Many former industrial towns over the past fifty years have experienced slow deaths. When the main employer for the town shuts down it slowly tugs the supporting social and economic climate into its vortex, leaving the town's morale, not to mention its tax base, flatlined. Located in western Massachusetts is such a town: North Adams.
However, according to William R. Wilson Jr., the president of the Bershire Visitors Bureau, the area has experienced a recent resusitation: "The city has been transformed. Shops have opened. Restaurants have cropped up. Jobs have been created. The morale of the people has been elevated substantially. Everyone is much more optimistic."
This recovery is due in large part to the elevated tourism spurred by the Massachusetts Museum of Conemporary Art, now celebrating its fifth year in operation. Retrofitted into part of a former mill complex, MassMoCA has been a venue for artists to mount large scale, experimental works that are commercially unviable or physically restraining for other venues to produce. Mounting these type of shows has made MassMoCA weekend destination of choice, raising North Adams tourism ten-fold annually since the museum's opening.
Though this recent economic u-turn has helped stablize the town's viability, the recovery is far from fully realized. Plus, the museum, being a five-year-old, is still struggling to keep its budget balanced. MassMoCA's cost of operation for the year has put the museum into the red for $1 million.
Optimism is still high and the forcast is promising: "Hitting the five-year mark is key for us," said MassMoCA director, Joseph Thompson. "Putting a five on the wall gives us a track record and allows us to talk to potential funders about an endowment."
All images are courtesy of MassMoCA. Story courtesey of Mary Jo Palumbo in July 3, 2004 edition of The Boston Herald.