North Adams Transcript

May 26, 2011

MoCA offers Beer Garden and More

John Seven, North Adams Transcript

NORTH ADAMS - This summer, Mass MoCA plays host to an ongoing space that aims to not only create work, but community as well.

The Bureau For Open Culture, headed by James Voorhies and inhabiting Building 8 or the Apothecary Building, is located in the courtyard of the museum and promises a variety of visitors through the season. The project opens on Thursday, May 26.
The summer opens with artist and landscape architecture professor Sarah Cowles taking residency in the building and creating work around the examination of the Hoosac River with the idea of embracing the concrete channels and working with what is already there to rejuvenate the ecology. It's a specific component of the project that, in a wider way, embraces the locale and its working class past.

"All the things we're doing is looking at different forms of labor in this area and how it's changed from making objects to making culture and experiences," said Voorhies. "Even Sarah's work, so many architects and landscape architects design things that never get built, so what happens if you just had these ideas and you start making something? It still has this futility in it, but the act of starting to make something as opposed to always just having it in your head."

Other projects include Workers Leaving The Building, a project by artists Dylan Gauthier and Kendra Sullivan, that involves interviewing museum workers in order to reveal the hidden jobs that make Mass MoCA run, and performances by members of the Wassaic Project from Wassaic, N.Y.

The collective Red 76 will helm the Night Market, a marketplace specializing in the works of regional culture makers, from butter-makers and home brewers to writers and artists, who don't necessarily have an outlet to distribute their goods.

One enticing addition will be the Beer Garden, which will be open Thursday and Friday nights from 5 to 10 and provide the group with an income that can be directed toward funding their programming.

Voorhies characterizes it as an investigation of openly funding art through capitalism, but it's a radical idea that began from a simple desire.

"I've lived here over a year and have been thinking that it would be great to have a beer garden," he said. "Last summer, riding around on our bikes, we just wanted to sit outside and have a drink."

The group Red 76 will also help out with the beer garden and program occasional art talks and presentations into the evenings, giving the spot a different sort of ambiance from any given tavern, under the umbrella of "Bartleby's Pen."

"We'll have some chairs and anyone at the beer garden who wants to participate with the lecture can do so," said Voorhies. "That's really interesting to me because it's like thinking about how everyone is a service provider, people who make art as well as someone who helps with the beer garden or any kind of restaurant and leveling all that, what we think of as culture. Why I'm really excited about that is because someone who might not want to come to a lecture may come over, and it's a way to get people to participate in something that they might not usually want to do."

Voorhies also plans to put out an open call for freelance workers to congregate in the mornings - not to socialize, necessarily, but to create the sort of public work space that Voorhies has found that he and others he knows misses. The idea is that working around people creates an energy and community that isn't being replicated in quite the same way as some jobs become more mobile thanks to the Internet.

The new paradigm may be social work sites where the people who share the spaces don't necessarily work for the same company or even in the same field.

"I've been thinking about the way people work today too, this dispersion of workers who are alone, but what kind of community is lost by not having a workplace," Voorhies said. "People may not know each other, but they come down, and maybe a graphic designer meets a copywriter or something. It might even generate something, and bring some people out of their independent workplace."

Voorhies' hope is that the Bureau's presence will function like an open residency and, more directly, a three-ring circus of creative ideas and engagement - a gathering place, a hangout joint and a point of curiosity all at the same time.

"It is that kind of space that will make people say 'What's going on in here?' but not in a bad way," he said. "I think that the personalities of people that we work with, the personalities are really warm, so I think it's going to be a what's going on in here space, but an inviting space with music and stuff."

John Seven is the Transcript's arts and entertainment editor. John Seven/North Adams Transcript

James Voorhies heads The Bureau For Open Culture.

(c) 2011 North Adams Transcript. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.