WILLIAMSTOWN — Spectators were captivated Sunday by Boston Circus Guild performers who spent the afternoon spinning, flipping, stretching and balancing on stepping stones, each other's bodies, and a small trapeze during the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute's Summer Sundays "Bodies in Motion" event.
The popular attraction combined with the Clark's current "Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado" exhibit drew about 1100 guests and filled museum's main parking lots, said Mary Leitch, manager of visitor services. Vehicles were shepherded to a lot located near the walking trails and visitors rode a shuttle bus to the museum.
This year the museum offered multiple "family-friendly Sundays" and offered free activities with admission. The move is a departure from past years when a lone free family day was held over the summer, said Leach and Director of Education for the General Public Ronna Tulgen Ostheimer.
"This has been very popular this year, the family-friendly Sundays," Leitch said. "It's a weekend destination especially with the families."
"We have always put a huge effort over the years into one family day and if it rained, well, it could be disappointing," Ostheimer said. "People know that children under age 18 are admitted free to the Clark, and if they have a student identification, they can be older and it is free. We want to welcome everyone to the museum."
Aerial performers drew much applause with single and double routines and an acrobatic couple moved freely along the Fernandez Terrace, mixing with the crowd and leaping, twirling, bending and spinning in a dazzling choreography.
Guild Manager Michael "Mooch" Muciolo said that the group has performed at the Clark previously and enjoys every moment at the museum.
"Everyone is always so welcoming and the people are always attentive, and treating it like it is art," he said.
The circus has no animal acts, only human performers, he said.
"We have about 80 performers and we've been around about 6 years," Muciolo said.
Training may occur at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, Vt., and Muciolo said there are increasing instances of circus arts center sending performers to the guild for some training.
"What the Boston Circus Guild does, what we look for in performers, we want some charisma and we want to be able to show that you can push boundaries, that humans can do superhuman things," he said.
An activity tent hosted clay and wire sculpting. Numerous children were creating sculptures or were utilizing a King Philip styled photo booth for family photographs. Among the assembly was Connecticut resident Parker Aron, 7, who was accompanied by his grandparents. Young Parker soon demonstrated an affinity for the Clark and the Northern Berkshire region. Parker crafted a pair of sculptures, both depicting Berkshire landmarks.
"I made a Mount Greylock and now I am making a Jiminy Peak," he said. "I went to Mount Greylock and I ski at Jiminy Peak plus did you know they have rides there in the summer? And I rode on the train, that nice train (Berkshire Scenic Railway) and it was my first real train ride. And they told us about Harry Potter and about that school (fictitious Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) on Mount Greylock. They told us all about it."
Earlier in the week, Parker found another engaging activity.
"I went bowling at Valley Park Lanes," he said. "I like it here but I am also going to Montauk (Long Island)."
Parker's energy and enthusiasm is precisely what the Clark wants to tap into and share, Ostheimer said. A "Start to Art" preschool program is set to launch in December and a "Head Start to Art" program targeting students and families affiliated with regional Head Start education programs is also joining the Clark outreach and education roster, she said.
Hanna Leatherman, coordinator of Family and Community Programs, said that Sunday was proving to be "one of the busier days' of the season.
"Our programming is drawing families," she said. "This is a little different than what was done in the past. Our events are always rich in quality."
From November through May, a Free First Sunday event will occur on the first Sunday of each month, she said. Activities will be part of the free days, she added.
The art institute opened in 1955 and was created as a permanent home for art collection of Sterling and Francine Clark. A massive $134 million construction project brought new visitor, conference and exhibition space and reflecting pools to the 140-acre campus. Walking trails are part of the landscape.
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute 225 South Street is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Admission is $20 and is free for members, children under age 18 and students with a valid student identification card. Additional information is available at a www.clarkart.edu website.