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North Adams Arts Commission Seeking Comment on Master Plan
Staff Reports,
04:07PM / Tuesday, July 06, 2021
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'Justice,' a mural by Alaa Awad on Center Street, commissioned by Downstreet Art in 2014.


'Read to Me,' a bronze statue donated to the library in 2019.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Arts Commission is seeking comment on its public art master plan that will identify and set goals for the location and management of public artworks within the city limits. 
 
The plan has been nearly two years in the making — with some disruption from the pandemic — and the draft plan is now available for review on the city's website. 
 
The draft sets out guidelines for reviewing and selecting public art projects; aspects of commissioning works of art; accepting donated pieces; developing community outreach and input in choosing art projects; and the necessary applications, forms and contracts. The commission also would encourage discussions on how new construction projects can integrate artwork and how those works connect culturally, geographically and historically to North Adams. 
 
"The City should track major Capital Building and Infrastructure Projects to ensure that public art is considered early in the planning process for these projects, and if a Capital Project is a high priority for art, that an allowance for art is included in the budgetary planning," the draft states. 
 
The transformation of North Adams into a haven for art had been slow at first but has accelerated over the past decade or so largely through the influence of Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The Public Arts Commission was created to review and approve artworks on public property. The master plan offers an administrative guide for approving art with the mayor as the final vote in line with the city charter. 
 
The plan includes an inventory of current public art and has a section dealing with expectations for how different types of art will last. "Permanency" has been an issue with works created prior to the commission along with who is responsible for maintenance and/or removal. The draft plan states that the appropriate departments, including the Office of Community Development, will be provided with maintenance plans for works solicited and maintained by the city.
 
Goals in the plan include developing public art activities, supporting lectures and master classes, and coordinating and supporting public art projects. These would be funded by applying for grants and soliciting gifts and donations.
 
"PAC would rely on contributions from individuals, corporations, and foundations to make public art available and accessible to audiences of all ages and backgrounds – at no charge. Gifts at every level would make a difference and would be 100 percent tax-deductible," the plan states. 
 
The PAC would also work with private developers to incorporate art in their projects: "Placement of publicly viewable art on private property can have an effect the surrounding neighborhood and businesses. The Public Arts Commission should be considered a resource for private owners and developers seeking to place publicly viewable art on their buildings or property."
 
The plan looks at three types of art: artist initiated (an artist asks to place a work on public property, these are often temporary); works commissioned by the city; art that is donated (such as statues, murals, plaques, etc.).
 
The PAC will also develop a catalog of current and former works of art and city-owned sites where artworks could be installed with a digital or print format to be kept in the city clerk's office. 
 
The current inventory includes the Civil War Monument, "Read to Me" at the library, "Harmonic Bridge," Victoria Palermo's "Bus Stand," the "Art on Fire" callboxes in the downtown, and murals on the Mohawk Theater, St. Anthony's Parking Lot and Center Street. 
 
Priority locations for art are the city's three gateways: both north and south on Route 2, north on Route 8/State Street, and north on Ashland Street. Placemaking connections would be largely in the downtown area of Marshall, River, Main and Church, with the farthest out being the Phelps Avenue footbridge. Priority gathering places are Windsor Lake, Noel Field Athletic Complex, City Hall and Heritage State Park. 
 
Comments on the draft plan can be sent to publicarts@northadams-ma.gov. The PAC will be taking comments through July 31 and they will be discussed at the commission's August meeting. 
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