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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Who Goes There?

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

Adrienne Snow visited the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the Clark Art Institute last week. Her husband Aaron traveled with her from Middletown, Conn. for a Northern Berkshire museum tour. [Photo by Jen Thomas]
"Who Goes There?" is Part Two of a series examining the arts climate of the Northern Berkshires. Part Three will focus on Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Gallery 51 museum, which opened at 51 Main St. in North Adams in 2005.

In North Adams, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (MASS MoCA) is one lure that attracts artists and art lovers from all over the country. In Williamstown, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art cater to tourists of all interests.

Always Something to Learn

“This place houses a lot of the work you see in art books,” said Catherine Britton, of Las Vegas, at the Clark Art Institute on Friday. She and her partner, Allon Adar-Burla travel to the Berkshires annually but rarely get the opportunity to visit the museums.

Britton, an elementary school arts teacher, and Adar-Burla travel frequently to museums all over the world, including exhibits in France and Amsterdam. They prefer the rural setting of the Berkshires, they said.

“There is so much culture here,” said Adar-Burla.

The couple spent a portion of their visit admiring Joseph Heintz the Elder’s Portrait of Konstanze von Habsburg, Archduchess of Central Austria, Later Queen of Poland, in awe of the intricacy of the 17th Century painting.

“People come from all over the world to see one painting or one show,” said Sally Morse Majewski, the Clark’s manager of public relations and marketing.

The Clark offers novice art lovers an opportunity to gain an appreciation for the aesthetic. Sisters Jennifer and Cynthia Brennan, of Northfield, Mass. came to the Clark just to get a feel for the art.

“It’s my first time here,” said Jennifer Brennan. “I’m learning about impressionism, and this seemed like a good place to learn more.”

“We’re not huge art buffs, but we like museums,” said Aaron Snow, with his wife Adrienne Snow, at MASS MoCA’s “House of Oracles” exhibition on Friday. The couple traveled from their Middletown, Conn. home to visit the region's art venues.

Gale Dextraze and her daughter Tracey, of Fitchburg, made a day trip to North Adams from Fitchburg, Mass., to appreciate the uniqueness of the MoCA galleries.

“It’s fun and interesting,” said Gale. “We’ve come to MoCA before just for that reason.”

Britton and Adar-Burla, who also view works at MoCA, said they prefer traditional art.

“This is akin to the type of artwork I like, where the art at MoCA is more contemporary,” Britton said.

The Academic Demographic

Sarah Hammond, a Williams College art history graduate student, is fulfilling an internship at the Clark and said that she loves being surrounded by the diversity of artwork.

“The photography collection is fabulous,” she said.

When not working in the Clark's public relations office, she tries to get to the exhibits at the Williams College Museum of Art, showing support for the broad range of artwork shown at the museum launched by her alma mater.

At Mass MoCA’s “Of All the People in All the World” rice exhibit on Friday, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) students crowded the open space in the Hunter Center.

Junior Max Drawert spent time scanning the North Adams data section, while seniors Katie Lorenz and Henry Schrader made it a challenge to find all the single-grain statistics.

“Did you see Britney Spears?” Lorenz asked.

The local museums owe much to a college following. At Friday night’s “Clark After Dark” red-carpet event, students from Williams and MCLA dominated the crowd, and MoCA hosts performances specifically aimed at reeling in the 18-21 demographic.

But, museum officials are quick to note that students aren’t the only target population.

“You’d be surprised at how many of our visitors are not necessarily students,” said Suzanne Silitch, the Williams College Museum of Art’s director of public relations and external affairs. “Many of them are the older generation and members of the community.”

The same is true for MoCA.

“Certainly students come,” said Katherine Myers, the director of marketing and public relations. “But it varies dramatically. There isn't really one type of visitor demographic.”

The most important aspect of the continued success of area museums is to develop a loyal following.

“It’s the art lovers in general who keep us going,” said Majewski.

Jen Thomas is a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts senior student and a correspondent for iberkshires.com.

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