Mass MoCA visitors set attendance record for Free Day

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Photo Gallery | Mass MoCA Free Day

Video | Free Day at Mass MoCA in North Adams

NORTH ADAMS — More than 3,000 people flooded into the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art for Free Day on Saturday, setting a new record attendance for the 10-plus-year-old tradition.

Some took part in a popular mural making exercise — long rolls of brown paper extending dozens of yards down the museum's cavernous Building 5 — others made wigs, superhero masks and paper dolls elsewhere.

"It's very therapeutic," said 20-year-old UMass student Monique Yingling, a first-time MoCA visitor, drawing waves and a large eyeball next to the poem she'd just transcribed. She laughed, "But I'm having to censor myself on account of all the kids around."

Poetry could also be found sprinkled about the giant murals museum-goers were painting in Building 5. Yingling's poem, an ode to the color red, said if "I had a daughter, red would be her favorite color — without any white complications to soften her nursery room into Pepto-Bismol pink."

Another popular display brought still more poetry, as patrons organized magnets with words on them into giant poems through the halls of the museum, a former Sprague Electric facility.

"I was shocked by how many poets we have in the building today," Mass MoCA director Joseph Thompson said. "Our visitors composed what must have been over a thousand poems with a massive magnetic poetry set that wove a poetry trail all through the museum."

Visitors were offered prompts to write "Winter Odes" on particular subjects, and asked to walk around the museum for inspiration, then set to writing.

Sharon Smullen of New Lebanon, N.Y., subtitled her poem "Shaw's Rebellion" — a play on the local historical event Shay's Rebellion — for a nifty reason.

"The prompt said go to Liz Deschenes gallery; well, I never got there," Smullen said. "I was specifically here today to see the Jim Shaw exhibit. I spent all my time there. So, I'm rebelling against the prompt — it's Shaw's Rebellion."

Music echoed through the building's rooms, as a DJ group led dance and jam sessions and musicians and small bands played in the large elevators. A story booth operating from noon to three saw residents tell stories about the former Arnold Print Works and Sprague Electric local branches. A Smith College improvisation comedy group performed.

"It's been all action all day," Jodi Joseph, the museum's director of communications, said.

Later, at 8 p.m., stand-up comic Chris Gethard was scheduled to take the stage in Club B10.

The greatest Free Day turnout prior to Saturday's success brought together 2,600. Thompson said visitors on Saturday hailed from all over New England, New York, and elsewhere.


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