The Scene | An 'art-studded' kick off for Mass MoCA's Building 6


— Last weekend was a momentous time in the arts as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors to thousands of guests, board members and supporters of all levels to view and witness the grand opening of Building 6.

The new expansion houses installations by artists Laurie Anderson, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, James Turrell and Gunnar Schonbeck brilliantly curated by Mark Stewart, amidst exhibitions with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

Other artists with works on display include Barbara Ernst Prey, Tanja Hollander, Joe Wardwell, Sarah Crowner, Dawn DeDeaux and Lonnie Holley, Spencer Finch, Janice Kerbel, Sol LeWitt, Mary Lum, Richard Nonas and the Optics Division/Metabolic Studio.

The newly renovated Building 6 adds 130,000-square-feet of space, nearly doubling the institution's current gallery footprint and adding new art fabrication workshops, performing artists support facilities, music festival amenities, and other programmatic capacities.

The weekend's festivities began on Friday evening and went into the late hours of Sunday night with a full itinerary. The VIP opening dinner for the completion of Building 6 and Phase III of its expansion on Saturday evening was nothing short of magnificent, where honored guests were pampered and charmed with illuminating magic and artful anticipation. More than 400 guests attended.

On the way to Building 6, one is struck with amazement and wonder standing at the top of a wide staircase at the surreal vision of Nick Cave's forest of suspended medallions glistening with color to capture every fragment of light.

After gliding through the path out of Cave's creative force and passing through other imaginative exhibits depicting a field of wild creatures that one has to climb a ladder to see, the anticipation builds as Building 6 is just up ahead. Through the giant double doors guests peruse the newly crafted art pieces displayed in a number of mediums catering to a versatile crowd of art lovers.

Around clusters of guests servers circle the vast rooms carrying trays of hors d'oeuvres to nibble along with a fully stocked bar of wine and liquor.

Gov. Deval Patrick was there as an honored guest, speaking openly with many of those attending the celebration, along with Mass MoCA's Director Joseph Thompson.

As the crowd surveyed the newest art and mingled with one another there were many photo opportunities and there under towering ceilings singles and groups stood in admiration of Prey's stunning watercolor painting spanning the entire wall she calls "Mass MoCA Building 6."

"It signifies the beginning," Prey said, "I'm so excited for Mass MoCA. I had the pleasure of watching the development of Building 6 and used my mother's brushes to paint it."

Chris Farrell, manager of Corporate Communications and Government Relations of Berkshire Gas, was there to support the opening. Avangrid, Berkshire Gas's parent company and Berkshire Gas invested $80,000 in the Mass MoCA expansion.

Berkshire Gas has "stood strong" since the museum's beginning "providing energy to heat and preserve the integrity of the overall facility while plans were completed and financing was secured." Farrell smiled and commented,"The future is just as bright as can be."

Soon the dinner bells went off and there leading the line of bells and blowing into a large conch shell was musician Bill Brovold, who curated the Gunner Schonbeck exhibition, followed by Susan Killam, managing director for the performing arts and film at Mass MoCA, Meredith Boggia, Bill Brovold, Catherine DeGennaro and Kate Schonbeck, each with their unique and inventive instruments.

As guests made their way to dinner where servers walked in orderly straight lines like soldiers between what appeared like 2-mile-long tables lined with flickering votive candles. Place cards and menus with tasteful thank you notes were given to each guest at their place setting.

The menu of the three-course dinner was a composed spring vegetable salad with banyuls vinaigrette, Berle Farm Crowdie cheese and pea tendrils, with a main entree of block cut New York strip steak and braised short rib duo with fingerling potatoes, wild mushrooms, red wine and shallot sauce and the ending, a mosaic pistachio shortbread aside lemon panna cotta and rhubarb sauce.

"This has been the most glorious day to see it all come together," said Laura Thompson, the museum's director of education and curator of Kidspace. "I feel like I work in a whole new museum."

The first speaker of the evening was the Hans Morris, chairman of the Mass MoCA Foundation board of trustees, who said, "This is a celebration of the possible."

"We opened in 1999 and that was the first miracle," he said. "The financials were really bad, but we stayed active and here we are, so if anyone comes up with a wild and improbable idea you can toast to that." And with that two lines of tables held up their glasses to Mass MoCA's grand success.

The next speaker introduced was Director Joseph Thompson, who payed tribute to each of the exhibiting artists saying, "Laurie Anderson will continue to create, Gunnar Schonbeck's legacy is brilliantly orchestrated by Mark Stewart and James Turrell for his beautiful work."

He added, "We named Building 6 in the name of Robert W. Wilson who gave 5$ million dollars. His first pledge 25 years ago was a six-figure gift, our kick off. Thank you Robert W. Wilson.

I'd also like to thank Avangrid and Berkshire Gas for hanging with us through thick and thin. We've received over $65 million in public funding these past 30 years. Thank you Gov. Deval Patrick, Gov. Jane Swift and [state] Sen. Ben Downing"

Thompson continued to thank administrators, board members and faulty for their service for which the museum would not be possible.

"We were especially lucky to be joined in this undertaking by the amazing Larry Smallwood."

A standing ovation was given to Smallwood, COO and Deputy Director.

The VIP opening dinner of Mass MoCA's Building 6 was an evening full of cutting-edge exhibition, glitz and glamour with the utmost in demonstrations of philanthropic loyalty and dedication. Artist Joe Wardwell in his political depiction of the present times words were written above the heads on the wall "It's the Game I Play I'll Play Forever." Mass MoCA has proven to be an example of those words.

Looking back on the weekend, Jodi Joseph, the museum's director of communications, shared a final thought: "The Mass MoCA expansion celebration exceeded our wildest expectations, with around 10,000 visitors through the door on Sunday. It was a true pleasure to witness so many people take great joy in discovering a project that the Mass MoCA board, staff, artists and the North Adams community have been focused on for years."


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