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Dee and I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams recently. This museum is located inside a complex of old mill buildings in this extreme northwestern MA town.

 

One display advantage is the sheer volume of space offered. Some rooms have 40 foot ceilings, and one indoor Jenny Holzer display uses a football sized space to advantage. Two huge rooms held works by Anselm Kiefer. One employee told me the wall hangings weighed 7,000 pounds each. During the week, the exhibits were mostly empty, so there was a strong sense of privacy.

 

One current exhibit is called Eastern Standard, which presents the work of western artists resident in China. Video presentations incorporating the Three Gorges Dam, life along the Yangtze, construction of a solar reflector are included. Other works include a mantis depicting the sprawling growth of Shanghai, a film recording the removal of a factory from Germany to China, and interpretations of traditional Chinese themes in modern design elements.

 

Mass Museum of Contemporary Art

 

The art center has helped to enrich the local arts and dining scenes. There's a branch of the UMass campus, and Williams College is a few minutes away.

 

We had dinner one night at a place called Gramercy Bistro, a few blocks from the museum, and from our inn. Nice place, quite reasonable prices. I had a soft shell crab sauteed in cilantro and herbs mix, and a duck breast with butternut squash puree. Dee had a crab cake, and lobster ravioli. We had a nice Valpolicella.

 

Dessert was an amazingly light lemon tart, and a flourless chocolate cake. This restaurant is chef owned, and chef Alexander Smith was cooking. Since it's an open kitchen, his work was on display.

 

We also ate at a place called Cafe Latino on the MOCA campus. It's an airy, nicely decorated establishment with a range of food choices. Like Gramercy, it sources from local farmers and providers, with several local cheeses and meats mentioned. It also has several items available par familia, served family style on platters. I had the empanadita (spicy chorizo with red pepper sauce), which was fine, and not at all heavy. Dee had the quesadilla, four cheeses and an addictive olive spread included.

 

We stayed at Porches, which is a modest sized inn across the brook from MOCA. The buildings are composed of six or seven former mill worker homes which have been updated with modern conveniences, and joined via skylights over the alleys which are now hallways. The rooms are generously sized. WiFi throughout, breakfast included, pool and spa onsite. Nice place. They have a wide range of packages which can include dinner at local restaurants, admission tickets to MOCA, etc.

 

Porches Inn

 

 

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We try to get there every summer. Good to know there's a decent place to eat nearby; when we had dinner in North Adams with Paul's cousin and his wife some years ago, it was ghastly.

 

The only other museum I have been to that rivals MassMoCA is the Tate Modern -- another huge space (former power generating plant). Never been to DIA in Beacon, NY -- isn't that another such space?

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Never been to DIA in Beacon, NY -- isn't that another such space?

 

Yes. It's located a few minutes walk south of the Beacon MetroNorth station.

 

Both places are characterized by enormous industrial spaces, and a hospitality toward huge works of art that would otherwise dominate smaller display venues.

 

Another nice looking dining place in North Adams was Taylor's Fine Dining on Holden Street, adjacent to the Route 2 overpass. The menu seemed impressive.

 

Taylor's fine dining

 

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  • 5 years later...

Another year, another visit. As mentioned in the Surrealism thread: Xu Bing: Phoenix was totally enthralling. Will be in NYC as St. John the Divine after it closes at the end of October; go see it if you can.

 

We again very much enjoyed the café just inside the museum entrance; good sandwiches and salads.

 

We got together with Paul's cousin and his wife again after our museum visit and this time ate at Mediterra. We enjoyed it, esp. cheese-filled boereks, a lamb-and-mashed-eggplant dish, and baklava. The Turkish owner is opening another place, Pera, elsewhere in the Berkshires--Great Barrington, iirc.

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  • 3 years later...

Nice WSJ article on the expansion of MassMOCA. New buildings offer new space for longer term exhibits and work areas.

 

 

And Laurie Anderson, the polymath performer and visual artist, has been workshopping pieces on-site almost since the museum opened. “I work in the cracks between film, sculpture, painting, stories and records,” she says. “I talked to Joe, and he really understood that in a way that most people don’t—he’s kind of an adventurer out there in Western Massachusetts doing what he wants.”

