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By Edward Damon, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Photo Gallery | 7th annual DownStreet Art kickoff
NORTH ADAMS — The city center was flooded with residents and tourists Thursday night, as the seventh annual kick-off of DownStreet Art celebrated the opening of new galleries and public performances.
A crowd of onlookers streamed onto Center Street at 6:30 p.m., lured by the drumming of Marafanyi, where the newest piece of public art was unveiled.
Onlookers marveled at Egyptian street artist Alaa Awad’s sprawling 60-foot mural on the Route 2 overpass, titled “Justice.”
“Two weeks ago, I came around the corner of Center Street and just saw lines and shapes on the wall,” Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said. “I didn’t come to Center Street before tonight, because I wanted it to be a surprise for me.”
Awad said his piece represents the importance of justice to all and stressed the importance of understanding Egyptian history.
“If we don’t know our past, we don’t know our future,” he said.
Mary Grant, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts president, echoed his thoughts and commented the artist had left his mark on the city.
“Thank you for your incredible gift,” she said. “This is part of the city none of us will ever forget, and we will never forget you as well.”
Thursday also marked the opening of Awad’s exhibition at MCLA Gallery 51, “Thebes: Conflict and Peace.”
The season kick-off featured two-dozen art locations in the downtown, a mixture of permanent and temporary galleries and local businesses.
Gallery 107 hosted ArtDorm, a collective of six young artists. Along with featuring their work, attendees could show off their karaoke talents.
At “What’s Your Mantra?” at PRESS Gallery at 49 Main St., visitors were asked to share their personal sayings with the world using sticky notes and markers.
“We all say things that we come back to to help get us through the day,” Gallery Chief Melanie Mowinski said. An associate professor of art at MCLA, Mowinski collaborated with Alke Groppel-Wegener, a visiting scholar from Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom.
“Are You Your Mantra?” asked visitors to reflect on their mantra — rubber stamps were laid out for anyone to make designs on an image of a fingerprint.
Attendees young and old were treated to live music by acts including Northampton-based Alchemystics, of Northampton, local band Hill Haints, and Eagle Street Music owner Matt Berger with Gina Coleman, lead singer of the Misty Blues.
DownStreet Art runs through Oct. 31, and new exhibitions open the last Thursday of July, August and September. For more information, visit www.downstreetart.org.
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