Our Opinion: Naumkeag not only venue to face dilemma

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The dispute between Stockbridge's Naumkeag and neighbors is sure to be repeated elsewhere in the Berkshires. The solution is give-and-take by all parties.

Neighbors of the house museum operated by the Trustees of Reservations have complained about the noise from a Thursday evening music series held there (Eagle, July 14). Trustees told The Eagle the complaints are taken seriously and a solution will be pursued.

Naumkeag's intent with the music series is to bring a younger audience to the Gilded Age cottage noted for its gardens and spectacular views. Naumkeag is one of many Berkshire cultural institutions, and businesses as well, trying to attract younger audiences to assure long-term survival, and ideally growth.

An example is in North Adams, where the alt-rock band Wilco ventured after a successful appearance at Tanglewood. There were legitimate concerns about noise and traffic but accommodations were made and the Solid Sound Festival has drawn people to Mass MoCA and has benefited restaurants and lodging establishments in and around North Adams. Other acts have followed Wilco's lead and performed on the grounds of the art museum, which has surely won new fans in the process.

Through its Thursday evening series, Naumkeag is enjoying similar success, according to Brian Cruey, the general manager for the Trustees' South Berkshire properties. The goal is to find ways for Naumkeag to extend its reach without unnecessarily disturbing residents.

The Thursday music series goes from 5 to 8 p.m. so it is ending at the same time Tanglewood is beginning. Acoustic options are ideal, with amplification, if needed, used as early as possible. Berkshire theaters and concert venues serve alcohol, largely without incident, and Naumkeag should be able to do so as well on Thursday evenings as long as it does so responsibly.

As Mr. Cruey observed, Naumkeag operates at a loss every year. Naumkeag is one of the many cultural institutions that define the Berkshires, and if they are lost, they will take a piece of the Berkshires with them.

Their survival and growth requires experimenting with new approaches, and there will be a trial-and-error process when it comes to addressing the real concerns of neighbors. There is room for accommodation at Naumkeag, and ideally other Berkshire venues and their neighbors will reach similar compromises in the years and decades ahead.


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