Big Museum, Big Promises: MASS MoCA’s Economic Impact

This article is more than 12 years old.

There are few museums in the world with enough space to exhibit a giant musical instrument made of 13 inflatable bags, each the size of a school bus. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is one of them, and it is enormous: 400,000 square feet total, with 150,000 square feet of gallery space.

MASS MoCA, as its known, is located in an old electric factory compound. Its doors opened 10 year ago this summer in North Adams, a working-class town in the Berkshires.

Standing in MASS MoCA’s exposed brick lobby, you can sense the ghost of North Adams’ industrial past. The pretty, but gritty former mill town is off-the-beaten-path, in the northwestern corner of the state, hours from any major metropolitan area.

Museum Director Joseph Thompson says the location raised eyebrows from the beginning. “It was an absurd idea to build a very large institution devoted to contemporary art in North Adams,” he says. “It was not the most likely of places for this.”

This program aired on July 6, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.