Photo Gallery | PHOTOS: Rudd Art Museum
NORTH ADAMS -- Northern Berkshire's cultural economy just got another shot in the arm.
Local artist and property developer Eric Rudd has opened an art museum in the former First United Methodist Church -- built in 1929 on Main Street. The Barbara and Eric Rudd Art Foundation purchased the church and property for $125,000 in 2012.
With 20,000 square feet of gallery space, Rudd will use part of the Rudd Art Museum to display some of his earlier works -- chosen from among roughly 6,000 pieces -- and the rest for exhibiting the works of artists based in Berkshire County.
So far, 600 people have visited the museum. It opened in June.
A show on the upper floors called "Figuring In" is currently exhibiting works by Berkshire-based artists Paul Chojnowski, Kris Galli, Lisa Griffith, Meryl Joseph, Casey Krawczyk, Leo Mazzeo, Julia Morgan-Leamon, William Oberst, Doug Paisley, Michael Rousseau, Joel Rudnick, Brent Whitney, David Zaig and a memorial exhibit of work by the late Viola Moriarty.
"We want to show some of the best local art that the county has to offer," Rudd said. "So people don't just go to Mass MOCA, but also come here to see what we have here in the Berkshires."
This is the second time the Rudd Art Foundation has purchased a vacant church to be repurposed for the exhibition of art. The former Unitarian Universalist Church on Summer Street is now the Rudd Art Museum Annex and houses "A Chapel for Humanity," another Rudd creation.
It opened in December 2001. Just around the corner from the new establishment, Rudd says it is "only 200 steps" from the Rudd Art Museum. Both museums are open seasonally, from April to October.
The new museum joins a robust creative economy in the Northern Berkshires featuring the likes of Mass MOCA, the Williams College Museum of Art, and the Clark Art Institute. The Eclipse Mill, another Rudd development, is also a periodic center of art exhibition.
The opening of the Rudd Art Museum coincided with the season's first DownStreet Art event in North Adams.
On the bottom floor of the Rudd Art Museum is an exhibition of a selection of Rudd's earlier works, which date from 1966 to 1980, including works on canvas, three dimensional geometric works and a number of sculptures.
Some of them have shown at the Smithsonian and until recently had been in storage.
"I haven't seen these works in 40-odd years," Rudd said, "so it's been interesting for me. Sometimes I can't believe I did all this work."
Another exhibition in the former church sanctuary is being installed now and it involves a monolithic iceberg and a moving robotic figure sculpted from Lexan plastic.
Keith Shaw, a former art critic for The Berkshire Eagle, is the new museum's director.
"The location -- in the heart of North Adams at the top of Main Street -- is just superb," Shaw said. "It will bring people to Main Street."
The museum is not a commercial gallery -- the art is not for sale there -- but a museum where admission is free, Shaw noted.
"There is a lot of variety, a lot of dynamic work, and the quality never drops off," Shaw said. "And it relates in a very positive way to what the other museums are doing."
Jonathan Secor, director of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, said the museum is good anchor for all the other cultural events and attractions in North Adams.
"I really love the fact that they're doing a show of local artists," Secor said. "I think Keith put together a really excellent show."
He said the museum is a "valuable asset, another draw to the downtown."
Mayor Richard Alcombright had a chance to tour the museum recently and said it is "really impressive."
"Every time we add a piece to the downtown it heightens the experience," he said. "And it helps to preserve another landmark church in the city --gives it some life and hopefully some sustainability."
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