To the editor:
To say that I am upset about the Berkshire Museum board's decision to sell the best art in the museum's collection is an understatement. I grew up in Pittsfield and my path through the museum's collection led me to the life in art which I have lived for over 30 years as a gallery owner. These great artworks gave me a deep respect and appreciation for the world in which we live.
The art that will be sold is by the giants of American art history, and can never be replaced. This uninspired move by the museum board is a shame, and snubs its nose at Zenas Crane's wishes for the museum to inspire future generations of Berkshire County citizens. Zenas Crane never intended that art be viewed as less important than science.
The Berkshire Museum board does not own this art. The public owns it. Despite what Van Shields says, we were not informed before this decision was made, and we were not included in the decision-making process. This touches a community nerve. If the board of the museum continues to ignore the public outcry this decision has caused, they will prove what poor stewards they are, and we the community will remember the board members who sold our history.
The move will rank as the worst decisions ever taken in our local history, and compares negatively to the destruction of the train station in the 1960s. It puts into question the future of gift-giving to the museum. No one wishes to leave their legacy to an institution that sees the value of its material collections in terms of dollars.
So far, Van Shields, Elizabeth McGraw and the board seem to display tunnel vision with their public refusal to reconsider their decision. This borders on arrogance. I implore the board not to take this tack in view of the community discourse which is only now taking place. At least look at which art works you should sell, and realize that the great American art by Peale, Bierstadt, Church, Moran, Inness, Calder, and Rockwell should stay here for the enjoyment and education of future generations in the Berkshires.