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Just saw the film and I can't help wonder if the changes shown are long term. New restaurants do well when they first open. Three years of growth looked good, but how are things going now??? The problem I saw was that large tourist attractions can be too self-contained. People visit just the one attraction and then leave without their visit impacting the surrounding community. Getting a large number of those thousands of visitors to spend time in the rest of the town should have been a key part of creating the tourist magnet. If an arts industry grows up around MASS MOCA then the town could brand itself as an arts town. Then the town could be the destination and not just one large attraction.
i enjoyed "downside up", but was disappointed that no mention was made of mass college of liberal arts, the public state college in north adams. filmaker kelly stressed the working class/middle class nature of north adams, but did not refer to the college, which provides an affordable education for many middle class massachusetts students. the college defines the struggle of north adams; it is the poor neighbor to williams college, and many students at mass college of liberal arts are striving to find their creative voice without incurring the enormous cost (and thus debt) of attending private college. also, these students and their parents are a source of support for the restaurants and cultural venues of the town. i wonder why kelly did not reference the college in what was otherwise a good film.
I was so inspired by Downside Up that I have vowed to share the ideas with the citizens of Roseville, Ohio, a small town in southeastern Ohio. I see many parallels between the demise of jobs in Massachusetts and Ohio and I believe that North Adam's success serves as an example of tenacious determination and more importantly, hope!
I commend everyone involved with this project. You have given me hope and a clear vision of what success looks like.
Hamilton Square, New Jersey
I also belong to an artists group.
I have seen many great things happening in the Trenton, NJ area. Old buildings have been converted into studios, music clubs,and coffee houses where we can read our poetry, and discuss art. The old State Fair Grounds is now the site of Grounds for Sculpture. Everyone, regardless of background, enjoys art together.
I enjoyed your film, keep up the great work. There are many stories to be told.
I was so happy to find "The Independent Lens." I look forward to future broadcasts.
"Downside Up" was an awesome film. I am part of an artists' group that
would like to see similar things happen in our town. I would also like to
have the other members of my group see this film. Please, please, please
show it again. Or could you contact me about how we could view it:
PS. I was in N. Adams about 7 years ago.......wow, what a change!
I commend Mass MoCA for the intentional blending of old and new art and maintaining some of the historic integrity of North Adams. As one who grew up in this lovely New England village, I recall all too vividly the Urban Renewal campaign that was 'to assist the economic development' of N.A., which only led to the loss of many historic buildings. As Joni Mitchell said, "paint paradise and put up a parking lot". Isn't that what the city obtained in exchange for its valuable history - a K-Mart (now defunct?) and a parking lot.
Best wishes for your continued success.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
While I appreciate that a documentary of any type was made about my deloved hometown, North Adams, I felt Downside Up did not project the city positively enough. I was born in 1951 and have wonderful memories--never any shame at all to say I grew up there! Last time I visited (a couple days before "9/11", 2001) the town was energized w/busy college kids and consumers, etc.. So many visuals that my husband and I enjoyed that day were left out of the film. The producer's reoccuring mention of suicide, because she was from the city of North Adams, was over-the-top.
oaklyn , n.j.
As a North Adams native, former classmate of the filmmaker and longtime journalist, I found much to admire in 'Downside Up.' Nancy Kelly understands what MassMoCA is, and what it is doing, and may yet do, for North Adams. And her film asks us to think about what the community's evolution will mean - not for the tourists, but for the folks who live there. A first-rate documentary!
" I hope the masses watch Mass MoCA"
Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing such a brilliant documentary! I sat back and found my eyes were glued to my television set for the duration of the entire flim. If this program had not been on P.B.S I would have never discovered the place called North Adams. I just finished my degree from the University of Arizona specializing in Art Education. Next semester I am planning to pursue a M.F.A. This story proves how IMPORTANT ART is. I encourage anyone who has questions about the relevance of art in our society to watch this flim. Unfortunately, MONEY dictates everything, especially which programs CAN and CAN NOT be funded! It was so refreshing to see how a group of people recreated a healthy community by taking a chance on ART! This film could of touched more on what the locals thought...I found that
the BEST part of the film was watching and listening to how people interperted the art. It does not matter if they hated it, or if they just did not get it!!! The art became a community conversation piece! Recently in Tucson an artist created a public artwork that has had a lot of NEGATIVE responces. It is amazing how people respond to art when it becomes a part of the community. I applaud the artist from New York who has returned to North Adams and who has invested time and money into many projects. This is a perfect example of how ART has started a positive economic snowball effect for the town. The art is drawing in people, resturants, bed and breakfasts and internet companies to name a few. However, preserving the historical element to North Adams is just as important as creating a healthy econonmic foundation. In conclusion, I praise the film maker, Nancy Kelly and all of the open minded people who are giving art a chance to thrive in a community that needed the boost! Personally I have seen how art can effect everyone. I teach elementary art and love it. Some of my students NEED that outlet. THRU ART students can learn math, history, reading, writing, science, language arts and geography. Art is a venue that can lead to some remarkable discoveries. I hope this film is an inspiration to other towns, artists, business minded men and women, students, politicans, to everyone. Thank you Nancy Kelly, North Adams, and P.B.S.
