MASS MoCA Growing Into Expansion

Dec 15, 2017

MASS MoCA is growing out of its teenage years and into its expanded campus in North Adams, Massachusetts. WAMC has more on the recent announcement of the cultural destination’s winter and spring programing.

Bon Iver performing March 24th and 25th is expected to be a perfect fit for MASS MoCA.

The former Arnold Print Works and later Sprague Electric Company complex is now one of the largest centers for contemporary visual art and performing arts in the country – and big names are what members have come to expect.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art rapidly expanded after its doors opened in 1999. Its original 19 galleries and 100,000 square feet of exhibition space ballooned in 2008 with the opening of Building 7 and again in 2017 with the renovation of Building 6. The campus now includes 250,000 square feet of gallery space, 200,000 square feet of rental space, and 150,000 square feet of performance space.

But, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright says it wasn’t an easy climb.

“MoCA had its growing pains. Let’s face it,” Alcombright says. “Their first 10 years – 12 years – they weren’t making money. They were struggling. They were trying to find their own way and be their own thing.”

Now, MASS MoCA is an arts and cultural titan in the region.

In 2006, Williams College economist Stephen Sheppard predicted the museum’s regional economic impact would exceed $20 million. By 2007, the actual economic impact was $24 million and in 2015, $34.4 million, according later studies by Sheppard.

More than 30 businesses – with about 300 employees – rent space at the MASS MoCA campus in the heart of downtown North Adams. Again, Mayor Alcombright.

“And now that they have found their way I think they are strong committed community partners,” Alcombright says.

“MASS MoCA’s unusual I think in that we often do what we say we are going to do in those plans and achieve quite a few of the markers that we lay out for themselves, and they are often not without far reach and ambition,” Joseph Thompson says.

MASS MoCA is taking another look at its strategic plan for the next five years. Moving forward, Executive Director Joseph Thompson says the museum is taking a step in a different direction in 2018.

“The last couple – over the last let’s say 10 years – have been very focused on growing into this complex: adding footprint, adding program, adding capacity, discovering all of the nooks and crannies and courtyards” Thompson says. “It’s not going to be like that the next five years – that’s one of our findings. We are going to take some time kind of settling in.”

Thompson says that will mean building on many of the beloved, popular programs the cultural intuition is known for.

The High Mud Comedy Festival returns March 16th and 17th headlined by Mike Birbiglia of Sleepwalk with Me fame. The annual documentary series kicks off March 29th with True Convictions.

Artists scheduled for 2018 include Natasha Bowdoin January 13th; Rachel Howard, February 17th; and Allison Janae Hamilton, March 25th.

Upcoming performances by POLIÇA / s t a r g a z e, February 15; Godspeed You! Black Emperor, March 10th; and Sylvan Esso, March 31st – as well as smaller, more intimate performances on the 3rd floor club by Sinkane, February 24th; North Adams native CJ Field, March 3rd; and Trio Da Kali, April 14th

Chart supplied by MASS MoCA. Click to expand.