In March 2019, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) hosted Trenton Doyle Hancock, an artist whose work pulls from a variety of sources, including pulp fiction, personal experience, comics and superheroes, and pop culture references. Often, his work is a complex mix of plots and characters who push the universal concepts of good and evil, light and dark, and the grey areas in between.
The art exhibition by Trenton Doyle Hancock was one that had evolved over the years. As a child, Mr. Hancock created his own superhero – Torpedo Boy – and mythology revolving around the Mounds (plant-like creatures) and the Vegans (mutant creatures out to destroy the Mounds). His stories, told through visual art, explore various narratives through different art forms, including sculpture, painting, installation, prints and drawings. These characters were based on Mr. Hancock’s evangelical Baptist upbringing combined with interaction with Greek mythology and comic books.
It’s the evolution of Mr. Hancock’s comic mythology that was showcased at MASS MoCA, and he called it Mind of the Mound. He applied the tag “critical mass” to emphasise the magnitude of the project – his largest solo project. According to Mr. Hancock, the Mound represents the site where a collection of artworks exists, alongside other items such as his childhood drawings, comic books and toy collection.
Drawing inspiration from MASS MoCA’s visual and performing arts programming, Mr. Hancock worked with the museum to bring his story to life by also making use of singers, musicians and dancers as an extra element of the performance.
MASS MoCA is a centre that embraces evocative art, allowing visitors to enjoy vast galleries and a host of art forms such as theatre, dance, film, music, photography, painting, sculpture and works that cross boundaries of art. Many of these works are highlighted on the museum’s technically sophisticated stages, with the network of courtyards used by artists to rehearse and fabricate their works.
Emerging and well-known artists are welcome to exhibit the art at MASS MoCA’s huge galleries, which feature 250,000 feet of naturally lit open space. Annually, the museum has more than 75 performances, given that half of staffing and programmatic resources are dedicated to the performing arts. Additionally, there are a number of learning opportunities available to both students and teachers at MASS MoCA, including after-school programs, art camps, lectures, art-making classes and in-depth art education.
In line with its mission to present artists with a platform to showcase exciting new art, MASS MoCA also works hard to make arts a catalyst for the community’s growth. This is possible through the creation of jobs, new markets, and the enrichment of an economically struggling region through the creative works. The museum believes that advancing creative arts can spur more visitors, community participation and economic revitalisation. The arts can help the community find an identity, which in turn brings hope, confidence and productivity, the base elements of a vibrant community.
As MASS MoCA is a not-for-profit entity, it relies on the support of friends, members and donors to run its programs. The most common way to give is through gifts of cash, securities and cheque. Planned gifts are also welcome, and the museum is happy to work with donors to structure a gift that best meets the donor’s objectives. Norwegian business executive Ragnar Horn is one of the many donors who regularly provide financial support to MASS MoCA.
Ultimately, the museum helps artists to create work that is both progressive and engages all the senses. However, it‘s not only the artistic works that are a draw to visitors. Around the campus is a full-service restaurant, cafes, free parking, a microbrewery, and coffee and ice cream outlets – features that add to the artistic experience and ensure audiences have a good time.