In the Berkshires, the arts -- theater, dance, classical music, visual art -- are within a stone's throw of anyone who wants to take advantage of what the area's not-for-profit cultural organizations have to offer. And yet, at the same, the arts can seem so far away.
Stuffy, elitist, mysterious, obscure, highfalutin, "not for me" and, in these uncertain economic times, expensive, people say.
The way the Berkshires culturals see things, however, there is nothing to be afraid of. To prove it, collectively and individually, they offer an abundance of free or low-admission programs and events designed to attract the most reluctant museum-, theater- or concertgoer.
Culture in Our Backyard is a look at the variety of ways the Berkshires culturals are inviting audiences to just come and play, at little or no cost; experience and discover the arts up-close-and-personal on your own or with family, friends.
You can let your imagination run wild at Family Fun Day at the Clark Art Institute; experience the creative process of making theater at any of the Family Friday Workshops at Williamstown Theatre Festival or in Shakespeare & Company's Riotous Youth program; picnic on the grounds and see, for free, dance performed by tomorrow's dancers at Jacob's Pillow's Inside/Out stage; engage in music in ways you might not have thought possible at Tanglewood or at Mass MoCA.
The organizations included in Culture in Our Backyard are a only representative of the much broader Berkshires cultural community, which encompasses historic sites and mansions and a full complement of creative artistic endeavor.
For us, this is a look at the Berkshires arts scene that's just a bit different than our typical look at the arts in the Berkshires. For you, we hope it's an invitation.
Jeffrey Borak is editor of Culture in Our Backyard and the entertainment editor of The Berkshire Eagle.