January started the year with strong shows - "Copycat: Reproducing Works of Art" at the Clark Art Institute and "African Americans and the American Scene, 1929-1945" at the Williams College Museum of Art - but also with some bad news. Wilco confirmed that there would not be a Solid Sound Festival for a third summer in a row. Instead, the band would play one benefit concert and return with the festival in 2013.
Several live shows in January certainly softened that musical blow.
C. Ryder Cooley brought her XMALIA show to MCLA, wielding accordion, ukulele and singing saw to share the stage with video and taxidermied animals for a musical meditation on extinction.
New Wave survivors Jeff and Jane celebrated last year's rerelease of the seminal "Flesh" album, originally released in 1982, with a concert at Mass MoCA, which also featured Jeff Hudson performing with his new band, Space Bar, bridging the past, present and future onstage. Jeff and Jane also performed on the eastern half of the state and released some new material.
The annual I/O Fest at Williams College featured music and appearances by one half of The Books and cellist Paul de Jong and violinist Todd Reynolds, performing with the I/O New Music Ensemble for The Box, a night of music by living composers, including the world premiere of de Jong's "A Stumble in Fall" The music news continued in February, with the Bang on a Can All Stars releasing their new album Big Beautiful Dark and Scary, which would
Nick Zammuto announced the dissolution of The Books, along with a new solo project and band, Zammuto, and a performance at Mass MoCA to kick things off. It turned out to be a stellar year for Zammuto, playing a total of 83 shows worldwide, including a stint at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, TX. The performance at MoCA also featured the area premiere of the short documentary film scored by Zammuto, "Achante," directed by Emily McMehen, about followers of voodoo in Haiti.
The annual MCLA Blues & Funk Festival also returned for its seventh year, featuring Williamstown band Misty Blues and Ghana-born, Afrobeat MC Blitz the Ambassador.
February also saw plenty of movement in the museums. Sanford Biggers took over Building 5 at Mass MoCA, with his sculptural installation "The Cartographer's Conundrum," which drew from music, Afrofuturism and his cousin, artist John Biggers.
Mass MoCA also offered "Making Room: The Space Between Two and Three Dimensions," which gathered a group of artists like Chloe Ostmo and Dawn Clements, with work addressing three-dimensional space within two-dimensional artwork. The Clark Art Institute took a new approach to art curation with the Clark Remix, which combined a 400-piece art show with the software uCurate, which allowed visitors to put together their own show, to be submitted to the Clark website for possible real world realization within the Clark itself.
The William College Museum of Art presented "Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972-1987," a comprehensive look at the Los Angeles-based Chicano art group, the first time its work has ever been presented in such a format.
In March, the creative duo of Cathy Wysocki and Wayne Hopkins brought their individual creative idiosyncrasies together at MCLA Gallery 51 for the show "Strange Soup." Wysocki's monster paintings and sculptures combined with Hopkins' stark, political art incorporating typeface to offer something truly unusual and memorable.
Invisible Cities came to Mass MoCA in April, taking inspiration from Italo Calvino and presenting fantastical spaces that brought cities into the psychological, from the wall sprawl of Miha Strukelj to the threedimensional, abstract, sculpture- as-dollhouse - or vice versa- by Diana Al Hadid.
Local artist Lisa Nilsson struck a chord nationally with her intricate anatomical cross sections fashioned from tissue paper through a technique called quilling. She was featured in a whirlwind of attention that resulted in Huffington Post and Smithsonian articles, among many others, and even a TEDMED Talk in the summer.
May heralded in the massive and groundbreaking "Oh, Canada" show, Denise Markonish's curatorial masterwork and personal travelogue offering tribute to the gentle giant to our north. A massive gathering of Canadian artists, highlights include Dave and Jenn's paint and resin layered 3-D works, Mario Doucette's reconstruction of images from the deportation of the Acadians, Kent Monkman's life-sized cabin diorama featuring the Lone Ranger and Tonto and Graham Patterson's micro depictions of homes around a mountain.
Also in May, Transcript photographer Gillian Jones got a much-deserved retrospective in celebration of her 20th anniversary at MCLA Gallery 51. Jones has been chronicling the revitalization of the Northern Berkshires through the lens of a seasoned photojournalist with an artistic eye, and the show captured not only Jones' work, but her relationship with the area over the past two decades.
In June, DownStreet Art kicked off what would be another successful season downtown, with a mix of new and old - The Phylogeny Projects' application of biological theory to art curation, Molly Davies' film "Beyond The Far Blue Mountains," Lynn Richardson's Arctic Garden at Gallery 107 and the first mural in an ongoing series, this from the Spanish art collective Muralismo Publico, who made their mark on the back of the Mohawk Theater.
Nestled in the mix was "Vs.," the final local show from the hardest working man in the Berkshire County art scene, Ven Voisey, at MCLA Gallery 51, where he was also manager. The show was a testament to Voisey's versatility, with drawings, photography, sculpture, sound art and video all included. Voisey left for California and grad school shortly after.
Mass MoCA's Kidspace, "Curiosity" opened - a multifaceted and playful show that focused on the things that children were most curious about and featured such offerings as Colin Boyd's full-scale reproduction of a fossilized mastodon, Nathan Sawaya's Lego sculptures and Ephraim and Sadie Hatfield's "Gigibòsgoshgoshmuxqüdòh (Chicken Pig Bear Deer)," an interactive wunderkammer devoted to a recently discovered mythological beast that roams the Berkshires.
