As the home of one of the largest contemporary art museums in the country, it should come as no surprise that the city of North Adams is no stranger to the arts, and visitors to town find reminders of that everywhere they go.
This summer, the cultural district in North Adams added two new murals to their growing collection of public art, thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Local artists Valerie Carrigan and Amy Coon were selected to create “selfie murals” with the hashtag #NorthAdams.
Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan met up with Valerie and Amy to bring us this story.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: As the home of one of the largest contemporary art museums in the country, it should come as no surprise that the city of North Adams is no stranger to the arts, and visitors to town find reminders of that everywhere they go.
This summer, the Cultural District in North Adams has added two new murals to their growing collection of public art. With a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, two local artists were selected to create what are known as selfie murals with the hashtag North Adams, and Connecting Point’s Brian Sullivan met up with them to bring us this story.
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Anyone traveling along Ashland Street in North Adams would be hard-pressed not to see the immense eight-story mural on the north side of the Ashland Park Apartments.
This multicolored work of art is a tribute to one time North Adams resident Lue Gim Gong, the horticulturist and Chinese immigrant who later went on to develop the first frost-resistant orange. We were there as world-renowned artist Gaiam was heading up in the boom to apply the first coats of paint. Only a couple of weeks later there was, in all its glory — almost as if there was never a time that it wasn’t on the side of the building.
Hiding in plain sight, is one of those expressions I probably use too often, but it’s the best way I can describe murals. They seem to just appear out of nowhere and then almost instantly become part of the scenery, as if they have been there all along.
Of course, they don’t always have to cover eight stories of wall space, as evidenced by this nine by nine foot monarch butterfly mural being painted by local artist Valerie Carrigan on Holden Street in North Adams.
She and fellow local artist Amy Coon were each commissioned by the North Adams Cultural District to create what are being called selfie murals with the hashtag North Adams on them.
Coon was part of a similar project in 2020. Her work can be seen among the several other four by four foot murals on Ashland Street.
Amy Coon, Muralist: Last year I moved to North Adams and immediately received an opportunity to do the Ashland Street Initiative mural, which was a four by four foot panel that was supposed to help bring people down Ashland Street and also help create a sense of hope during this time of the pandemic.
So, I got to do that project last summer. And now fast forward one year, there’s a new mural that I’m doing that’s an 18-foot-long mural. So, I’m really excited about that.
Brian Sullivan: Amy Coon will be using her nine by nine feet of space to put a modern spin on a classic postcard design, giving visitors who take selfies in front of it a real wish-you-were-here vibe.
Amy Coon: People do love coming to a city and posting a picture of themselves there. And these murals give a backdrop for people to do that. And one of the requirements of this mural was that there was a hashtag, North Adams, at the bottom.
Brian Sullivan: While Amy was able to work in the cool confines of her studio in the old Greylock Works building, Valerie Carrigan set up shop right out in the open for the whole world to see
. And aside from the intense heat some days, the experience had more pluses and minuses.
Valerie Carrigan, Artist: As a woman who passed by the other day said to me, “I walk by your mural every day. It brings me so much joy. And it’s like we’ve all just emerged after this past year from a cocoon.”
And I thought, that’s exactly what I want people to feel when they see this mural. It’s vibrant, it’s joyful, it’s hopeful.
Brian Sullivan: Sentiments that the Cultural District would like to see pervade among visitors and residents of the state’s smallest city. It’s a city that, for the past quarter century, has moved away from its industrial roots and embraced its arts and culture community.
These murals now are just more pieces being added to the ever-developing jigsaw puzzle.
Valerie Carrigan: The town of North Adams really supports artists, both local and also regionally, and it really — North Adams is ready to invest in the arts and to bring people to town to appreciate it.