The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is the country's largest institution dedicated to contemporary visual arts. It opened in 1999 in a large complex of former factory buildings that were once owned by the Arnold Print Works (founded in 1860) and the Sprague Electric Company (operated from 1942-1985). The museum features 200,000 square feet of art exhibition space and the same amount for businesses to help offset operating costs and to stimulate economic growth in the region. There is also an indoor and outdoor theatre, outdoor cinema, workshop and art fabrication facilities, and a large rehearsal and production space. Thus far, the museum has facilitated the creation of over 80 new works of art and 50 new performances. At 160,000 visitors per year, the museum is one of the most visited contemporary art museum in the country. The museum buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Great Depression and competition forced the closure of the Arnold Print Works. Similar issues prompted the closure of the Sprague Electric Company. Local figures sought ideas how to use the buildings for future use. Soon enough, the idea for an arts center arose and years of effort led to the opening in 1999.