Up, down and all around: DownStreet Art gets rolling

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PHOTO GALLERY | DownStreet Art celebrates 10 years

NORTH ADAMS — The first DownStreet Art of 2017 was a circus.

Nimble Arts brought its high-flying circus act to North Adams on Thursday, taking over Holden Street as the featured performance to kick off the summer.

But true to its name, DownStreet Art revolves around the galleries that dot the map of downtown North Adams, including MCLA's Gallery 51, the MCLA Design Lab, the Berkshire Art Museum and Gravity Gallery.

"It all came together pretty well. I'm excited for the mix of events," said Berkshire Cultural Resource Center Director Michelle Daly, who organizes DownStreet Art.

The 2017 summer season is a special one, as it marks the 10th year of DownStreet Art in North Adams.

In its first decade, the monthly summer event has brought more than 150,000 visitors to downtown North Adams, according to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, which operates DownStreet Art.

Its organizers have planned for this year's DownStreet Art by focusing on the feedback they've received from visitors in the past.

"It was really examining what we've done for the past nine years and building on the highlights," Daly said, adding that visitors "want to see performances, see friends" and actively engage with what's around them.

Standing in front of his shop, Berkshire Emporium and Antiques, Keith Bona remembers when DownStreet Art first launched.

"It gets people downtown, even if they're not totally into the arts," Bona said. "What could it hurt?"

In addition to the circus, there was plenty to engage with on Thursday.

After spending the weekend at the Solid Sound festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Pots on Wheels stuck around and offered their guests a trade: make a pot now and receive one, for free, that a past participant had crafted.

People get excited about the opportunity to make something with their hands — even if they don't get to keep the exact item they actually made, according to potter Sam Taylor.

"It's like putting a milkshake or a sundae in front of someone. It's exciting, Taylor said.

The Pots on Wheels truck tours the northeast and was sponsored by DownStreet Art on Thursday. It gave away more than 300 cups at the Solid Sound Festival this past weekend.

Amanda Chilson, project coordinator of Mass in Motion, was on Main Street operating a bike decorating station before a group bike ride through downtown later in the evening.

Having recently launched a weekly Thursday evening bike ride, Chilson saw DownStreet Art as a perfect fit. The bike ride — this week's featuring some newly decorated and spruced-up bicycles — begins in the St. Anthony's parking lot and circles the downtown.

"It's just to remind cars that we can share the road with them," Chilson said.

Live music and performances, including freestyle rap performances by Seth Brown, round out every DownStreet Art Thursday this summer.

The next DownStreet Art is scheduled for July 27 and will feature a performance by the musical group Thread Ensemble.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376 or @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter


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