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Monday, October 22, 2012

Mass MoCA Road Trip

Today our friends Roseann and Glenn were kind enough to take us on a road trip up into the "real" Berkshires to see the city of North Adams, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (commonly known as "Mass MoCA") which is located in that city.

We started with a delicious lunch at Outlook Farm, which has become our favorite little farm market and restaurant near our RV campground.  We had a gloriously sunny day for the trip, and Glenn drove us up to Route 2, the "Mohawk Trail" to take us west toward North Adams.  The drive across the Mohawk Trail was breathtaking.  Here's a photo of the North Adams area west from near the summit:

We made a quick stop at Gould's Sugarhouse in Shelburne, where we found some great maple syrup and each bought a TWENTY-FIVE CENT soft ice cream cone with MAPLE ice cream, which was the richest maple flavor we've ever tasted!

Further along, we stopped at a scenic place on the Deerfield River.  No sooner did we get out of the car then Kathy tore off along the riverbank, out onto some flat stones and, being asked to pose for the photo below, almost fell into the river:

Luckily still dry-footed, we drove around North Adams, sampled some pure mountain spring water, reminisced with Glenn about his winter sledding down the HUGE hill on which his childhood home sits.

The goal and high point of the day, however, was Mass MoCA, which is, in our view, the most immersive modern art museum we've ever visited.  Developed on the former Sprague Electric site, the museum is described as follows on its website:

The 13 acres of grounds in North Adams, Massachusetts, encompass a vast complex of 19th-century factory buildings and occupy nearly one-third of the city's downtown business district. Listed in the National Historic Register, the site's 26 buildings form an elaborate system of interlocking courtyards and passageways rich with historical association. Bridges, viaducts, elevated walkways, and red brick facades lend a distinct architectural ambiance to the complex....

We found three of the exhibits particularly interesting.  The most complex and fascinating was the Sol Lewitt wall drawing retrospective, which devotes an entire building in the complex - 3 floors - to wall drawings by an artist famous for his ground-breaking efforts to separate the act of conceiving a work from the act of executing the work.  The exhibit contains 105 "wall drawings," or paintings, which were designed by the artist but constructed by others under very specific license rights and design guidelines developed by the artist.  It's very difficult to explain the theory of the art in this short space, but you can learn more about it by checking out and  The following photo is of one of his later wall drawings, which seemed particularly interesting given its setting opposite windows in the museum building:

Another exhibit that was quite unusual was Sanford Biggers's "The Cartographer's Conundrum," constructed especially for this huge space on the second floor of a building in the museum.  Somewhat difficult to tell from this photo, it depicts, in a 3-dimensional space that can be explored by visitors, a dynamic church, complete with pews, piano, musical instruments and pipe organ elements.  Windows on the side of the hall are accented by colored sheets that throw light onto the floor in patterns reminiscent of stained glass:

A third exhibit that was very interesting is titled, "Invisible Cities," and includes works of a variety of artists who artistically re-imagine the urban landscape.

After touring the museum, we four retired for dinner at the Freight Yard Pub, a restaurant in North Adams that has a great deal of character, great food and some good beers, and we continued our animated discussions about North Adams and the art we encountered at Mass MoCA.  We finished the evening with a beautiful nighttime drive through the countryside back down to our RV.

All in all, a richly rewarding day with much pleasant conversation.

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