To the editor:
When our family moved to Pittsfield in the summer of 2002, the Berkshire Museum was first on our list of places to visit with our then 3 and 4-year-old sons. The museum did not disappoint. Our memories of time in the aquarium, viewing the objects, exposing our children to important regional, national and global artists and movements, enjoying the dioramas, and taking advantage of special programs (meeting Speedy Delivery Mr. McFeely from "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" remains my favorite moment at the museum) are locked into our heads and hearts for good.
More recently as a resident and educator in the community, I am regularly stunned at the openness and child-friendliness of the museum. Student art shows and performances. Pajama nights for storybook reading. The annual Pittsfield High School Science Fair. All of these events and more happen alongside works of art, some of which are centuries old. The fact that the museum's proportion of paid visitors is vastly outweighed by the visitors who are welcomed for free so that EVERY family can be a part of this community-gem serves as evidence of the vitality and bedrock structure in our arts and humanities community here in Pittsfield and the Berkshires.
Bedrock not only for those with means to take in the museum but for all families regardless of their means. The Berkshire Museum goes to tremendous lengths to let the community know that "community" means every single soul among us — even the little soul's with inquisitive hands, and whose family may be rich in many ways but cannot afford the entrance fee. They let the entire educational system in the Berkshires know that to them "community" means students--admitted at no charge, and always made to feel welcome at "their museum."
And now, the excellent and visionary leadership of the Museum and the equally talented and forward thinking board are being taken to task for the sale of art to provide for the institution's vitality, sustainability and to enact a vision that will make the museum a destination for the region.
How blessed are we in the Berkshires? We have the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Clark, the Frelinghuysen Morris House, the Williams College Museum of Art, Mass MoCA and other world-class museums for pure fine arts exposure within an easy day's drive. We have the Berkshire Museum that will continue to house a collection and be an arts destination.
But their collective vision — building on the powerful vision of Zenus Crane — requires more for their mission and for their sustainability than we as a community are able to support and sustain.
My hope for the pieces that museum hopes to sell is that they remain in public view somewhere, allowed to inspire and enthrall as they have for decades. It may not be in Pittsfield, or Berkshire County, but it will hopefully be somewhere, for someone. Hopes aside, as a resident of Pittsfield and the Berkshires, we must work to keep the Berkshire Museum vibrant and vivacious — even if that means the sale of pieces that we all, I am sure the museum leaders and staff included, know and love.
I am grateful to the museum for all it does, all it is, and all it aspires to be, and congratulate its leaders on their courageous move to keep the museum healthy for the enjoyment of all families for decades to come.
The writer is Pittsfield superintendent of schools.