Northern Berkshire cultural institutions show summer unity


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Looking ahead to a potentially landmark summer arts season, the directors of four major North County cultural attractions came together on Wednesday in an unprecedented show of unity.

And although their institutions differ vastly in the range of art, music and theater they offer, they got along as if they worked together in the same office every day.

There was Joe Thompson, director of Mass MoCA, pointing out the highlights of the upcoming season, all the while poking fun with Michael Conforti, director of the Clark Art Institute. Christina Olsen, director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), and Stephen Kaus, producer for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, could be heard joining in on occasion.

"In this area, you can have a remarkable meal of culture that cannot be matched almost anywhere," Olsen said. Compared to the large presence of Mass MoCA and the Clark, she added, "We are small, and we are personal. We can offer unexpected tastes, if you will."

The arts world this summer is looking forward to the opening of the expanded Clark Art Institute, with new gallery spaces and redesigned research space.

Architecturally significant and historically impactful on the region both commercially and culturally, the July 4th opening has been rolled into the town's Independence Day celebrations, and the first shows at the newly reopened galleries have been planned accordingly.

"We're using this summer to embrace the 20th century like we never have before," Conforti said.

The expanded Clark, he added, "is one of the most important additions to the cultural fabric because it will allow us to do large scale shows we have never been able to do before. You will be surprised, as I have been surprised, by the quality of the changes."

Stephen Kaus, producer for the Williamstown Theatre Festival, noted that performers are not only attracted to working in the theater festival, but to the cultural mecca the Berkshires has become.

"I think one of the things that we all experience in the Berkshires as arts institutions, when artists come up (to perform in the theater festival) they don't say they're coming to the Williamstown Theatre Festival, they say they're coming to Williamstown. That's not a mistake. They're coming up to work, live in and experience the Berkshires. I think that's important to say out loud. They really do use their time to take advantage of what we all have to offer."

Thompson pointed out that Mass MoCA's 15th anniversary party is coming up on Memorial Day weekend, and it is just a prelude to a divergent and widely anticipated season of art, both performance and otherwise.

"We're beginning to get (the number of visitors) in one week that we used to get in an entire season when we first opened," he said. "We're showing that it is going to be a great season."

To reach Scott Stafford:
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford

Coming Soon in Northern Berkshire

Mass MoCA

Beck in Concert, June 24; Uncertain Beauty by Darren Waterston, opened March 8; Artist Anselm Kiefer's installation of sculpture and paintings in a 10,000-square-foot, million-gallon water tank, opens in the spring; Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival, July 26-Aug. 2; FreshGrass Festival of Bluegrass and Roots Music, Sept. 19-21. On the Web:

The Clark Art Institute

Make It New: Abstract Painting from the National Gallery of Art, July 4 - Oct. 13; Cast for Eternity: Ancient Ritual Bronzes from the Shanghai Museum, July 4 - Sept. 21; Raw Color: The Circles of David Smith, July 4 - Oct. 19. On the Web:

Williams College Museum of Art

Material Friction: Americana and American Art, June 12 - Dec. 23; And Gladly Teach Redux, June 28 - Jan. 11, 2015; Mitchell, Benglis, Wilke, through Jan. 4, 2015. On the Web:

Williamstown Theatre Festival

June Moon, July 2 - 13; Living On Love, July 16 - 26; The Visit, July 31 - Aug. 17; A Great Wilderness, July 9 - 20; The Old Man and the Old Moon, Aug. 6-17. On the Web:


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