Many of the works on display have an immersive quality. Anderson’s section will open with two virtual reality pieces and a glassed-in recording studio housing her audio archive. Turrell’s walk-in spaces—installed for the long term—will also take time to navigate (visitors will have to wear shoe covers in one cove; in another, their eyes will need to adjust to the dark). Holzer, meanwhile, is projecting her poetic truisms onto the museum facade during the building’s opening month, and her text-engraved benches are placed throughout the grounds. “She views the entire campus as her canvas,” says Thompson.

 

 

Members of the Band Wilco are investors in a new hotel Tourists, which will be their base of operations, and serve as a venue for their summer music festival. SF chef Cortney Burns is opening a new restaurant on the property as well. Thomas Krens is said to be creating an extreme model railroad (!) weaving through models of architectural landmarks. A motorcycle museum may follow.

 

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-berkshires-town-thats-becoming-a-cultural-hub-1495724005

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I appreciate your impressions of Porches. We've considered staying there on several occasions. I would really like to go up this summer, we haven't been since '13. Not sure if it's appropriate for what will be a three year old.

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They were working on the renovation while we were there last summer. Good to know it's ready.

 

For the last few years, we've timed our Vermont week to coincide with the Bang on a Can summer residency at MassMOCA.

 

ETA: Taylor's Fine Dining appears to have closed (per Yelp). And when we ate at Gramercy Bistro (last year or the year before?), while Paul liked it, I was lukewarm. Still liked the museum's café, though.

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I appreciate your impressions of Porches. We've considered staying there on several occasions. I would really like to go up this summer, we haven't been since '13. Not sure if it's appropriate for what will be a three year old.

 

Based on my several years old recollection, I'd say the Porches might be appropriate for a toddler / young child who is familiar with stairs. There are a LOT of stairs, as many guest rooms are on the second floors of the adjacent and connected buildings. For parents who travel with a lot of kid stuff, that may be a consideration on its own.

 

You might want to discuss this with the owners. I believe there are first floor rooms.

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I appreciate your impressions of Porches. We've considered staying there on several occasions. I would really like to go up this summer, we haven't been since '13. Not sure if it's appropriate for what will be a three year old.

 

Based on my several years old recollection, I'd say the Porches might be appropriate for a toddler / young child who is familiar with stairs. There are a LOT of stairs, as many guest rooms are on the second floors of the adjacent and connected buildings. For parents who travel with a lot of kid stuff, that may be a consideration on its own.

 

You might want to discuss this with the owners. I believe there are first floor rooms.

 

Stairs are not an issue. The kid regularly walks the two flights up to our apartment in lieu of taking the elevator. I'm just trying to decided whether a trip in general to the Berkshires makes sense. Unlike previous trips, we will no longer be able to attend two performances/day. And while he might enjoy the Sol Lewitt show, I can't imagine he can handle several hours in a museum.

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I appreciate your impressions of Porches. We've considered staying there on several occasions. I would really like to go up this summer, we haven't been since '13. Not sure if it's appropriate for what will be a three year old.

My mom has a house up there (I'm actually headed up tomorrow). It's not bad with kids but forget about the high culture stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My lovely spouse had a three-week residency there in April. Every day she dyed and wove while I jogged up and down seemingly endless hills of great old houses, and freelanced or looked up local history at the 1867-mansion public library.

 

Nick Cave and Anselm Kiefer were fantastic. I wish we could've been there for Turrell.

 

We didn't have wheels, so I didn't try dining farther than I could walk or run. The year-old Korean Garden is a welcome addition to the few local restaurants. Jack's Hot Dog Stand and Pedrin's Dairy Bar, respectively underpriced and overpriced, are worth visits for ambiance, and I loved my breakfasts at the gruffly friendly Linda's Cafe -- all three of those old-school restaurants having survived the continuing economic decline, and the 2013 opening of a Walmart, that's made North Adams's Main Street all but empty.

 

Grover Askins's big home-studio bookstore at the Eclipse Mill artists' residential coop, not inexpensive, is worth a visit. Bring your own shovel:

 

FMfowKP.jpg

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That sounds like a great report, Josh. I'm sorry to hear about the Wal-Mart, On my last visit, North Adams seemed to be on its way back from the brink. The downtown is about the right size to be walk-able.

 

Not filled with boutiques like Williamstown, but real places where you could buy a hammer or a newspaper.

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There was a Turrell installation in a cave in a park in Oslo when I was there last summer. When it first opened, it was open to the public all day. By the time I got there, they had imposed limited visiting hours. Which didn't include the time I was there.

 

Damn.

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