Brooklyn, New York
I was so excited to see a show about MASS MOCA on PBS last night. I've always loved North Adams, being that my father was born there and my family always visited our relatives there. It was a town that time forgot and I loved it. Now I'm even more excited that the largest art museum is now housed in North Adams.
I can't wait to visit it and enjoy the immense pieces of art work. I especially love the "upside down" trees; what a clever idea !!
I was so thrilled when i came across the film on teleision one evening with my friend. We are currently living in Philadelphia trying to find our placement in the art world. We are both bfa graduates from Tyler School of Art one in graphic design and I in Painting and Photography. There are many reasons that I needed to write and give praise to the entire town for their efforts. I have been an artist my whole life and moved from nyc. at a very young age to a town in pennsylvania called Scranton. I grew up there and made many friends that are mostly in the art scene that are still close to me now at 25-many who have moved to nyc. The town of Scranton reminds me of North Adams-we have a very strong group of artists because we are only 2 hours from nyc and Phili but there is no money and a very high population of seniors and large families. I related in so many ways to the gentelman that has been running the MassMoca and the Sculptor that had that amazing studio space.
I have seen this film 9 times, and it's gets better every time. The way Ms Kelly uses her family and the symbol of the upside down trees to show the slow transformation of the city's spirit is brilliant and heartwarming. And her plain-spoken and subtle narration is wonderful. There are a lot of simple truths told in her loving and often humorous interpretation of the unfolding events in North Adams. And there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the stubborn determination of the citizens of this remarkable city.
I grew up in Williamstown and went to North Adams State. In 1972 I remember doing a report on the economic future of the area for my economics class and interviewing people at Sprague, Hunter Machine and General Cable Corp. They all said the future for northern Berkshire County was tourism but they did not know what the main draw would be. Art has made a great diffence to North Adams making the vision of tourism come true.
wow. Every day we see hopelessness and despair on the news. This week alone (and its only Tuesday) War; there is no way out. AIDS; the only vaccine on the horizon does not work. Nukes; Korea has them and they ain't afraid to use 'em.
Now I see that hope not only lives, but thrives when people have the commitment to realize their dreams in spite of all odds.
Thank you so much for this well made documentary, which showed those lucky enough to watch that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, it is in the eye of the dreamer, the believer, and those dedicated to taking risks for the right rewards.
By the way, I noticed that the credits, like the trees in MOCA, were flowing upside-down just fine! ;-)
What a wonderful surprise to find this program on PBS this evening and see our hometown coming alive again. My husband and I were born and brought up in NORTH Adams, but left in 1964 because their was no future there for us.Whenever we returned we would always visit the Clark Art Institute, and the Williams College Art Museum. It is wonderful to see what is happening, now that MassMOCA has come into being. Now that we have retired, we often think, maybe it is time to move back!
I was very touched by your documentary Downside Up. You seemed to catch the very emotion of the community, from the quiet desparity to the eventual feeling of pride and selfworth. In creating this story of North Adams, you have managed to capture a bit of the story of so many other towns suffering from decay. That gives all of us hope. It has also made me put Mass MoCA on my list of places to visit this summer! I hope to see more of your work soon. Thank you.
The film was very interesting and instilled a sense of hope in me. I wanted to see the town grow, change, and prosper. I was glad that the segment at the end of the film highlighted some of the changes.
It also made me think about how enlightening the arts can be for those who have had little previous exposure and for children. What a power art has!
i just had an amazing time watching this town transform itself. i must admit that i looked at north adams state college in 1993 and one reason i didn't attend was the state of the town. i regret that now. i have an uncle who lives in who recently quit his post in trying to transform my old hometowns downtown in tilton,nh because the town couldn't organize itself and decide what its priorities were and how monies should be spent. i hope he can find some inspiration in your film. great job! my summer weekend trip schedule WILL include a trip to north adams.
Max & LaDonna Benningfield
Really enjoyed the program. Glad to learn more about Mass MoCA. Good to see you too Joe. Fantastic!
As a Williams College alumnus (class of '67) who visits the Berkshires with some regularity, I was impressed by the skill, range, and tone of Kelly's film. I especially admired the blend of candor and tact she brought to describing the tensions and interdependence of blue-collar North Adams and elite Williamstown.
