Welcome to Art Country: Five institutions team up for cultural explosion this summer

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NORTH ADAMS — What do Wilco and Grandma Moses have in common?

You can see both in Art Country this summer.

Composed of the four museums and one theater in the Northern Berkshires and Southern Vermont, Art Country will be exploding with art and performances in the coming months.

"We've just noticed something here over the last three or four or five years ... which is the increasing depth of really wonderful cultural programming that is beginning to feel like its own place in some ways," said Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson.

Always a busy season, this summer's cultural attractions will be spearheaded by the completion of Phase 3 of renovations at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Memorial Day Weekend, doubling the already-massive museum's gallery space.

Leaders from cultural counterparts, together self-branded as Art Country — the Clark Art Institute, Williams College Museum of Art, Bennington Art Museum and Williamstown Theatre Festival — gathered in Mass MoCA's newly renovated Building Six on Wednesday to celebrate what's to come.

"It is the perfect summer to launch this idea of Art Country," said Olivier Meslay, the director of the Clark Art Institute. "We will have so many things coming, we will attract a lot of people."

In addition to providing a full slate of art and events, the museums are combining their resources to push for out-of-area visitors, including by taking out a full page advertisement in a recent edition of the New York Times.

"This region is becoming more than a single-day destination," Thompson said, noting the economic impact of such a shift. "It's becoming a multi-day, stay-over attraction."

Mass MoCA

Although the gallery space is only doubling, Phase 3 renovations will make the museum feel five or more times larger by opening up and creating more of a natural flow between its gallery and outside corridors, Thompson said.

And the museum has a whole series of plans for that extra space.

Artist James Turrell, who creates immersive lightscapes, will use the space for a career retrospective.

On the other end of the spectrum, summer highlights will include the statues of the late Louise Bourgeois.

And the museum will host a wide array of events this summer, including a musical performance by Cake on Memorial Day weekend and another iteration of Wilco's Solid Sound Festival.

The Clark Art Institute

Pablo Picasso will take center stage at The Clark beginning June 4, with an exhibition featuring his experimentation with large-scale printmaking, according to the museum.

That same day, an exhibition will open that recreates the music room inside Henry Gurdon Marquand's 19th century New York City mansion. The room features one of the most expensive pianos ever sold at auction, designed by artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Beginning July 1, the Clark will feature two separate exhibitions in a single artist: Helen Frankenthaler. The first focuses on the paintings, mostly abstract, that she created over five decades of work. The second exhibition will demonstrate her work with woodcuts.

Williamstown Theatre Festival

Launching on June 27, the Williamstown Theatre Festival's summer season is its 63rd, and features an array of award winning writers and actors performing plays both new and old.

The Main Stage will feature "The Roommate," a new production written by Jen Silverman and directed by Mike Donahue. Actors include the Emmy Award-winning actress S. Epatha Merkerson, commonly known for her role on Law and Order, and Jane Kaczmarek, who many know as the mom on "Malcolm in the Middle" but is returning for her fourth season at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Bennington Museum

The Bennington Museum may be in a different state than these other four cultural institutions, but it's less than 30 minutes from entrance to Mass MoCA's — Executive Director Robert Wolterstorff has timed it.

On July 1, the museum — the oldest of any of the institutions in Art Country — will be home to a new exhibition featuring Grandma Moses, one of the most popular American artists of the mid-20th century.

The Grandma Moses exhibition is a combination of her work already owned by the Bennington Museum and several on loan, totaling more than 60 works altogether.

Williams College Museum of Art

The busy summer season at the Williams College Museum of Art includes and exhibitions featuring the work of artist Robert Rauschenberg that catalogues his life and career, on view through Aug. 20. A second exhibition, titled "Lex and Love," displays the work of Meleko Mokgosi, whose work illustrates tensions in South Africa.

In "Accession Number," a name that references the number a piece of art is given when it enters a museum, the museum will highlight what's left of the 396 works of art the museum acquired between 1960 and 1962.


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