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North Adams, meet the neighbors you never knew about, courtesy of their collective ArtDORM and its Downstreet Art show at Gallery 107.
The six core members — Katherine Agard, Jane Burns, Lauren Clark, Thomas Huston, James Mattise and Olympia Shannon — are current or former Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art interns and staff members. They represent a secret population in North Adams, 20-something working artists ready to introduce themselves to their community.
“There aren’t a lot of outlets to organize and do things regularly,” Huston, a curatorial assistant, said. “This seemed like a really great opportunity to take our love for art that we all share at this museum and as artists, and then bring it into downtown North Adams.”
Mattise, a film technician at the museum, said showing at Downstreet Art might dispel the mystique of who works at Mass MoCA, and reveal the diversity within.
“One of the interesting things about coming up here is that within the museum, we’re all doing different things,” he said. “We all have different jobs and we’re all making art outside of that, and I think that’s something that can get lost on the public. The people who work for the museum, they are artists too. We all have work in other places in the United States right now.”
The idea for the show came from artist Craig Leonard, who was in town for 2012’s Oh Canada show at Mass MoCA.
“He came to install his piece for the show and completely fell in love with North Adams and decided to stay for the summer,” said Burns, the museum’s videographer. “He opened up a gallery downtown in an empty storefront on Eagle Street. It wasn’t just a gallery space, it was also a social space, and he really brought in all of the community. He made it easy for everyone to have a good time.
“We wanted to take the spirit of that and use it for what we’re doing. I think that we acutely feel the need to have more activity in order to get young people into North Adams, outside of wanting an internship with the museum or something like that. Jobs in general. There are reasons why it’s not super easy. I think this is a really good example that young people can live here and have an opportunity to make and show art.”
The collective thinks North Adams is a great place for 20-something artists to live and hope to further that idea with their show, and with gallery events every Thursday night. Opening night, which kicks of at 6 tonight, will feature a karaoke party, and subsequent weeks will see their musician friends descend on the gallery to play, a campy movie night, a Bring-Your-Own-YouTube-Video party and some coloring book activities created by ArtDORM. The gallery will host video, new media, photography, painting, sculpture, textiles, drawing, prints and collage.
“A little bit of everything really,” according to Huston.
“We just really want it to be fun,” Burns said.
“Like a hangout space,” Mattise added.
ArtDORM represents a population that whether permanent or transient, long term or short, is constant in North Adams, building connections that don’t register on many people’s radar.
“Often times there’s a bit of a separation between the downtown art galleries and the Mass MoCA world,” said Huston. “There could be a better relationship. It’s an exciting thing for us to say that we work at the museum, but that’s not our entire world. We want to be involved in the town. We have invested in the growth of North Adams.”
Their hope is that ArtDORM sets a precedent for future 20-somethings who become engaged in North Adams, while still feeling separate from it. Some ArtDORM members will stay, others will move on, but the constant striving for connection and visibility is permanent. The collective hopes this starts something that doesn’t ever finish.
“We’re hoping this serves as an example that there is this possibility for these exciting, fun, cultural things,” Huston said. “You can make art here. You can sustain this exciting, experimental atmosphere outside of the museum. You don’t have to necessarily know what you’re doing or be serious. You can have fun.
“We’re all still figuring it out. We’re all young. Everyone’s in their 20s. It’s exciting for us to be able to share what we’re working on with everyone else.”
If you go …
What: ArtDORM Opening Reception
When: 6 to 8 tonight
Where: Gallery 107, 107 Main St. North Adams