Personally, I prefer an historical view, so I regret the fact that she failed to explain that Sprague Electric (and in Pittsfield, General Electric) took over failed textile mills -- which had moved operations to non-union factories in the South. In a sense, the arrival of MassMoCA is simply the latest step in the continued re-use of its buildings.
Even the new emphasis on art is simply a case of building on a local boom: Williams College has, for the past half-century, had one of the best art eductation programs in the world, run by exceptionally well-connected professors, who succeeded in placing their best students in positions of enormous influence.
Indeed, the Williams College Museum of Art has become a "destination" in its own right. Then there's the outstanding historical collection of the Clark Art Institute, which is embarking on its own multi-million-dollar expansion. Every summer brings the Williamstown Theatre Festival, a decades-old landmark that will benefit from the College's expansion of its theatre facilities.
In brief, I share Kelly's optimism about the region. Art could be the 21st-century equivalent of textiles in this quiet and picturesque corner of the world.
Mary Provencher Taylor
San Antonio, TX
I viewed Downside Up this evening, and was very impressed by the great job Nancy Kelly has done. I am a native of North Adams, having left there in 1952 for Texas with my husband. I have returned almost every year since, and have seen both the city's decline due to loss of industries, and its renaissance since Mass MoCA arrived on the scene. Since this film was produced, the town continues to amaze me with new venues. Joe Manning has contributed immensely to public knowledge of this jewel of the Berkshires, through his books, articles and tours.
I have always been proud to call North Adams my home. It has so many beautiful Victorian buildings, stately churches and incredible natural beauty, none of which were mentioned in the film,unfortunately. and the people are friendly, wise and appreciative of the culture in the area. North Adams was featured in a recent issue of Travel Magazine as one of the most romantic places to visit! Imagine that!
Being a person who was born and raised in North Adams, Mass for approximately 20 years, I can say that it seems that North Adams is trying to make a comeback and art appears to be the reason. For the past few years I have returned to North Adams and feel extremely moved by the atmosphere and nostalgia that exists within this community - as stated earlier, art seems to be a contributing factor. For North Adams to continue in this success vein I pray everything continues but not to the point that the long time residents are outpriced and no longer feel a part of the nostalgia.
From my point of view some of the challenges a community faces during a remaking are not letting the past fade away completely and this is something that all of us must preserve. The benefits are the progress that can occur; however, progress is not always positive, many times it is almost destructive.
Please feel free to contact me for any further points of view regarding North Adams and its past, present or future status.
Fabulous! This is the stuff that propels me toward graduate study in City, Regional and Environmental Planning. I've been drawn toward communities like North Adams my whole life, and am inspired by the visionaries both in this documentary and in my life.
Thank you for yet another enlivening PBS presentation!
I live in a small town 3 1/2 hours north of San Francisco. It has been my priviledge for the last 2 years to participate in local productions of the V-Day Vagina Monologues, in both this time and In Ukiah, the next town south of here.
Local artists have been showing anit-violence, and erotic feminine art due to this play. The local community is talking to each other about the erotic in art; violence toward women and children is becoming tackled like never before.
Art changes everyone. It's changed ME!
Patrick D Rondeau
San Francisco, CA
I just wanted to thank Nancy Kelly for taking the time to create this wonderful film. And I also wanted to thank the visionaries who saw the potential for the museum. I remember when it was just a seed and they had the MoCA Parties to raise money. I never truly believed that it would come to fruition. But I'm glad it did. Thank you all.
I stayed up late to watch it here on the West Coast because I'm from North Adams originally. When I was growing up, I never thought about how bad things were but I definitely noticed a slide as I headed toward high school in the late 80s. That aside, I loved growing up in NA and if you saw those thousands of acres of green trees as a young kid, you can probably imagine why.
Even though I'm almost a continent away, the place is still my home and I try and get back to visit it at least once a year. I think the place is doing great and I am encouraged everytime I visit. It just keeps getting better.
Good luck this summer. I'm sure I'll be by to visit.
San Francisco, CA
I just saw the documentary,. I love it . It brought me to tears, tears of hope, of joy ,of inspiration. I can't think of a more life affirming story. And it's true?! Amazing. Network television needs this. We all need this story. I certainly needed it - long live modern art and all creativity. The people of North Adams will be connoiseurs of modern art in no time. Building a new reality is exactly what we need to do - all over the world. Hoorah!!
I loved the show regarding N. Adams, MA.
Being in the military and away from MA, I love watching shows on MA. Newburyport was a depressed town while I was growing up but obtained funds for an urban renewal project in the early 70's changing the city from a facotry town (Towle Silversmith's) to a tourist attraction. Today, they city is home to many commuters from Boston which has driven up the real estate prices and my parents taxes are very very high. In addition, I do not believe that I could afford to buy home there after I retire.
One of the shop workers in N. Adams made a comment about the locals being able to afford to live in N. Adams...it could happen over time.