One Amazing Place

Artwork by Sol Lewitt at MASS MoCA



If you are a fan of artist Sol Lewitt, you will want to head to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, where his paintings are displayed in colorful splendor in a series of huge galleries. The galleries were proposed as an economic development strategy to turn obsolete factory buildings into exhibition spaces for bold works of art.

That was in the eighties, when this big idea became MASS MoCA. My recent visit there was somewhat of a redux – I hadn’t seen the place since its beginning. Once inside, I wandered through a maze of massive colorful murals, designed by Lewitt but executed by others according to his written instructions. Indeed,they are a dazzling technicolor pathway from one massive gallery to another. I was lost, so to speak, in a time warp of 20th century art. But not for long.

“Mind of the Mound” by Trenton Doyle Hancock on display at MASS MoCA

My next wander was into a giant Candyland, the work of Trenton Doyle Hancock – Mind of the Mound is a cosmic mythological experience in a cartoon vernacular by an African American artist with a Texan state of mind.  My first thought was that this was well worth the trip.

My next wander was into a series of works around the theme “Still I Rise.” What a great mix of thoughtful ideas from many walks of American life.

Seeing this exciting slice of life brought me back to when  I was living and working in Boston in the Eighties. I remember two young museum guys floating the idea that art could stimulate a renaissance of North Adams. One was Thomas Krens (formerly of Williams College and the Guggenheim); the other wasDavid Ross (formerly of the ICA in Boston and the Whitney).  Returning to these reimagined ruins so many years later, I marveled at the accomplishment. A plaque on the wall tells the story of a $60 million investment by all levels of government. A bold idea brought to life with the vision of arts folks and the muscle of government. I bet Sol Lewitt never dreamed he might see so many of his works shown together in one amazing place.


Editor’s Note: Janet Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester, was President and CEO of the Boston Center for the Arts in the Eighties. She has been instrumental in the purchase of the Peoples National Bank building in downtown White Plains and its renovation into an arts incubator.