The Williamstown Theater Festival returned for another successful season. Among the highlights were Tyne Daly in the David Hyde Pierce-directed The Importance of Being Earnest and Blythe Danner in Bob Balaban's world premiere of The Blue Deep.
The summer music coup was Patrick Watson, the acclaimed, award-winning Canadian composer and musician who performed at Mass MoCA's Club B-10 with his band, who shares him name as well as his musical power.
The Clark Art Institute featured three China-centered shows: Then & Now: Photographs of Northern China, which featured Sterling Clark's photos of his trip there in 1908, juxtaposed with photos of the same locations taken 100 years later by Li Ju; "Through Shen-Kan," which focused on Clark's journey; and "Unearthed," a survey of recent archaeological discoveries in China.
In July, the Bang on a Can All Stars and festival returned to town for another triumphant session that also featured special guest Steve Reich.
DownStreet Art offered new several new attractions, including Mark Mulherrin's "If Not This," Studio 21 South's "Black and White (more or less)" show and Maya Hayuk's massive mural on Center St., as well as the transformation of the Transcript news room into an art gallery that would feature, over the coming months, the creative works of journalists Jennifer Huberdeau and Meghan Foley, alongside another show of work by Gillian Jones and, later, a retrospective of past Transcript photographer Randy Trabold.
The Howard Cruse renaissance and revival continued with the release of Boom Studios' "The Other Sides Of Howard Cruse," which collected Cruse's nongay-themed stories and furthered the indispensible Cruse library.
News came from Tennessee that accordionist and North Adams native Ron Richardello passed away.
In August, the Williams College Museum of Art took a look back at Laylah Ali's Greenheads series, which had Ali make social and political commentary through these cartoon figures. The show featured over 40 pieces, the first time any of the Greenheads had been gathered into one large cohesion.
Downstreet Art continued with political shows like "Transcend: art as activism," which featured art inspired by the Occupy movement at the Branch Gallery, and a survey of Romanian artist Matei Bejenaru's creative examinations of his country in the postCommunist world.
MCLA Gallery 51 hosted an update of the work of Richard Criddle, whose sculptures pull from his background in fabrication and foundry work , as well as his life in England and his love of objects, and morph into a menagerie of creatures that inhabit his imagination and spring into our world larger than life.
Wilco played their benefit concert at Mass MoCA through an online bidding event, which meant that some people were able to see the band in a smaller setting for about 10 dollars a pop - an unheard of opportunity at this point in Wilco's career.
The end of August and well into September featured Down-Street Art happenings like Melissa Matsuki Lillie's typical bursts of color to Holden Street on the final mural of the season, as well as the postal art project "Postal Pinacotheca" at PRESS Gallery and Jennifer Krouse's "Imagining North Adams" at Gallery 107, which offered up our hometown as a canvas and was complimented by the presence of Jaye Fox's "Picturing North Adams."
The Solid Sound Festival got a run for its money as a vital local venue for cutting edge roots rock with the FreshGrass Bluegrass festival at Mass MoCA may have been superior in many ways, featuring headliners like Trampled By Turtles and The Incredible Stringdusters, and some show-stopping performances by Morgan O'Kane, Spirit Family Reunion, Carolina Chocolate Drops and rowdy folksters The Devil Makes Three.
The Mohawk Theater opened up for one night to feature the spirit of Johnny Cash in the form of Cash tribute act The Cash Band, featuring Harold Ford. The genuine article was the last act to perform at the theater, in February 1988, and this one-night concert was a benefit for the further restoration of the theater.
Meanwhile, the Williams College Museum of Art expanded on Mass MoCA's Sol LeWitt wing with "The Well-Tempered Grid," which gathered 65 further works meant to examine LeWitt's use of the grid in his painting.
October saw Mass MoCA bringing in a true original in the world of outsider art, Jerry Gretzinger, to lay out all the panels from his ongoing art project, "Jerry's Map," a grid-like map that follows a vague narrative that is ruled by a homemade deck of playing cards.
The Williamstown Film Festival returned for its 14th year, with Images Cinema director Sandra Thomas helping to reshape, update and invigorate the event.
In November KidSpace moved beyond Mass MoCA with a show at the Clark Art Institute, "Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh, My," which examined one piece of art - Rubens' "Lion and Tiger Hunting" - from the perspective of four different types of museums.
The Clark also debuted Giselle's Remix, the first result of uCurate effort, by 11-yearold Giselle Ciulla, chosen from 1,000 entrants.
In December, Chinese artist Xu Bing brought his two massive phoenix sculptures to Mass MoCA. Fashioned from the detritus of Beijing construction sites, Xu Bing hopes to draw connections between the industrial present of both China and the United States.
December also brought change and renewal for the New Year. The Elf Parlor space reopened as The Parlor Cafe and at MCLA Gallery 51, the talented multimedia artist C. Ryder Cooley revealed an entirely new facet of her abilities when it was announced she would take over as gallery manager .
At the same time, North Adams and Mass MoCA lost local fixture Katherine Myers to the Williams College Museum of Art. As marketing director at Mass MoCA, Myers was just about everywhere you looked and anywhere she was needed - and not just attending to the official duties you expect. There was at least one occasion where she worked crowd control in a bathroom emergency, and the staff at Mass MoCA no doubt has many stories they could tell. We wish her success in her new position.