NORTH ADAMS -- Take one part art gallery and one part grassroots master planning project, mix them together and you get "Imagining North Adams," a three-week festival run out of Gallery 107 that asks individuals what they would like to see the city become.
Curator Jennifer Krouse, who owns city-based website development firm Steepletown Studios, envisions the festival -- a combination of art, events and speakers -- as a way for local resident to take part in the city's ongoing master planning project by providing them with a venue to share their ideas. She also hopes to see some of those ideas come to life as small neighborhood projects.
"There are things that we, as individuals and small groups, can do to improve our neighborhoods and the downtown," she said Wednesday. "If there is anything I want people to take away from this event, it's the conviction that we have a lot more power than we think we do to change the fate of our cities."
"Imagining North Adams" opens tonight from 6 to 9 p.m. as part of the third DownStreet Art Thursday, which will also launch the opening of nine other exhibitions in various temporary galleries on Main, Eagle and Holden streets.
Krouse, who spends one to two months of the year collaborating with a group of city and urban planners, government officials and citizens who share a goal of reviving "common sense" ideas that center around physical enhancements that strengthen communities, said
The open call for galleries sparked the idea that became "Imagining North Adams," and Krouse began working to develop a fun way to engage local residents in the planning process.
"The city is in the midst of its first major planning process in 40 years," she said. "While officials are putting together the important consensus, we also need grassroots efforts to take on the kinds of projects in neighborhoods that are needed and might not be the focus of the larger effort."
To kick off the festival, tonight's opening reception will include "A Model City," an interactive model of the city created by artist James Rojas; "Picturing North Adams," an exhibition of paintings and artwork curated by Jaye Fox of studio21south, and "Show and Tell," a "pecha kucha," or fast-paced presentation, by local speakers.
"The art is meant to play the role of inspiration," Krouse said. "Sometimes it's hard to picture things in the abstract, so it can be easier for people to have pictures of things and react to them. They can help sort out our ideas about what's good and bad and what we want to see."
Beginning at 8 p.m., the gallery will host its first "Show and Tell" event, featuring state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams; City Councilor Marie Harpin; author Joe Manning; and Cindy Delpapa, of the state Division of Ecological Restoration.
"The first theme is ‘Invisible North Adams,' which takes a look at the city from a perspective that people might not readily have on a daily basis," Krouse said. "It's a really quick presentation format: 20 slides at 20 seconds each, or six minutes and 40 seconds."
DownStreet Art galleries will be open today from 6 to 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted.
* North Adams Artist Co-Op Gallery, 33 Main St.
Throwing Paint and Composing Pots by Katherine Borkowski and Linda Siska
* Gallery X (inside Jarvis Rockwell Gallery), 49 Main St.
Conversation with Jarvis Rockwell: An Experiment with Inspiration
* MCLA Gallery 51, 51 Main St.
Compendium by Richard Criddle
* Branch Gallery, 18 Holden St.
Transcend: Art as Activism in the Occupy Movement
* Wendy James Studio, 22 Holden St.
Mostly Water Colors
* The Artery Gallery, 28 Holden St.
Art into Life, Life into Art by Matei Bejenaru, curated by Izabel Galliera
* The Transcript Gallery, 85 Main St.
Capturing Northern Berkshire by Meghan Foley
* PRESS: Letterpress as Public Art Project, 105 Main St.
Postal Pinacotheca, curated by Melanie Mowinski
* Gallery 107, 107 Main St.
Imagining North Adams
* Adams Community Bank, 31 Eagle St., 5 to 6 p.m.
On the Road, curated by Kristen Parker
* Street Painting by Art About Town
Holden Street, 4 to 8 p.m.
* North Adam Art Trolley
Begins at MCLA Gallery 51 with various stops around downtown, 6 to 9 p.m.
Live Performances and Sound Installation
* A Collection of Futures: Matei Benenaru
Audio project with speakers at the Verizon Wireless Zone, 43 Main St. and at the North Adams Public Library, 74 Church St.
* Ben Phillis DJ Set
81-85 Main St., 6 to 8 p.m.
* Mike Wamba
Various locations in the downtown, 6 to 9 p.m.
* Bagpiper Chuck Cahoon
107 Main St., 7:30 to 7:45 p.m.