Over the course of 11 years, Adams artist Bruce MacDonald and his mentor, New York artist Shelly Fink, worked on technique and growth through weekly critiques, which turned into monthly, then every so often during the year.
Landscapes and still-lifes were the focus at the time. MacDonald grew to admire 15th-century Dutch landscape painters, the Barbizon school of painters and some 20th century American realists.
MacDonald later went on to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the University of Massachusetts for some printmaking.
"[But] I was a poor kid. I couldn't afford the long stretch," MacDonald said, and he dropped out of school.
In his 20s in the 1960s, MacDonald moved from Boston to Stockbridge, working at golf courses and ski resorts making snow for a living. He came to live with a wealthier gentleman in a house with many tenants.
The landlord was impressed with MacDonald's work and introduced him to some of his New York friends, who insisted on peering at sketchbooks and other work. Soon, MacDonald was in a different world, where people appreciated his work, he said.
Through the ‘70s, MacDonald lived on a tight budget. He had a friend who loaned him $100, and with what he already had, MacDonald opened a studio gallery on Franklin Street in Lenox, which he operated for about 11 years.
In 1983, MacDonald said he got "too involved" in the social scene of Lenox and Stockbridge and was overdrinking. The only way to get out of a situation like that, he said, was to get away from the people he was with.
"I couldn't live without being anesthetized," he said.
MacDonald then decided to purchase his Hoosac Street property, which included 14 acres and his then-soon-to-be studio space.
"As I sobered up, I began to fix up the house," he said.