Downtown Design Lab a ‘Game-changer’

Above, Keifer Gammel ’11 (left), the box office manager at MASS MoCA and a member of the North Adams City Counsel, talks with students in Diane Scott’s capstone course, “Creative Economy of the Berkshires.”

Realizing there was no better place to study the creative economy than in the heart of Berkshire County’s North Adams, MCLA decided to use space at 49 Main St. not only as a classroom, but a place to design programs and strategies that benefit both the College and the community – Design Lab.

It’s the perfect use for the downtown space that previously housed the PRESS Gallery, after it was relocated to campus, in the newly renovated Bowman Hall.

According to Diane Scott, assistant professor of arts management, this new Design Lab not only builds stronger interconnectivity between the greater community and our students, it’s a real “game-changer” on several additional fronts.

“It allows us to teach classes in the heart of the community,” Scott said.

Design Lab

Because classes meet in Design Lab, Scott explained, her students are just a few steps away from some of the things they talk about in class. They are able to go outside and see aspects of North Adams’ metamorphosis firsthand, and how the arts have changed the city. As a result, their experience is changed “in an amazing way.” 

“The space has been completely redesigned to be a new learning space for the students,” said arts management major Erin D’Entremont ’17 (right) of Dracut, Mass. “It’s a perfect example of the city’s adaptation. 

She added, “I really enjoy the fact that we’re studying the North Adams community, off campus, in a space within the community we’re learning about. It allows for a more immersive learning experience and forces students to get out of their everyday routine on campus, go downtown, and be a part of the community.”

Design Thinking, Scott explained, centers on visualizing the areas one is studying by mapping information out and posting it on the walls where students can engross themselves in study.  

“This space is made specifically for that activity,” Scott said. “We have all the supplies there and are able to archive our work process on the walls every week, and leave it there for the entire semester.” 

The flexible classroom lends itself to many activities, including non-profit board meetings and student events, such as a recent musical performance. In May, the Fine and Performing Arts Department will hold its strategic planning retreat there. The space also is open to the greater community. For example, the Roots Teen Center uses it for its board meetings.

D’Entremont appreciates that the Design Lab is located in a place where North Adams residents go about their daily lives.

“I enjoy seeing life in action here in North Adams,” D’Entremont said. “There are lives outside of MCLA, and I feel as though students forget that from time to time. But in a place like the Design Lab, you can’t avoid seeing the world in motion.”

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