NORTH ADAMS -- DownStreet Art kicks off its seventh season on Thursday, and organizers are promising more outside, public art projects for this summer.

Opening night events at various locations downtown include gallery openings, artists receptions and live performances and are free and open to the public from 6 to 9 p.m.

"We believe the climate is good now and people are very supportive of public art, so we are going full swing back into the mural project," said Berkshire Cultural Resource Center Director Jonathan Secor at a recent press event.

With Thursday's kickoff will come the unveiling of a new, 60-foot mural on Center Street by Egyptian Artist Alaa Awad. The colorful piece was recently created on the south side of the Route 2 overpass and represents the artist's cultural heritage through the use of pharaonic motifs and calligraphy.

"In order to understand ourselves as Egyptians, it is important to understand our history and our heritage," Awad said. He referenced political turmoil in Egypt and stressed the importance of maintaining cultural values.

"[They] will help us to find our past, our present, and our future," he added.

In addition, Awad's exhibit "Thebes" opens Thursday night at MCLA Gallery 51, 51 Main St.

A second mural by Corwin Levi will be unveiled on the north face of the overpass on July 31. And on Aug. 28, Jarvis Rockwell will unveil a wall drawing at the concourse at 85 Main St.


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The season runs through Oct. 31 and includes 34 art destinations, including Mass MoCA, year-round galleries like the North Adams Artist Co-op, businesses such as the Martha Flood Design, and a number of new pop-up galleries.

Two new galleries will open inside the concourse of 85 Main St., a space formerly held by Steepleview Realty. CONcourse Gallery will feature artist Doug Paisley's "Confidence Man," and the DIScourse Gallery will feature Nava Atlas' "Read Me: Artist's Book, Altered Books and Related Installations," and Harry Chaim Tabak's "Conversations in Wood, Stone and Glass."

The new MountainOne Bank Gallery at 93 Main St. will feature photographer Ian Grey's exhibit, "Flights of Fancy."

Inside the PRESS Gallery at 49 Main St. will be "Letterpress as a Public Art Project," curated by Melanie Mowinski, which will present Alke Groppel-Wegener's "What's Your Mantra."

Appearing in The Berkshire Eagle Gallery at 85 Main St. will be "Facing the Street," three large-scale photographs by Grier Horner, the Eagle's associate editor from 1981 to 1997.

Returning to DownStreet Art will be Gallery 107, hosting work from the summer internship ArtDORM.

Musical entertainment will include the Northampton-based Alchemystics, local musicians Hill Haints; Eagle Street Music owner Matt Berger with Gina Coleman, lead singer of the Misty Blues; and Ye Old Dj. Marifanyi will perform Middle Eastern and African drumming on Center Street, from 6 to 6:30 p.m., to welcome Awad's new mural.

Linking the individual galleries and performances will be an "art trolley" attendees can use for free.

DownStreet Art is a partnership between BCRC, the city, and numerous local sponsors with the aim of increasing foot traffic to the downtown and spurring economic development.

"We've had 200,000 visitors to the downtown over the past seven years," Secor said. "We know we're directly responsible for creating four full-time businesses, and indirectly responsible for another half a dozen."

For more information and a complete listing of events and galleries, visit www.DownStreetArt.org.

To reach Edward Damon:

edamon@berkshireeagle.com

or (413) 663-3741, ext 224.

On Twitter: @BE_EDamon