The MASS MoCA museum is one of the world’s most vivacious centres where modern art is created and enjoyed. Its breathtaking variety of contemporary art spaces consists of impressive galleries and both indoor and outdoor venues. The work displayed at the museum embraces all art forms, including painting, photography, music, dance and theatre.
MASS MoCA encompasses a network of 19th century mill buildings in North Adams, Massachusetts. However, the site dates back as far as the Colonial period of the late 18th century. Even at this time, the location was a place of innovation, with businesses which included cabinet-makers, an ironworks and wholesale shoe manufacturers.
The Arnold Print Works established itself on the site in 1860, installing the latest equipment for cloth printing. The company prospered due to significant government contracts to produce fabric for the Union Army. By the 1890s, Arnold Print Works had become the largest employer in North Adams and had built 25 of the 26 buildings which form the present-day MASS MoCA centre.
In 1942, the site was purchased by the Sprague Electric Company. Although Sprague left most of the exterior buildings untouched, it made significant modifications to much of the interior. As a major research and development centre, Sprague’s physicists, electrical engineers, chemists and technicians were called upon by the government to manufacture key weapon components during the Second World War.
After enjoying the boom in the electronics market during the post-war years, Sprague eventually faced declining sales and closed in 1985. Keen to utilise the vast complex, North Adams officials met with staff from the Williams College Museum of Art who were looking for alternative art spaces for exhibitions too big for conventional museum galleries. This was the beginning of the contemporary art centre which became known as MASS MoCA.
MASS MoCA has enjoyed much support from the wider community and the public sector. More than $8 million was initially donated to the museum to ensure the project’s success. As is the case for most centres supporting and exhibiting the arts, MASS MoCA relies on the generosity of its patrons and benefactors. MASS MoCA is a charitable association of avid contemporary art collector Joey Horn.
Today, MASS MoCA continues to focus on the exhibition of large-scale, immersive experiences that could not be shown in conventional art spaces. It also presents over 75 performing arts productions each year and has an extensive education programme. The centre supports both established and emerging artists to fulfil its ethos as a dynamic, collaborative centre of contemporary art.