Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

1040 MASS MoCA WAY, North Adams, MA 01247


Museum Website

MASS MoCA exhibits work by both well-known and emerging artists of today. More than 200,000 sq ft of exhibition space, including a single gallery as long as a football field allows large-scale and complex installations that are impossible to realize in conventional museums.

Although MASS MoCA is not a collecting institution, some commissioned year-round and seasonal installations are found on the grounds.

MASS MoCA is among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. Located on 13 acres MASS MoCA encompasses a complex of 19th-century factory buildings, occuping nearly one-third of the city's downtown business district. Listed in the National Historic Register, the site's 26 buildings form an elaborate system of interlocking courtyards and passageways;  Bridges, viaducts, elevated walkways, and red brick facades lend architectural interest to the complex.

Whether you go or not, Mass MoCA: From Mill to Museum (2000), with 100 color and black-and-white photographs produced largely by the museum's founders, documents a uniquely inverted design process in which a tight budget, the site's status as a national landmark, and the built-in abundance of existing light and space all demanded that the architects subtract more elements than they add. Thus, we're treated to a profusion of before-and-after photos where we can see how a few of the lesser or more far-gone buildings were demolished to create pathways and sight lines for visitors; how others had whole floors knocked out to create cathedral-like, sun-soaked galleries; and how empty, asbestos-scarred former workrooms became light-as-air hosts for massive installations by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg and Mario Merz. 

The volume is also bookended with essays by MoCA director Joseph Thompson and principle architect Simeon Bruner that narrate the completion of this fascinating architectural jigsaw puzzle in greater detail. Several photos show the gleaming new galleries, performance spaces, and outdoor courtyards alive with museum-goers--but in so many places, the imposing, time-stained red brick and massive original posts and beams have been left untouched. Their hulking, workaday visibility makes it impossible to forget the site's industrial roots or the thousands of local residents (mostly women) who once labored there--and whose children and grandchildren accounted, fittingly, for a vast majority of the first people to step through the doors of this truly forward-looking nexus of creative and technological potential. 

If ever a project existed that bore proud witness to the vital link between our industrial past and our digital future and between art and community, it is MASS MoCA, the sprawling, ever-evolving modern-art complex carved out of a cluster of abandoned brick factories in the Berkshires-backdropped town of North Adams in western Massachusetts. 

Opened to international fanfare in 1999, the overnight cultural mecca was the result of a grueling, stop-and-go, 13-year collaboration among art-world principals, local and state leaders, and the architecture firm of Bruner/Cott & Associates. All those involved labored to find sufficient funds and the right design approach to retrofit the 27-building, 13-acre site, most of which was built in the 19th century, into a fluid facility for 21st century art, performance, and technology.

Exhibitions & Dates