North Adams experienced a lot of pain as it lost the manufacturers at its core during its economic prime, and it is continuing to face tough times and difficult decisions. It is, however, also evolving into a fascinating community with considerable potential in areas that could not have been easily predicted.
That North Adams was one of 15 American cities featured in an article on PolicyMic.com for their receptiveness to young artists testifies to this evolution. Other communities cited, like Austin, Texas and Providence, R.I., have a long history of receptiveness to the arts, and it is encouraging to see North Adams now recognized among them.
The article mentioned the 20 downtown art galleries and the inexpensive apartment rentals as key components of the city's appeal. On a larger scale, however, there is also the opportunity to get in on the ground level of a city that is changing and welcoming new people. As Ricco Fruscio, program coordinator for the North Adams Chamber of Commerce alluded to in the Eagle May 30, some of these artistic newcomers have become involved in other areas of the community and run for City Council. Individually and through groups like the Common Folk Artists Collective, they have brought new blood and new ideas to the city.
This renaissance has its roots in the arrival in the city of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which in finding a use for former manufacturing buildings brought the art world's focus on North Adams. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has joined Mass MoCA in reshaping the city as a cultural haven.
Pittsfield and North Adams, the Berkshires' two cities, long saw themselves as manufacturing communities in the midst of the Berkshire cultural scene, and manufacturing will continue to play a major role in the economy of those cities and the Berkshires. Both have now embraced that cultural scene in their own unique ways, to their short- and long-term benefit.