NORTH ADAMS -- This summer, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is trying something new with its programming -- more music, more film and three solo shows in the galleries.
"This summer, we're going even deeper than usual," Director Joseph Thompson said during this week's season announcement in Club B-10 at Mass MoCA. "We have three milestone music festivals, beginning with the Solid Sound Festival in June; Bang On a Can, which unfolds over the month of June; and then FreshGrass. In between those festivals, we'll see a tremendous depth of music come to our stages."
He added, "This summer is going to feel a little different in the galleries, as we focus on premiering three artists in their first solo museum exhibitions. So instead of three very large exhibitions with various interpretations of a single theme, we're having single-person shows."
The summer season will kick off May 25, with a concert by Aaron Neville and the opening of four shows in the galleries, three of which feature the works of individual artists.
"We're so thrilled to have Aaron Neville, who is a national treasure, stop here on Memorial Day weekend," Sue Killam, managing director of performing arts, said. "Aaron is currently touring the country with his new album."
In the galleries, three solo art shows will open, along with a smaller group show, "Love to Love You," which focuses on art and objects created by fans of pop stars and other popular culture.
"We felt three solo shows would be a nice way to focus on younger, emerging artists," Susan Cross, museum curator, said. "The shows are of a smaller scale, but in a nice sort of way. It's a sort of buffet of styles and techniques."
The artists include Guillaume Leblon, a Paris-based artist who creates sculptures out of everyday materials; Jonathan Middlebrook, a Hudson Valley artist whose work explores the tensions between man and nature; and Jonathan Montgomery.
"Guillaume uses very common materials to put together these pieces in a poetic way that is very reminiscent of classical sculpture," she said. "Jason Middlebrook's show, ‘My Landscape,' will showcase 12 planks of wood that he has painted and transformed. His work is a love letter to nature. It's a love letter to painting. He's influenced by folk art, pop culture and Native American totem poles."
As part of the show, Middlebrook is creating an 11-foot-wide by 30-foot-high, three-tiered waterfall, "Falling Water," that will flow through a hole in the floor of the tall gallery.
"This center piece will focus not so much on the vulnerability of nature but on its power," Cross said. "The Styrofoam that will be used in the creation of the ponds of each of the tiers is sourced from our basement. The piece will also reference the power of water, from its use in the mills to the very specific events in our region, such as Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy."
Montgomery's exhibition, "Five Steps, Five Reps," is a show of three different bodies of work.
"All of his work has this relief quality to it -- the images often remind you of something else, that is just out of reach," she said. "His intent is to deconstruct images, which he then puts back together. While he has this analytical approach to his work, it's very seductive at the same time."
On June 15, Kidspace will debut "Freedom, Just another word for ", a group exhibition which explores how words and art can have multiple meanings.
"This show features Asian artists, it will be interesting to see how they interpret the word," Jodi Joseph, director of marketing and communications, said.
On the performing arts side, the season will focus heavily on concerts and films.
A special mid-week concert, by Old Crow Medicine Show, will take place Tuesday, May 28.
"This is going to be a complete night of bluegrass," Killam said. "They are a great way to wet everyone's whistle. They are exactly what Fresh Grass is about -- all the different levels Mass MoCA brings here, under one roof."
On July 6, Bettye LaVette, a Detroit-based R&B legend who's loved by music industry insiders but not well known in the public, will perform in Courtyard C.
"Everyone you've heard of has listened to her. She's earned the admiration of Paul McCartney, Keith Richards and James Taylor. She has this amazing voice that will stop you in your tracks. I don't know why America is so slow to recognize her talent."
The summer season at Mass MoCA
May 25: Gallery openings: 5 to 7 p.m. 'Under My Shoe' by Guillaume Leblon; 'Five Sets Five Reps' by Joseph Montgomery; 'My Landscape' by Jason Middlebrook and a group show, 'Love to Love You.'
Concert: Aaron Neville, 8 p.m.
May 28: Concert: Old Crow Medicine Show
June 1: Alt cabaret: Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, 8 p.m.
June 6: Book club: 'The Celestials,' with local author Karen Shepard, 6 p.m.
June 15: Kidspace Opening of 'Freedom, Just Another Word For ... ' 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Family Concert: Bubble Do Beatles, 2 p.m.
June 21-23: Festival: Wilco's Solid Sound Festival
July 6: Concert: Bettye LaVette, 8 p.m.
July 11: Artist talk: Robert Shimomura, 4 p.m.
July 13: Film with live music: Alloy Orchestra with 'The Black Pirate,' 8:30 p.m.
July 18: Book club: Conceptual Art, Writing and Music, 6 p.m.
July 20: Alt cabaret: Gabriel Kahane with Rob Moose, 8 p.m.
July 15 to Aug. 3: Festival: Bang On a Can Summer Music Festival
Aug. 10: Film with live music: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild.' Director and composer Benh Zeitlin, along with Dan Romer and the Wordless Music Orchestra, perform Zeitlin's original film score. 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 16 to 18: Spectacle: Mucca Pazza
Aug. 19 to 23: Art Ninjas Camp, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 22: Film: 'Ra.One' with local filmmaker Jeff Kleiser. A co-presentation with Williamstown Film Festival, 8 p.m.
Aug. 24: Family event: Space The Final Frontier?, 1 p.m.
Film at the Airport: 'Airplane!,' 8 p.m.
Aug. 31: Dance party: A Tribe Called Red, 8 p.m.
Sept. 20 to 22: Festival: FreshGrass