MoCA and FreshGrass – Sept. 2014

We capped this fantastic western Mass. weekend at FreshGrass, a 3-day bluegrass music festival on the grounds of Mass MoCA, the museum of contemporary art in N. Adams. North Adams is a fairly depressed community – most industry, like Sprague Electric which used to be in the factory now housing MoCA, is gone, unemployment is high, job opportunities are few. But the community is reviving through art. The sidewalks are stenciled to direct visitors to art galleries “More Art This Way.” An old church has been converted to the private Rudd Museum, displaying huge bizarre sculptures. And the public library is housed in a spectacular Victorian home, complete with mansard roof, fireplaces, chandeliers, and a beautiful staircase. We also enjoyed browsing in the art gallery of the artists’ cooperative.

Click on any photo to enlarge for the full effect!


Our FreshGrass wristbands entitled us to free admission to MOCA. Three stages, fantastic performers, and a whole lot of banjos and fiddles. I’m not usually a fan of contemporary art – mainly because of an exhibit of car fenders arranged on the floor of MoCA years ago! But the exhibits this time were impressive, even powerful  –  colorfields, texture, message. The first is

Teresita Fernández: As Above So Below

Don’t remember what these waves of …glass? sand? plastic? on the floor were, but the view out the window is of a garage tiled with a grackle:


Then there’s Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings, where he created the instructions and allows others to follow his words to create the actual art:

One of the most powerful works was the film Eclipse in a narrow stairwell. It visually tells the story of species extinction through the passenger pigeon, whose once-massive population disappeared 100 years ago. The birds flocked in the millions. Audubon himself said their mid-day flock movement darkened the sky like an eclipse of the sun. And now they’re extinct. The last one died 100 years ago.

Oh, and did we mention that there was music? and mandolins? Carolina Chocolate Drops, Railroad Earth, Gibson Brothers, Sam Bush. I missed Valerie June, but caught David Grisman (my favorite of the festival). And the final act Sunday was Emmylou Harris. Planning to make FreshGrass a regular event on our music circuit.

And more unusual art:



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