LENOX --The long-running Berkshire Art Festival plans to branch out from its site at Ski Butternut in Great Barrington Shakespeare & Company with a three-day show on the Shakespeare & Company campus from Sept. 28-30 to kick off the fall-foliage season.
After 11 years on the mountain during July 4th holidays, producer Richard Rothbard, president of American Art Marketing, Inc., in Middletown, N.Y., is also adding a second Ski Butternut show Aug. 24-26.
Stressing that he's not seeking funding from Lenox, Rothbard said he spends at least $50,000 on each of his Berkshire art festivals. He predicted attendance at the Lenox event of 3,000 to 5,000 people viewing the work of some 100 artists.
Rothbard, emphasizing his shows are "absolutely art festivals, not craft fairs," said his exhibitors represent "the fine art of American craft including jewelry, clothing, mixed media, photography, painting, fiber arts and leather."
He explained that he's adding the second Ski Butternut event later this month, which will include the Berkshire Wood workers Guild for the first time, because "many people don't want to come to the Berkshires on July 4th weekends to fight the crowds and the traffic."
Citing the lingering effects of the slow economy, Rothbard asserted that "everyone's moaning and groaning about the risk, so this is part of my effort to persuade people that everything's not that bad out there."
His partnership with Shake speare & Company, billed as a benefit, involves "splitting the proceeds and revenue sharing."
David Joseph, manager of group sales and special events as well as house manager, said that "we get a portion of the gate, a couple of dollars for each person." Tickets will cost $12 on the Saturday and Sunday of the three-day festival.
"We're always trying to be as much a part of the community as possible," he emphasized.
"In late September, the idea of having potentially thousands of people come through campus in one weekend, that's always a good thing. This helps to continue keeping the spirit of Shakespeare & Company going."
He cited the Berkshire British Motorcar Festival in mid-June as "a really good experience for us although attendance wasn't what they had hoped."
Joseph pointed out that the theater company's full-time chef, Ron Werth (also the box-office manager) will preside over food available to the public during next month's art festival.
"We're excited to see the first year of this happen," he said. "We hope for a smooth weekend to build a nice foundation for the future."
At the Lenox Chamber of Commerce, Executive Direc tor Ralph Petillo said the art festival should bring in "the type of customer who would find shopping and eating in Lenox very attractive."
Another advantage of the art festival, he said, is that it fills out an already busy September calendar for the town that also includes the 36th annual Apple Squeeze Festival, the Brock Trot charity race, the Josh Billings RunAground and the Lenox Tub Parade.
Rothbard touted an opening-day art festival deal -- a $75 ticket after the show opens on Friday afternoon, Sept. 28, includes a $50 "art bucks" coupon that ticket holders can spend to purchase items at the show, as well as dinner. He said $25 of each $75 ticket will go to Shakespeare & Company.
He said about 7,000 people attended his early July festival at Butternut, and that the three-day event yielded $750,000 in artwork purchased.
"For me, it's not about how much money I can make at each event, it's how I can develop support for artists in the Berkshires and for other businesses," he said. "Artists are struggling now they're having a tough time."
If all goes well, Rothbart already has his sights set on a "first annual Berkshire Winter Arts Festival" in Lenox.