To the editor:
When my family moved to the Berkshires, we immediately fell in love with the Berkshire Museum. Recently, I joined the protest of the sale of its art. Others who protested were new Berkshire residents; many others grew up in Pittsfield and other Berkshire communities. I met a painter who had his start taking art classes at the museum. I met a woman who had worked as a docent, teaching local students about art.
Perhaps its financial predicament demonstrates a failed strategy. The museum no longer hires docents or curators. Imagine if the museum still had art classes, what a wonderful resource it would be. Imagine if its art was properly displayed and curated, if we had the opportunity to see the art that now waits to be sold at Sotheby's.
Berkshire County is a destination for art lovers who travel here to enjoy Tanglewood, the Rockwell Museum, and numerous mansions displaying decorative and fine arts, all of which appear supported and well loved. Proponents of the redesign name these as competitors, but could perhaps view them as colleagues and partners. The new design seems ambitious and costly for a struggling museum, and involves abandoning resources it already has for a new, untested vision. Meanwhile, the museum is alienating art lovers and donors. How can it sustain a new vision and attract the public when the new vision is already so unpopular? How can it grow when it already risks pariah status in the art world?
The museum plans to sell paintings that can only grow in value, and will never be affordable for us again. A visit to the museum's website shows a vision in which art will be in boxes crowded together on the wall, treated like wallpaper. Alan Chartock, in a recent column, wrote that the museum is selling its children. For an art lover, this is an accurate statement. Art has the power to give us hope for the future, lift our spirits and heal our souls. If it is treated only as decoration or entertainment, we have much to lose.
I hope the museum leadership finds within itself the humility to pause and reconsider. With respect, I suggest that the museum seek mentoring from its peers. Preserving art preserves education and wonder for our children. The museum needs a truly new direction, one that celebrates the value of art.