The Clark at MASS MoCA
In addition to being a museum with an outstanding art collection, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is a research center that supports new ideas vital to the study and creation of the visual arts. These areas range from research and art-historical scholarship to the training of future museum professionals, from innovative approaches to arts education to the support of young artists.
The Clark's support of MASS MoCA is just one part of a broad picture of institutional dedication to advancing scholarship and advancing the public understanding of art in all its forms. The Clark has been MASS MoCA's most active partner since 1996, when it announced plans to fund exhibitions or multidisciplinary programs organized by students in the Clark Art Institute/Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.
In addition to publicly demonstrating the Clark's support of MASS MoCA, the collaboration helps fulfill the Clark's mission as an education institution by providing graduate students with the opportunity to gain experience in all aspects of exhibition preparation, including the use of new technologies and multimedia. The inaugural Clark/MASS MoCA project was Desire..., an exhibition of music, photography, and large scale installation pieces by David Byrne, singer-songwriter of the popular rock group Talking Heads, which was on view in the summer and fall of 1996. In September 1997, the Clark and MASS MoCA together organized the conference "Reimagining Museums for New Art," which focuses on the changing role of contemporary art museums. The symposium was among the first in a series of symposia about the role of museums and the study of art history that the Clark has organized under the auspices of its now thriving division of Research and Academic Affairs.
In 1998, the Clark was a sponsor for EarMarks, one of the largest installations of site-specific sound art on the East Coast. EarMarks was organized by MASS MoCA director Joseph Thompson with assistance from students in the Graduate Program in the History of Art. The Clark was also one of seven Berkshire sites for EarMarks. Located on Stone Hill behind the museum, Kaboom! by Alvin Curran and Melissa Gould combined the innovative and experimental initiative of MASS MoCA with references to the Clark's pastoral landscape and tales of founder Robert Sterling Clark.
In celebration of the Memorial Day 1999 opening of MASS MoCA, "The Clark@MASS MoCA" brought the work of a young conceptual artist, Natalie Jeremijenko, to North Adams. Tree Logic, a massive bio-sculpture installation, suspended six living maple trees upside-down in a specially fabricated stainless steel structure. The tree "tops" hung eight feet above a grassy area in the MASS MoCA courtyard. Jeremijenko, who has done similar projects in warmer climates, hoped that visitors would see trees more as dynamic living systems than as "static objects in a row, evenly spaced along a tree-lined street."
In May 1999, the Clark began its collaboration with MASS MoCA and the Williams College Museum of Art in Kidspace@MASS MoCA, a new art space for students, teachers, and families for learning about, interacting with, and even creating contemporary art. Building on the success of the program at MASS MoCA, Kidspace has evolved into a collaborative mission to help classroom teachers integrate the arts into their teaching across the disciplines. Exciting new initiatives include an annual summer teachers institute (pilot program to be held summer 2012), a web based resource for teachers and a kidspace program at each of the three museums.