Field trip to Mass Moca

Last weekend I went to a family reunion in the Berkshires. I had no clue what sort of daytime activities would be in store for us in Williamstown,  MA. The one other time I went to the Berkshires as a kid, I remember looking at overpriced antiques with my parents.  I was really surprised how many art galleries flooded the area that I found myself completely overwhelmed!

We headed to Mass Moca (Massachusets Museum of Contrmporary Art) on our first day, I was completely blown away by the structure itself!  The building was erected in the late 1700s and served as many manufacturing sites including  shoes, bricks, a saw mill, cabinet makers, hat-manufacturers, and an ironwork; which later forged armor plates for the Civil War ship, the Monitor. From 1860 – 1942 it became Arnold Print Works, which produced large government contracts supply fabric for the Union Army. Later that year, Sprague Electric bought the site and made lots of interior changes to the textile mill.  Sprague physicists, chemists, electrical engineers, and skilled technicians were called upon by the U.S. government during World War II to design and manufacture crucial components of some of its most advanced high-tech weapons systems, including the atomic bomb. Sprague Electric closed in the eighties, and Mass Moca started it’s mission in 1986 as a space to exhibit large works that would not fit in conventional museum galleries. This place is not just big, it’s huge!

Interior Shot of the old boiler room at Mass Moca

Interior Shot of the old boiler room at Mass Moca

New life overtaking the old boiler room at Mass Moca

New life overtaking the old boiler room at Mass Moca

Besides the grounds itself, my favorite exhibit was Xu Bing’s Phoenix. Xu Bing is a contemporary Chinese artist who’s inspired by his fast changing country. The instillation features two colossal sized birds created entirely from leftover materials from construction sites.  Helmets, tools, cables, machines, and anything and everything salvageable was used to bring the birds to life.

The head of the Phoenix, you can see up close the use of salvaged construction materials (my favorite being the polishing wheels)

The head of the Phoenix, you can see up close the use of salvaged construction materials (my favorite being the polishing wheels)

Interior of the bird, I love his use of construction tarp (notably used in China) for the wingspan

Interior of the bird, I love his use of construction tarp (notably used in China) for the wingspan

Here you can really see how massive these structures are, taken from a balcony one floor above.

Here you can really see how massive these structures are, taken from a balcony one floor above.

They have some other great exhibits to check out. My favorites were Life’s Work: Tom Phillips and Johmmy Carrera (through Jan 20, 2014), Michael Oatman: all utopias fell (ongoing open seasonally), and Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective (ongoing).

Me in front of a Sol LeWitt Mural

Me in front of a Sol LeWitt Mural

The town of North Adams (where Mass Moca is located) has a ton of galleries to visit, and I highly recommend making the trip up to the scenic Berkshires! Mass Moca also features Summer concerts on their stage.  (Wilco just played, and I’m so bummed I missed it!)

If you don’t feel like schlepping up to Massachusetts, the good news is the birds are migrating to NYC!  After the exhibit closes in November, the phoenixes will head next to New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

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