North Adams, MA

Contact Name
Jonathan Secor
Project Dates
June 2013-October 2013
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2011
Tags
Event, Business Planning
DownStreet Art is a public arts festival designed to bring foot traffic to downtown North Adams, MA for the purpose of economic development.

Utilizing empty storefronts and other public spaces for the past four years MCLA's BCRC has created "pop-up" galleries and installations, as well as events and large scale works of public art.

From June through October the arts and culture of North Adams, including the new galleries, events and happenings, are aggressively marketed throughout the county, state and tri-state area.

To date DownStreet Art has brought close to 100,000 visitors downtown and has been instrumental in the opening of close to a dozen permanent year round business (greatly reducing "pop-up" opportunities!) DownStreet Art runs a training program for future gallerists.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
Our goal is to help the economic development of North Adams and encourage the dialogue between our community and the arts.
Since its inception in 2008, close to 100,000 visitors came downtown and through the doors of DownStreet Art’s galleries and exhibits.
Have they changed over time?
Are goals have remained the same, but our methods have changed. The basic premise of using art as a catalyst for economic development still holds true. We want feet downtown, feet that are attached to bodies with dollars in their pockets. We want those dollars to remain downtown, preferably dollars that began out of town.
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
DownStreet Art is a program of MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) a non-profit organization that provides professional development training, resources, and support to the artists, art managers, and creative workers of Berkshire County run by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA.
Founding partners are the City of North Adams, Massachusetts Cultural Council and MASS MoCA.
Leader financial sponsors are Greylock Federal Credit Union and Investiment Group. We work with the artist community, local, national and international. Our curatorial committee consists of curators and staff from The Clark Art Museum, Ferrin Gallery, MASS MoCA, Williams College Museum of Art, Mt. Holyoke Museum and MCLA Gallery 51. We have a close working relationship with the City of North Adams, in particular Mayor Alcombright and the Office of Tourism and Community events.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
The project is run by MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, partnering with local arts organizations and the City of North Adams. BCRC is small, two of us to be exact. We begin planning in early January, putting together inventory of resources- space, time, money, interest, and then begin putting it together for the Summer.
Have they been refined over time?
Since it's inception we have added monthly events, DownStreet Art Thursdays, which include exhibition openings, public art unveilings, performances and local business specials, we have added the DownStreet Art Associate Gallery Manager program to train art and arts management students in how to run galleries and must recently we added "The Mural Project", commissioning 3 large scale public murals in downtown North Adams as we are putting ourselves out of the "pop-up" gallery business by leading to full time businesses.
Obstacles
What were your major obstacles?
Major obstacles have been the staffing of "pop-up" galleries, costs of marketing, attracting a certain level of artists that will attract traffic, maintaining momentum for four month "festival" and most recently running out of empty stores. And money...always money!
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
For staffing we tried many options including community volunteers. In the end we created our own training program, which allowed us to "hire" young people who this is what they wanted to do and pay them a stipend as opposed to hourly wage. We created monthly events, and became a heavy useer of the internet and social media for marketing. We reached out to new partners, some for money, some for space, but others for inspiration.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) Never be shy about asking. For anything! We asked for free to close to free space from private real estate developers, we got it. We asked for sponsorship funding from small stores and big banks alike, we got it. We asked for the City to waive the normal permitting processees, we got it. We asked world re-knowned artists to put their work in empty stores in a blue collar town..they did.

2) Find the right partners. On paper have as many partners as possible, but in realty find those that can bring something definitive to the table.

3) Utilize all your resources. Money is just one resource. Talent and time are also of great value.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
DownStreet Art has been a driving force behind the slow re-birth of a vibrant downtown North Adams. By harnessing existing arts organizations and events and transforming vacant and open spaces into arts destinations, DownStreet Art defines North Adams as a cultural haven, driving tourists and community members downtown. To date DownStreet Art has brought close to 100,000 visitors to downtown North Adams to see and buy art, shop at the local stores, eat and drink at our restaurants, coffee shops and bars. By working with local landlords to negotiate greatly reduced rents (as low as $150 a month) for pop up galleries and temporary art installations DownStreet Art has been able to show museum quality work, while bridging the cultural gap between Main Street and the museum world.

While MASS MoCA began the economic upward swing for North Adams, that effect was not felt on Main Street. DownStreet Art has made sure that effect is felt.

We have increased our e-blast list to well over 4,500, and will continue to send that out throughout the year, providing a weekly notice of all that is happening in the arts and culture in North Adams. Plans are currently being made for DownStreet art Summer/Fall 2011, once again taking empty stores and opening “pop up” galleries and creating marketing in all its forms to let the world know the wealth of culture and art that is happening in North Adams, MA.

One of the more successful elements DSA was the creation of a gallerist-training program. We raised private money to hire four young associate gallery managers, who each ran one of the DSA spaces for thirty hours a week, handling all aspects of running a professional gallery. They attended weekly training sessions for working professionals, and got feedback from the BCRC staff. Another welcome addition to this past years DSA was that many more of the temporary gallery spaces were self sufficient, in that the artist or curator dealt with the staffing, sales, cleaning and the payment, freeing up the BCRC staff to concentrate more fully on marketing the overall organization.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
By bringing people to downtown.
Were there unexpected impacts?
A sense of community beyond just happier cash registers. Merchants on Main Street began to take pride in "their" galleries, and "their" artists.