A Consortium Of The Arts In Northern Berkshires

Apr 5, 2017

The five leading cultural organizations in the northern Berkshires have teamed up to help drive awareness and increase economic development and tourism in Western Massachusetts.

They call it ArtCountry. 

“This area, this region is becoming more than a single day destination, more than an add-on to a visit to Manchester or northwestern Connecticut or Southern Berkshire County,” says Joseph Thompson, director of MASS MoCA, at Wednesday’s announcement in North Adams. “It's become a place where people are beginning to spend a longer amount of time.”

Thompson says if people stay for longer than a day, it could be a large boost to the region’s economy, because people are likely to spend six or seven times the a mount if they come for a long weekend.

Thompson says the new consortium of art, theatre and culture involving MASS MoCA, the Clark Art Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art, the Bennington Museum in Vermont and the Williamstown Theatre Festival collaborated to highlight the region's unique cultural attractions — with special programming and joint ticket offers.

“We all view ourselves as part of different communities all the time whether it’s Vermont or Southern Vermont and the Berkshires,” Thompson says. “But we just noticed something here over the last, I don't know, three, four or five years, which is the increasing depth of a really wonderful cultural program that is beginning to feel like its own place in some ways.”

Thompson says MASS MoCA will open the third phase of its campus development project after the 130,000-square foot, 19th Century mill building renovation is complete. This summer, in that new space, Building 6, visitors can view modern art by Lonnie Holley, Mary Lum, Barbara Prey and Spencer Finch, among others.

Not to mention the rest of MASS MoCA’s four-mile art tour, from exhibition to festivals including soundsuit artist Nick Cave, wall drawing by Sol LeWitt and a musical performance by CAKE.  

“There is literally too much to do in a day,” Mandy Greenfield says.

Mandy Greenfield of the Williamstown Theatre Festival says people, artists and entertainers love to come to the Berkshires because of its distinct artistic culture and freedom. 

“In a protected environment where artists are kind of free to throw artistic spaghetti at the wall, they come,” Greenfield says.

The Williamstown Theatre Festival’s 63rd season includes four world premieres, a new musical, the theatre’s first production of a commissioned artist, and a lot more. Greenfield says the theatre prides itself on engaging audiences with its history and award-winning shows.

The Bennington Museum in Vermont also combines history with its exhibitions including Gilded Age Vermont, 19th Century Bennington Pottery, works by Grandma Moses and Bennington Modernism.

Robert Wolterstorff says it’s about finding ways to showcase their collection to better connect modern visitors with history.

“Innovation is the turning points in history. It is the turning points in art. Those are the things we are all interested in,” he says.

At the Clark Art Institute, Olivier Meslay says there will be four special exhibitions focused on the work of Pablo Picasso, Helen Frankenthaler and others.

“It's also a way for us to reconnect the Clark to a tradition that has been slightly forgotten, that means the Clark dealing with contemporary art,” Meslay says.

Christina Olsen of the Williams College Museum of Art says aside from its own lineup of exhibitions, its lively patio programs will bring visitors into a summertime slice of campus life — which epitomizes ArtCountry.

“A place in which you can experience world class culture that doesn’t take itself seriously a lot of the times,” Olsen says.

Highlights in ArtCountry include one theatre, four museums, six festivals, 43 exhibitions, 56 hills and mountains to hike on made up of almost 1,200 miles of trails — with 37 native cheeses added for flavor.

The organizations are offering a unified ticket that will last all year. Lodging and hotel accommodations through The Williams Inn, The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA and a new hotel called Tourists opening this summer will be at a discounted rate.