To the editor:

The hammer is poised to crash down as the "first 16" works of art belonging to the people of the Berkshires cross the block at Sotheby's American Art Auction on Nov. 13. The sell-off of this art is the tragic tale of the plundering of a world-class art collection.

The Berkshire Museum's scheme is to de-access and monetize its collection by selling off 40 of its most important works in order to fund a hollow vision with no known content. It will neither solve Pittsfield's woes nor return industry to the area. There will be no quick economic fixes for Pittsfield, certainly not at the expense of destroying the architectural integrity of a fine Belle poque building.

Wake up fellow citizens! Tourism is the engine that now drives our economy. Our thriving cultural community of music, theater, dance and art pulses with excitement and energy. Preservation is not regression. The Colonial Theatre saved itself from the wrecking ball. Instead of demolishing the building, funds were raised the old-fashioned way and it was restored to its former splendor. The Berkshire Museum trustees have an obligation to do the same.

A gift is a gift is a gift. Don't sidestep this basic fact with a legal do-si-do. These gifts of art were given to the people in trust, not to the museum "trustees" and not to the few politicians who, sadly, have aligned themselves with the pro-sale agenda.

Have we not learned through the appreciation of art? What if we hadn't preserved and studied Da Vinci's drawings of inventions and flying machines? What would we not have learned about physical beauty and human form without the sculptures of Michelangelo and Bernini, and what would we not have felt and understood about the horrors of war without Picasso's Guernica?

Boston, are you listening? Attorney General Healey, are you listening? Western Massachusetts needs your help. Spare the hammer! Stop the wrecking ball! What we need is not a new vision, but a new board of trustees, one dedicated to doing the hard work of preserving our artistic heritage.

Give our art collection a chance to be seen in a preserved and renewed Berkshire Museum, front and center as the crown jewels of the Berkshires. Keep our treasures here in Massachusetts for future generations to enjoy long after the interactive displays and games have faded into inevitable obsolescence.

Rebekah Wise,