy artistically-redesigned guest rooms in our charming and historic inn in the Berkshires.