Williamstown's Clark Art Institute was missed -- and not just by art patrons. The museum is a Berkshire economic generator as well, and with the museum open to the public again this weekend following the completion of its extensive $145 million renovation, the retail stores, restaurants and motels of Williamstown and neighboring communities will be celebrating along with the art world.
The original 1955 building has been totally rebuilt and additional gallery space has been created, in large part by going underground. Japanese architect Tadao Ando is known for linking buildings to their natural environment, making him an obvious choice for an art museum located in the rolling hills of the Berkshires. His goal was in part to better link the museum to the beauty surrounding it. One thousand trees were planted to add to that beauty and two miles of new walking trails have been added to the existing trails.
The museum is renowned for its extraordinary permanent collection, but the additional space and its configuration will enable it to branch out into other areas, such as large-scale art. It should also have benefits for the museum's curatorial studies.
More prosaically, but just as significantly, the reborn Clark should boost the Williamstown and Berkshire economy by drawing more visitors from near and far. That means more jobs, more foot traffic on Spring Street, increased business and higher tax revenue. By focusing attention on the Berkshires, the Clark should give cultural tourism here a boost as well.