Berkshire Museum plans March gala for first-ever awards ceremony

Saturday February 23, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- It may not have the flowing gowns and Hollywood-types like Sunday’s Academy Awards will have in spades, but the Berkshire Museum is gearing up for a first-of-its-kind Berkshire Awards for some of the county’s very own A-list.

In conjunction with the Berkshire Museum’s 110th anniversary year, three honorees will be lauded for their significant contributions to creating, keeping and promoting artistic historical and natural heritage in the Berkshires at a gala awards ceremony on March 15 at the museum.

"The Berkshires enjoy a strong, authentic identity as a place where culture and nature meet," Berkshire Museum Executive Director Van Shields said in a news release. "That did not happen by accident and we believe the Berkshire Awards will help build understanding of how people have shaped the quality of life that we know today."

Two individuals and an entire family will be recognized. The envelopes, please Š

-- Sandra Newman, founder and executive director for Community Access to the Arts (CATA) in Great Barrington.

Sandra Newman made sure everyone in the Berkshires had access to the arts, even people with disabilities.

Newman created CATA in 1993. By 2006, there were 1,000 workshops every year. CATA currently provides services to 600 people with disabilities, employs eight staff members and almost 20 faculty artists, according to a news release.

Newman’s nomination is "very interesting," she said.

"It’s a lovely honor and I’m grateful for the recognition from the community," she said. "The awards build awareness of the whole community to understand all the wonderful work throughout the community."

Snippets of the day-to-day operations at CATA were filmed and will be shown at the gala, Newman said.

-- Thom Smith, naturalist, educator, curator, writer and photographer.

Thom Smith was nominated naturally, so to speak. In addition to his time as a weekly nature columnist for The Eagle, Smith has been involved with the Berkshire Museum in some fashion since being a student in the Children’s Department in the 1950s. Throughout his time, he created several exhibits featuring live animals.

Smith retired as the curator of natural science and aquarium director in 2007.

Smith questioned his worthiness for the Berkshire Award, because he didn’t consider his dedication to be a form of work, he said.

"I spent nearly 50 years there, so I couldn’t have too much wrong with the job," Smith said, "and most of the time, I didn’t think of it as a job."

-- The Crane family.

Since being founded in 1801, the Crane family has owned and managed Crane (until recently, the company was Crane and Co.), a fine-paper manufacturer in Dalton and maker of U.S. currency paper. Zenas Crane, who died in 1917, founded the Berkshire Museum in 1903, funded the building’s construction and purchased many of the objects still in the collection.

The family’s philanthropy in the Berkshires continued over the years, funding the Berkshire Music School and the Zenas Crane Fund for Student Aid. The Cranes continue to be consistent supporters of the Berkshire Museum.

The family could not be reached for comment.

Invitations have been mailed for the Berkshire Awards event and people interested in participating can purchase tickets or sponsorships by calling Bill Blaauw at (413) 443-7171, ext. 37, or by visiting the museum’s website at

To reach Adam Poulisse:,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse


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