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Jennifer Crowell, director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, talks about DownStreet Art.
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Emily Watts, executive director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce, said the North County summer season 'always seems to get better.'
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The Clark's director of communications Vicki Saltzman gestures to one of the 'naughty' paintings going on display at the museum this summer.

North County Cultural Institutions Offer Peek at Summer Seasons

By Rebecca DravisiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Summer 2016 in Northern Berkshire will be filled with world-class art, music and theater.

Oh … and nudity.

The Clark Art Institute gave a sneak peek — pun intended — of its summer show titled "Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado" on Wednesday evening during an event hosted by the North Adams Chamber of Commerce that invited several North County cultural institutions to share their upcoming seasons.

Halfway through the event, hosted by Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Clark's director of communications Vicki Saltzman raised some eyebrows and elicited some giggles from the crowd of about 100 people when she appeared in front of her first slide promoting the show.

"I bet you never thought you would hear 'all nudes, all the time' in relation to the Clark," Saltzman said in explaining that the artwork to be included in the exhibit will feature 24 works from the Museo del Prado, the main Spanish national art museum in Madrid, that never before have been shown in the United States.

Saltzman said these special works, many of which she described as "massive," are from the private collections of Spanish kings Philip II and Philip IV.

"These kings of Spain were fantastic art collectors," she said. "There are from what used to be called the 'royal collection.'"

Even the kings, however, recognized that these paintings — which include mostly women in various stages of undress and complete nakedness — were not suitable for the general public, so they were displayed in "private rooms," she said.

"That's where they kept the naughty pictures," said Saltzman, who admitted that she has had trouble figuring out to market the event on billboards: The naughty paintings have "not been popular" with the billboard companies.

In all seriousness, though, Salzman stressed the unique opportunity being presented to Clark visitors to view these paintings.

"For them to give those paintings up and send them to America is beyond belief. It's completely mind-blowing," she said. "You will probably never get this chance again."

Of course, all of the cultural institutions are offering up unique experiences this summer. In addition to the Clark previewing the Prado exhibit and another titled "Sensing Place: Reflecting on Stone Hill," fellow Williamstown venues the Williams College Museum of Art and the Williamstown Theatre Festival highlighted their seasons, as did North Adams' Mass MoCA and the downtown gallery walk event DownStreet Art.

WCMA's Communications Manager Kim Hugo stressed that WCMA is always free when explaining its season, which in addition to art exhibits includes for the first time a weekly series called "Summer School," curated by artist Lexa Walsh.

"She has put together faculty that are going to offer mini-courses at 4 p.m. on Thursdays," Hugo said.

The 50-minute "class" will be followed by "extracurricular activities" that will always include free food but each week will include some other fun activity like salsa dancing or beer drinking.

"Each one is unique and different with a different professor and a different extra-curricular activity," she said.

The Williamstown Theatre Festival's season includes many "extracurriculars" in addition to the seven full shows to be performed in 10 weeks on two stages (shows that focus on new works by emerging playwrights featuring Festival favorite actors like Justin Long and Marisa Tomei), including a makeover of the WTF's free theater.

It still will be free, said Emily Curro, WTF's marketing and development associate, but instead of the outdoor productions that were staged the last few years this year will feature something called "Orpheus in the Berkshires." 

This project will be the culmination of an ongoing series of conversations and interviews with local residents, which will be pulled together in June in a script and feature a cast of both professional and community actors to tell a story that is "made by and for the Berkshires," she said.

"[WTF] is always striving to connect more with the community," she said.

Nothing perhaps has been more community-focused than the monthly North Adams series DownStreet Art, but even that is getting a tighter focus this year. Jennifer Crowell, director of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, said DownStreet Art is going to have a bigger presence in the community, including at events like Eagle Street Beach, Motorama and the Fall Foliage Parade, and the monthly events themselves will continue to grow with a more festival-like atmosphere with new additions like a pop-up farmers market.

"It's always great to liven up the streets of North Adams," she said.

Crowell also gave a quick overview of the Colegrove Park Music series that will be held August through September thanks to a grant the city received.

"The programming will be extremely diverse," she said. "The mayor is really excited to have the series here."

Also full of excitement this year is the Wednesday event's host, Mass MoCA, whose summer programming kicks off Memorial Day weekend with a performance by indie rock quartet Luna and continues with scores of events, including gallery events in both the main galleries and Kidspace, more live music, including the annual favorites Bang on a Can, Roomful of Teeth and the FreshGrass Festival, and film, including silent films set to live musical accompaniment and the increasingly popular "Movie at the Airport" at the Harriman & West Airport on July 1, which this year features the movie "Around the World in 80 Days."

"It's truly an event that everyone in the family can appreciate," said Jodi Joseph, Mass MoCA's director of communications.

Offering something for everyone is indeed the hallmark of a North Berkshire cultural season, said Ricco Fruscio, the North Adams Chamber of Commerce's program coordinator, who said the venues are offering "programs that will dazzle you."

Fruscio said he has come to realize what the term "gateway city" or "gateway region" has come to mean about North County.

"We are the gateway to the Berkshire experience," he said. "It makes us special and it makes someone want to give us a name like 'gateway.' These institutions are what makes us special."

Tags: Clark Art,   cultural economy,   DownStreet Art,   mass moca,   north adams chamber,   WCMA,   WTF,   

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