Letter: Museum devolving into a community center
Recently a lawyer for the Berkshire Museum claimed that the museum provides science programs for under-resourced schools that can't provide science programs anymore, and that selling art from its collection would help it continue to do so. However isn't it historically more accurate to say that art programming has been underfunded? This is why selling off the best from an art collection is so problematic. Reducing the quality of the collection lowers the standards of the museum and its ability to serve the public.
Of course the museum claims that art will remain important to its mission. Which brings us to "Art of the Hills: A Juried Exhibition of Berkshire-Based Artists" to be held at the Berkshire Museum.
This "juried art exhibition" is an "open call," asking artists "18 years and older" to submit art works to be considered for a summer exhibition. These artists will be required to "deliver and pick up their own work" and the juror is "to be determined." This sort of open call is typical of small local artist run non-profits, or community centers, not museums. It would be proper for the Berkshire Art Association or the Lichtenstein Center to produce such a call, not the Berkshire Museum. Like the undefined "new vision" this "exhibit" lacks clarity and is a clueless gathering of "Berkshire-based artists."
The Berkshire Museum does not have a curator. A real museum hires curators, professionals schooled in the scholarship of their field. They do studio visits and select works, which the museum then ships to and from exhibits. Of course the artists chosen would be professionals (being 18 years old or a recent graduate from high school would not be a qualification) they would be artists who have maintained a practice and displayed a level of accomplishment, not hobbyists.
I'm sure there are many artists who have submitted works to this exhibition, artists who have graduate and undergraduate degrees from art schools, even artists who have accomplished much in their careers. However by lowering standards to that of a community center, the Berkshire Museum is not treating these artists with the level of respect they deserve.
If a community center it is, then a community center it must be. I suggest a large, faux marble sticker be laminated to the front of the building. It will proudly proclaim: Welcome to the Berkshire Community Center. Formerly known as the Berkshire Museum of Natural History and Art.
The writer teaches sculpture at the School of Visual Arts and Hunter College in New York City.
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