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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

North County's Artistic Threesome

By Jen Thomas
12:00AM / Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Clark Art exhibit space [Photo by Jen Thomas]
The Northern Berkshire hills and valleys are gaining public and private recognition as a cultural mecca – a haven for the creative.

Budding artists are traveling to the majestic mountains to be part of the movement, visitors are arriving from international locales to visit art-focused attractions, and admirers of all sorts enjoy a picture-perfect charm and New England ambiance.

Northern Berkshire art museums are among the biggest draws for visitors. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art, both in Williamstown, offer a variety of special programming for patrons of all ages and backgrounds.

Making Art Accessible

“There is a diversity of people who come to the Clark,” said Sally Morse Majewski, the manager of public relations and marketing at the Clark Art Institute. “We want to be fun for everybody.”

Nestled among fields and forests along a picturesque road overlooking the mountains, the Clark institute is dedicated to making art accessible. Clark collections and programming are specifically geared toward expanding the museum’s membership

“They’re focused on getting people interested in art,” said Audrey Broll, a Massachusetts of Liberal Arts student who interns at the Clark. “They want art to be important to everyone.”

Along with the allure of their permanent collection, the Clark hopes to achieve this mission through hosting specialty events and exhibits to attract the art novice.

“Clark After Dark” is one venue for exploring the art world. Each month, the Clark hosts a different themed night, including the recent “Red Carpet Night.” "Clark After Dark" events attract dozens of area residents ready for an evening brimming with music, games, activities, and food and drink.

“The event is designed for young professionals,” Morse Majewski said. “But there’s no age restriction.”

The Clark also sponsors free family days. For example, last week, the museum entertained about 700 visitors with their “Bugged by Winter” exhibit, a bug-themed, day-long adventure for kids and adults. The aim is to appeal to all guests, no matter how young or old they are.

The Crowd Pleaser

Katherine Myers, MASS MoCA's marketing and public relations director, said she is proud of the museum’s ability to draw in a big crowd.

“We get about 100,000 visitors to galleries and 20,000 to performing arts a year,” she said, but she’s quick to note “different things draw different people.”

MASS MoCA's logo [Photo by Jen Thomas]


The museum has generated buzz as one of the hottest tourist attractions in the area through its interesting juxtaposition of performing arts, unique art galleries, and popular special exhibits. Opened in the former Sprague Electric Co. mills, the museum concentrates on what is considered new, contemporary, and exciting.

“In terms of performing arts events, the variety of things offered is very broad,” Myers said.

In the coming months, MoCA plans to host performances for all walks of life. College students will be interested in an Ozomatli concert in April, while older theater fans may find Target Margin Theater’s work-in-progress presentation more interesting.

The museum’s special exhibit this month, “Of All the People in All the World,” has drawn in hundreds of visitors. Created by UK artists' collective Stan's Café, the exhibit is an original perspective on looking at world statistics. The exhibit utilizes grains of rice to represent an individual. Mounds of rice are created when the artist selects a demographic and symbolizes the group through the rice.

The number of Massachusetts citizens with Irish ancestry, for example, has a desinated mound featured in MoCA’s Hunter Center. Others include the number of women who’ve had legal abortions in the U.S. last year and the number of viewers who watched “American Idol.”

These creative and innovative projects are MASS MoCA’s signature. Often deemed thought-provoking and inventive, the exhibits, galleries, and presentations have propelled the museum to the top the list of most popular North Adams tourist attractions.

A Teaching Museum


The "eyes" of the Williams College Musem of Art [Photo by Jen Thomas]
The Williams College Museum of Art has a different focus than the other community museums. WCMA is a “teaching museum,” focused primarily on serving students of Williams College. In 2006, the museum had over 54,000 visitors to its galleries, many of them art history aficionados or devoted locals.

Suzanne Silitch, the director of public relations and external affairs at WCMA, explained how important community support is to the museum. She cited the Andy Warhol exhibition (“Warhola Becomes Warhol – Andy Warhol: Early Work," now on display) and the Hopper’s Morning in a City as some of the most discussed aspects of the museum.

“The gallery talks are big public events for us,” Silitch said. These discussions often have different themes. Silitch believes this helps foster friendly debate on differing perspectives, while allowing visitors to enjoy the gallery space.

Though the Williams College museum serves a smaller niche than the Clark and Mass MoCA, it holds its own as a showcase for some of the Berkshires’ most breathtaking art.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street, Williamstown. Contact the museum at (413) 458-2303 or visit their web site at a www.clarkart.edu Internet web site.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 87 Marshall St. in North Adams. Contact the museum at 662-2111 or visit a www.massmoca.org Internet web site.

The Williams College Museum of Art is located at 15 Lawrence Hill Drive on the Williams College campus. Contact them at 597-2429 or visit a www.wcma.org Internet web site.
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