Compared to the swooping architecture of other fine-art institutions, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (aka Mass MoCA) is a hulking, big-boned anomaly. “We don’t just collect art and hang it on white walls,” says director Joseph Thompson. The cavernous complex displays works that couldn’t fit anywhere else. This spring, architecture firm Bruner/Cott & Associates unveiled the $65 million renovation of Building 6, making this the largest contemporary art museum in the US. The behemoth was sliced open to give artists—and visitors—a ton of elbow room.
An old machine shop—now topped by acoustic tiles—contains more than 300 instruments made by Gunnar Schonbeck, including a 9-foot banjo, an 8-foot-tall marimba, and drums crafted from aircraft fuselages.
Since Building 6, a former textile mill, spans 120,000 square feet, it could be easy to lose your way. A 140-foot skylight perforates all three floors, providing a glowing pathway for directionally challenged patrons.
Multimedia artist Laurie Anderson built a replica of her New York studio at Mass MoCA, including an interactive archive for visitors to explore her past work. She has access to two stages for performance art.
Architects removed a 14- by 12-foot section of brick wall and reinforced the floor with 275 tons of steel before a crane could drop in Untitled, a 16-ton carved marble sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.
Robert Rauschenberg began The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece, intended to be the world’s longest painting, in 1981. Seventeen years and 190 panels later, he finished. Seventy columns were removed in hopes that the museum could one day show the work.
Artist James Turrell created his largest ganzfeld ever: a two-story, 35,000-square-foot sensory-deprivation dreamscape flooded with neon-colored light.
Eat: Tuck into North Adams’ unexpected delicacy, chili dogs. Scarf one alongside a tall glass of chocolate milk (trust us) at Jack’s Hot Dog Stand.
Stay: The Porches Inn claims to be “granny chic,” which translates to winkingly hip touches like crayon-box paint hues and room service delivered in retro lunch boxes.
Do: browse 10,000 square feet of ironworks, vintage furniture, and records at the labyrinthine Berkshires Emporium & antiques.
This article appears in the July issue. Subscribe now.