I'm walking on the wooden floors of a vast museum. I tread softly because my shoes are making too much noise. Or at least I think it is in this impeccable hall of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (also known as MASS MoCA) where I suspect you can hear a pin drop. I've never seen anything quite like this strange and wonderful place. No other museum could house art at this scale, I marvel. Certainly not anything in Boston, there's just not enough land (MASS MoCA has 250,000 square feet of gallery space!). It takes a while to get acclimated and get my bearings. Did I mention it was big?
Housed in a restored 19th-century factory campus, it is one of the largest museums in the United States. This amazing museum located in North Adams, Massachusetts is a place I've never been to but have always wanted to go. When a Bangladeshi artist invited me I jumped at the chance. It was almost a four-hour drive but the scenic route made the trek easier.
Calling MASS MoCA just a museum doesn't do it justice. This museum is housed in multiple buildings, filled with artists and exhibitions (19 galleries). Some of the artists are there short-term, and some are there for many months. As I mentioned, I was there to see one such artist. But first a little about the exhibitions.
Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective
Rooms filled with 105 of LeWitt's wall drawings, some dramatic and some subtle, but all engaging and diverse. The artist, an American born into a family of immigrants was linked to various movements, including Conceptual art and Minimalism. LeWitt's work, appearing to be from another world feels perfectly at home at MASS MoCA.
Taryn Simon’s A Cold Hole + assembled audience
In contrast, artist Taryn Simon installed a 5’x5’ plunge titled A Cold Hole, inviting members of the public to experience jumping into the icy water, while museumgoers observe from a neighboring gallery. I did not take the plunge.
Finally, the artist I was there to see. Firoz Mahmud is a talented globetrotting Bangladeshi artist based in New York. He was at MASS MoCA for the Studios at MASS MoCA Residency Program. Since October 2015, The Studios at MASS MoCA have hosted over 400 artists and writers for residencies of up to 10 weeks. The artists receive studio space, housing, and meals. Here are some of his works from the open studio he was hosting that day.
Leaving MASS MoCA, I was left with a sense of awe. Not just for the majestic campus of rustic buildings, soaring ceilings, and exposed brick, though impressive--it was the holistic way this strange and wonderful museum supports the arts. It's something truly special.