Letter: Solutions can be found without selling off art
The art collection is at the heart of the Berkshire Museum. It is Pittsfield's history, a legacy to take pride in and celebrate. Let's spotlight it and put it at the core of a revitalized institution — not monetize it! This will dismiss its founders' intentions, rob the community of its heritage and hurt its reputation. Most important, it is unlikely to save the museum for the long term.
I say this as a 20-year trustee at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, N.Y., an interdisciplinary, regional museum similar to the Berkshire Museum. We, too, have had our fair share of operational struggles over the years — budget cutbacks, fundraising fatigue, issues of relevancy, etc. I understand shoring up finances to assure a museum's viability in difficult times is challenging. At HRM we always found solutions, sometimes painful — fewer, longer exhibitions, shortened hours, staff cutbacks, and more creative fundraising, to name a few. And I dare say, our resources do not include a bounty of major Hudson River School landscapes. The energy and hard work of the director and board pushed us forward.
Selling the institution's art, its lifeblood, has never entered the dialogue. It would immediately send shivers up the curatorial and education staff's spines. This is the culture required for a small museum to succeed. The Berkshire Museum, with the support of its stakeholders, can do this, too. With hard work and creativity, the overstated financial deficit can be remedied, and a modified, sensible vision can be built around the art, the museum's heart.
Passion for these 40 works of art and what they represent has grown over these last few months, and many of us believe the visibility of the museum can now be leveraged to greater advantage. A "new vision" does not require raising $60 million at Sotheby's and losing our stature as a regional destination, along with the respect of the arts communities we rely upon. Let's pause the sale and find a solution that makes sense.
New York, N.Y.
The writer is a part-time resident of Great Barrington.
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