NYC artist Darren Waterston leads us on a day trip
When painter Darren Waterston came to North Adams in July 2013 to work on “Filthy Lucre,” his installation at MASS MoCA, he never imagined he’d be living there for a year. “I was very ambivalent when I came up here,” Waterston says. “I had been in New York for the last four years and was feeling a little melancholy to leave what was now my new home, and my partner and I both thought: Oh, my God, what is going to happen to us? Then we had a magnificent summer last year, a wonderful reprieve from the city.”
As a guest lecturer at Williams College the following spring, Waterston had plenty of time to fall in love with what the area offered. He lived for the year in the Eclipse Mill—in a space that he calls “the fantasy loft that every New Yorker dreams of having”—but will move back to New York City this September, where he will co-chair the upcoming MASS MoCA fundraiser. With that ahead, he looks back and imagines his perfect day in the Berkshires.
Waterston loves to hike up Mount Greylock, but for his ideal day, he chooses a walk around Sheep Hill in Williamstown, a low-key introduction to the tone of the area, with its sprawling meadow and view of Mount Greylock.
From there, it’s museum-hopping, just down the road at The Clark Art Institute to contemplate the work of Hans Memling. “Memling is one of my favorite early-Dutch, northern-European Renaissance painters,” he says. “It’s such a paradox to be engaged in this exquisite, rarefied art collection and then take your shoes off in a stream five minutes later.”
He follows up with some contemporary art at MASS MoCA, which he got to know very well over the seven months he spent in his studio there. “I lived at that museum every day, seven days a week, for many months,” Waterston says. “I feel not just familiar with it, but I have an incredible affection for the museum, the building, the people.”
Waterston loves that MASS MoCA offers a chance for quiet contemplation of the art there, in stark contrast to museums in larger cities. He says the time he was able to spend in the sprawling Sol LeWitt exhibition gave him a new and deeper appreciation of the artist, and the architecture onsite has been just as inspiring for him.
“I love the boiler building,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite places to take people because it feels like you’re in a giant, massive pipe organ. It’s architecturally so magnificent with the beautiful soundscape there. It’s something you would never see somewhere else.”
Waterston would then grab lunch at PUBLIC in North Adams, enjoying flat bread and local beer within the restaurant’s sophisticated, urban ambiance.
Next, some afternoon shopping, and his first stop would be antique dealer Sanford and Kid, with its eclectic mix of treasures and oddities. “I lived there when I was making my project,” says Waterston. “I got so many of the vessels I needed for the installation at MASS MoCA there.”
Waterston says he would make time for the North Adams Farmers Market, which he calls “one of my favorite happy places.” Any other season would find him at Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown for cheese, meat, and eggs.
Waterston would finish up his shopping at G.J. Askins, Bookseller, in loft #108 of the Eclipse Mill in North Adams. “I’ve had curators from New York come in and I’m supposed to spend the day at the museums with them, but they end up spending half the day at the bookstore,” he says. “By the time it’s five o’clock, Grover Askins insists his guests have a glass of sherry while they’re looking around at books.”
Waterston would unwind with a swim at North Pond in Savoy Mountain State Park. He swims there at least twice a week in season and values its tranquility. “I love to go at the end of the day,” he says. “The light is beautiful and it’s very quiet. It’s one of my very favorite places.”
The day finishes at Mezze, in Williamstown, where he would take a seat at the bar and have a meal. Waterston encountered Mezze on one of his earliest visits to the area and took it as a sure sign that he had somewhere to go to make the long Berkshire winter bearable. “There are two people who are my chums there, who are always at the bar,” he says. “The bar is definitely the place to be.”
Waterston says he will miss being full-time in the Berkshires, but values his favorite thing about the area—the people.