Letter: Cassandra, we still have wax in our ears

Posted
To the editor:

There is a current bestseller called "Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes." Cassandra, as you may know, was blessed with an ability to accurately predict the future, but unfortunately cursed with the inability to get people to listen to her. It is a story of tragedy.

Pittsfield's Cassandras are now identified. They are called The Berkshire Eagle's investigative reporting, the Save the Arts grassroots organization and the voluminous columns and other expert recommendations calling basically for the Berkshire Museum to stop, look and listen — and pause this sale of 50 irreplaceable art treasures. Turning the museum leadership around on its runaway train to Sotheby's auction and "Van's Vision" is analogous to Cassandra's unheeded warnings of an impending calamity.

The Eagle lists 17 important dates between 1998 and 2015 that illustrate the inability of Van Shields to implement some other visions he had for the people of South Carolina ("Van W. Shields' South Carolina museum quest foundered," Sept. 10). They, too, bought into a promise about the most incredible museum the world has ever known, again to the tune of millions of donated dollars, and squandered money and land. Van undoubtedly has a salesmanship gift, a nose for old money, a bag of promises, a carrot and a stick. But what, I ask, has he done for these six years except hobnob with Sotheby's, grandstand his own plans, pick and choose compliant staff and leadership? This museum has been neglected for six years and it is in visible decline.

Pittsfield, be warned. You are about to sacrifice your priceless arts and your museum. Well-meaning people in Pittsfield will get gutted along with Zenas Crane's trashed vision and written wishes and his generosity to the people of Pittsfield, starting with the wanton sell-off by an ambitious director of its native son, Norman Rockwell. Ethics, heritage, transparency, honesty, deliberation — all be dammed.

Florence Mason

Stephentown, N.Y.

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