DownStreet Art Prepares For Its 10th Anniversary

Apr 7, 2017

Entries are now in for the 10th annual DownStreet Art project in North Adams. The jurors will start sifting through the applicants and commission 10 new community projects, performances and murals around the Western Massachusetts city. 

This year’s DownStreet Art’s call for art marks 10 years of beautification projects, led by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. It, alongside the City of North Adams, has commissioned art all around the city to promote community and culture.

Michelle Daly of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center says applicants had three different areas to work in. There will be murals, and pop-up art programming, and … parklets? 

“So you take a street parking space and then you transform it in to a mini park,” Daly says.

Existing murals around the city include work by Egyptian street artist Alaa Awad, Jarvis Rockwell and Corwin Levi.  

This year’s winning artists will be notified by April 17th, but until then, the jurors – like Daly – have a lot of hard choices to make.

“The next big step is the jury will meet and we will review all of the submissions. We will, you know, use that to select our favorite projects. And then we will make invitations to those artists. And then the real work begins,” Daly says.

After a decade of bringing art to the community, DownStreet Art wants to bring community back into art. Daly says she and the other jurors will be particularly interested in how well artists include community engagement and social practice in their applications this year.

Daly says DownStreet Art wants to strengthen the bonds between North Adams and other Berkshire communities.

“You know we are always looking for projects that have an artistic excellence to them, that have a point of view and strong aesthetic perspective. But what we are also really looking for is projects that really embrace this idea of community engagement and have some innovative ways to reach out to the community and include them either in the creation, the conceptual thinking of the work, or in the making of the pieces – and that’s really important.”

Daly says the program builds economic and social capital. She says they hope it will attract tourism and resident participation.

“Art and culture is really everywhere up here. And it is maybe even more so, more easily accessible because you can experience it on a more personal level,” Jesse Santivan, a curatorial assistant at the Williams College Museum of Art, who is also a juror, says.

“I want something that really speaks to me and makes me question the artist's ideas behind it and even their practice,” Santivan says.

Santivan and Daly will be joined by Arthur DeBow of the Oregon College of Art and Craft.  

“For me, I am a very visual learner, so I, you know, am really interested to see as much as I can. And I think also, the submissions coming locally, really speaks to the community and everyone in the area,” Santivan says.

Organizers say DownStreet Art brings 100,000 people to the city.

“I think having MASS MoCA there and with their opening of their newest building, that's going to bring big crowds alone. But I think also showcasing North Adams as an important arts center, is actually really good for the community and the people living here. I feel as though that there are good relations between both the arts community and just the residents at-large,” Santivan says.

Daly says the program’s full-season announcement should be available by early May.