To the editor:
Imagine a thriving, unique Berkshire Museum among the area's outstanding local offerings, a museum filled with curious children and families learning about the interdependence of our world. These patrons stay in Pittsfield longer and might enjoy a meal, shop and explore our revived downtown. The progressive path the museum's board and leadership have embarked upon points to this future and deserves our support.
Plans like this come with a cost and we acknowledge the sincere concern many have in using proceeds from the sale of important pieces from the museum's collection as a prime funding source.
A similar situation concerning the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo could be relevant. The gallery has one of the most prominent modern and contemporary art collections in the U.S. In 2007, the board of directors decided to auction more than 200 pieces from its collection. Its endowment was limited, operating expenses high, and the museum no longer had the bankroll of its last major donor. All this in a major city with a declining economy.
The auction, conducted by Sotheby's, was very successful and followed the guidelines of the American Alliance of Museums. The influx of money went to reestablishing a significant endowment, making new acquisitions, renovation of the facility and providing extensive educational programs that transformed the museum and restored pride to the Buffalo community. The board in 2012 commissioned a master plan for expansion of the Albright-Knox. A local businessman has since pledged more than $40 million to the project and there have been matching funds from businesses, individuals and government.
We are fortunate to have the services of the Pittsfield architectural team of Tessa Kelly and Chris Parkinson in the redesign of the Berkshire Museum. It is instructive to visit the reception area at the museum to see the striking plan.
As in Buffalo, the planned rebirth of the Berkshire Museum is much more likely to attract donors. At present, if the museum wants to endure and thrive it doesn't have any other credible option to the art sale. A redesign of the museum structure and function will have a significant impact on the museum and the Pittsfield and Berkshire County economy as did the development of The Colonial, Beacon Cinema and Barrington Stage.