'Mass Moca' museum receives funding


The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is like the cat with nine lives.

Starting in 1988, attempts were made to build the world's largest contemporary-art museum. Then, two years ago, the mission was changed: the plan was to create a multidisciplinary cultural center on 14 acres in North Adams, Mass., in the northwestern corner of the state. Both projects have been resurrected and abandoned many times over.

Now, finally, the future of Mass Moca (as it is called) seems assured. Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Paul Celluci, acting on behalf of Gov. William Weld, is to sign a formal agreement to certify Mass Moca as a public institution and to release $18.6 million in state money for the first phase of the construction; Mass Moca has raised $8 million in private money.

The first phase of the project will include the renovation of 170,000 square feet of interior space at the site -- which was built in the 1870s as a textile mill, and includes 28 buildings -- in addition to the creation of exterior courtyards and other basic improvements.

The renovated facilities are to have 65,000 square feet of gallery space, 25,000 square feet of performing-arts space, 25,000 square feet for fabrication and post-production and sound and video stages, and 25,000 square feet for other arts projects, including film and multimedia.

"If you take seriously the job of making a museum of contemporary art, how do you do that today?" asked Joseph Thompson, the director. "Increasingly, visual arts, performing arts and electronic arts are merging. Where do you go if you are a visual artist and you have read about multimedia systems? Where can you make these things? We are making room available for the process."

Mass Moca is also collaborating with other institutions. "This is a cultural factory for the 21st century," Mr. Thompson said. The core of Mass Moca's programs will be a consortium of cultural institutions, artists and technology companies collaborating on projects.

Among what the museum calls its "partners" are Jacob's Pillow, the dance festival in Becket, Mass.; Kleiser-Walezak Construction, a Los Angeles-based computer-generated-imagery and special-effects company; and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

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