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First Friday Features Light & Sound Art in Former Bank
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
05:47PM / Thursday, September 01, 2022
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A light and sound installation will turn on Friday night in the former TD Bank as part of First Friday.


'Exponential' is comprised of 2,400 pixel ball lights that are choreographed to sound. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A new installation to open at 90 Main St. during First Friday seeks to bring new life to a former bank building.
 
This light and sound installation, "Exponential," will be on view this fall and winter in an effort to think about the future of the space and contribute to the atmosphere of the city's downtown, said architect and designer Karla Rothstein.
 
"'Exponential' is both a mathematical function of positive change — it's about things becoming more or, and happening more rapidly — and it's also the phenomena of the installation in terms of the use of reflective material to expand and compound and amplify the impact of the LED pixels," she said.
 
The 2,400 pixel ball lights that have been programmed, calibrated, and choreographed to provide a dialogue between light and a musical score. The installation is set in the glass front of the former TD Bank building and backed by Mylar. The setup has been done over the summer and the paper covering the windows during the work was removed last week. 
 
"[First Friday is] already a great initiative of getting people to engage more with downtown and into the evening. I mean the agenda of First Fridays — where businesses stay open late and people are out in the downtown — and so it seems like a good time to contribute and to add another reason to draw people out and to celebrate what's going on downtown," Rothstein said.
 
Rothstein is the design director at architecture and development firm Latent Productions and, with her partner Salvatore Perry, owns Greylock Works, a former textile mill on State Road they are turning into an event, retail and residential space. 
 
The installation was put together by a team of local businesses including sound designer Dave Dennison of Studio 9; Think Events for the lighting design and audiovisual aspects; Latent Productions and affiliates Latent Builds MA for the installation detailing and carpentry, and Ginko on Main and Latent Elements for the development. The building was purchased by Ginko on Main Street LLC in December 2021 after the bank moved out. 
 
"The entire installation is experienced from the sidewalk. There's the deep overhang at the sidewalk edge of the building fronting Main Street and speakers are set into that canopy. So the music is experienced on the sidewalk in front of the building," Rothstein said. 
 
This storefront exhibit wraps the inside corner because of the nature of the existing architecture and the reflective Mylar that envelops the top back and bottom of the pixels amplify the perception, she said. 
 
Bright Ideas Brewing will be selling local craft beer at 90 Main and the first 150 visitors who arrive after 7 p.m. will receive a free customized donut from Shire Donuts to go along with their brew.
 
The installation will light up at dusk.
 
Jack and Susy Wadsworth, who have been supporters of the revitalization of North Adams, reached out to Rothstein and Perry to collaborate on a project downtown. Wadsworth is the principal of Ginko on Main.
 
As architects, Rothstein and Perry care about architecture and the revitalization of buildings and looked at what properties were available on the market.
 
They determined that the TD Bank property was interesting because of the surrounding architecture and felt that the installation could give the building a new life similar to the work they did at Greylock Works. 
 
They completely cleaned up the site at Greylock Works and transformed it with 35,000 native plants and grasses and trees and shrubs, and parking lot with rain gardens and permeable paving surfaces.
 
They want to do something similar at 90 Main, with plans to transform the asphalt parking lot so that the "ground is porous and that the landscaping is inviting and welcoming," Rothstein said.
 
"We know that that's coming, and we are in deliberations and exploration about what the programming of the project will be. And so the exhibition — the installation — is an interim way for the building to contribute to the energy downtown," Rothstein said.
 
"So we're not yet starting any construction but by activating the storefront with this installation, particularly something that happens at night, it's illuminated."
 
The installation will start at dusk and run for a couple hours into the evening everyday through the fall and winter. 
 
"We're looking to contribute to the energy that's already underway downtown, increasing revitalization of buildings and storefronts," she said. 
 
The south side of Main Street was a victim urban renewal in the 1960s while the north side maintained its historic buildings.
 
"So from 90, you have these exquisite views of the old buildings, historic buildings of downtown North Adams. Once you get to the roof of 90 Main, you have views of the steeples and the mountains. And, and it's really incredibly beautiful," Rothstein said.
 
"In addition to that, the building itself, the simplicity of the storefront facade, which we're activating, with this installation, juxtaposed with the curvilinear brick of the rear, is actually quite a nice piece of architecture." 
 
Although they would have liked stop the loss of the older buildings that were turned into parking lots the building there now, "like Greylock Works [it] deserves a next life, it should be activated and contribute to the context," Rothstein said. 
 
There had been a bank in that area of Main Street for more than a century. The site had been the former North Adams National Bank that was demolished in 1963 along with its marble lobby. The bank had earlier merged with what was then Hoosac Savings Bank across the street. The current 6,900-square-foot building was constructed by the former First Agricultural as its new offices.
 
While thinking about the future of this project, the couple looked at the old Sanborn fire insurance maps and found the history of the location interesting. 
 
"The map from 1884, this site was a North Adams roller skating rink, and then by 1888, it was a central market. And so it's just inspiring to us that there has been a history of engagement with the site, prior to the bank being there, that we're deliberating what that means in terms of the future," Rothstein said.
 
"And it's part of the desire to transform the rear lot, the asphalt parking lot into something that is more welcoming and more of an urban oasis. The connection somehow to the history of the roller skating rink and the market and public activity happening on the site."
 
Similar to the work that they have done at Greylock Works, they started with some preliminary design work on how they are reconceiving the site to give it its next life.  
 
Rothstein said it was not unlike the transformations they have accomplished so far at the mill in the context of a derelict structure and the industrial debris and other deposits that had been left on the site over decades. 
 
First Friday is also featuring a variety of new opportunities earlier in the day for community members as part of its grass-root initiative to get folks downtown on the first Friday of each month. 
 
The day starts off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Adventurer's Guild on Eagle at 11 a.m. with Mayor Jennifer Macksey.
 
Adventurer's Guild, located at 40 Eagle, has many popular card and board games including Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Magic: The Gathering, as well as miniatures and other gaming needs.
 
A number of businesses will be open late and a "community picnic" is planned on historic Eagle Street, which will be closed to traffic from 5 to 9 p.m. Local restaurants will be open for takeout or bring your own; Desperado's will be selling beer and wine. The event will include a scavenger hunt that will include a mixture of digital puzzles that runs through Oct. 2. 
 
Participants will be given symbols to follow and solve the puzzles digitally. Those who complete the scavenger hunt puzzles will be entered into a raffle drawing for a winning prize. Information regarding the scavenger hunt will be available under the Mohawk Theater marquee. 
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