The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is one of the most prestigious art museums I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Set back in historic Williamstown, the Clark offers more than just a walk through the art.

While construction on the new $170 million expansion continues, said to be completed by July, the people at the Clark continue to create an ambiance around the facility, hosting myriad events celebrating the works of famous artists and recognizing the people who have donated time and funds to the institute.

Most recently, the Clark held a summer clambake to celebrate the opening of "Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History" and "George Inness: Gifts from Frank and Katherine Martucci."

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a "beach" just outside the entrance, where three silver-painted ladies silently moved and danced around the patrons, who relaxed on beach chairs underneath an umbrella.

In the sweeping open entrance, the Clark had set up several hors d'oeuvres tables that included raw oysters on the half shell, clams, and several chips and dips to try. The space was decorated in a seaside theme, with seashells and dried starfish circling the candles in the center of the high-top tables.

Though tickets were steep ($125 for non-members, $100 for members) it was well worth the expense. The exhibition galleries were open for viewing, and bartenders never stopped a stream of red and white wine, sangria and beer -- all courtesy of the Clark.

And if you still think the price is too much, let's talk about dinner.

Once we moved from the main entrance down a path to fire pits and a large white tent, the smell of salt and seafood wafted in the air, enticing the nostrils the closer you got.

Stopping at the several open flames to watch the three silver women, I made my way into the looming tent.

A multitude of tables had been set up, and hundreds of people sat and ate one of the most spectacularly catered dinners I've ever had. Along with green beans and potatoes, servers came around each table and plopped a whole lobster on the plate. They had made up sand pails filled with a claw cracker, a bib, napkins, a cookie and directions on how to eat a lobster. And there were two bottles of wine at each table to boot.

While meeting some of the nicest Washington, D.C. folks, who graciously let my guest and I have the bottle of red wine and told us their stories, the Wandering Rocks, of Williamstown, performed on a stage in the front of the tent. Sea shanties abounding, couples danced to the heart-pumping beats after dinner before taking their souvenir pails home.

The Clark has a few special events like this clambake throughout the year. It also hold lectures, brunches and much more.

If you're looking for a fancier way to spend your early eve-ning, check out www.clark art.edu to see when the next special event is and plan for a night filled with classic art, food, libations and some very interesting people.

If you go ...
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 225 South St., Williamstown (413) 458-2303 www.clarkart.edu 
Style: Art museum with special events 
Dress: Classy 
Cover: Special event pricing varies 
Food: Catering at special events 
Entertainment: Live music and/or performance art 
Our rating: 5 mugs, “Round's on me!”