To the editor:
My sister called me upset about the proposed sale of 40 works of art to fund the Berkshire Museum's strategic reinvention plan. I had been involved in the movement to save Pittsfield's Town Hall on Park Square in the 1960s. She thought I could halt the sale of the art with a letter to The Eagle (she loves me so and thinks I have super powers). I agreed to read up on the current situation, do some research and craft a letter.
In doing so I discovered that museums across the country are struggling financially and many are facing closure.
Museum funding is in peril abroad and in the U.S. President Trump would like to eliminate funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, and there are fewer financial benefactors and museum admission fees covering a very small amount of operating costs.
Based on my research the Berkshire Museum's reinvention plan is cutting edge, well thought out and a necessary response to evolving social and technological trends.
Many of us Pittsfield natives and long-term residents have a special relationship with our beloved museum. Understandably we all get emotional when we hear the trustees want to sell off works of art. But absent a miraculous donation from wealthy supporters, the sale seems prudent and necessary if we want the Berkshire Museum to survive and remain a compelling site for public education and tourism.
The most painful part of the proposed sale centers around the two Norman Rockwell paintings. These two paintings were given to the people of Berkshire County. They have a special place in all of our hearts. Including them in the sale is just plain wrong on many levels.
The reality of the museum's poor financial condition, the reinvention required for the museum to remain relevant and viable in the 21st century and the loyalty and emotional outcry of the community must be reconciled.
Here's one proposal for everyone to consider:Keep the two precious Rockwell paintings gifted to the people of Berkshire County. Use reinvention funds to create a special Rockwell alcove exhibit for these two paintings. Sell the remaining 38 works of art to finance the reinvention plan, as described in the museum's July 24 press release.
Place conditions on the sale that ensure the public will have virtual viewing access to the sold artwork, and in-person viewing access if possible.
The writer is a native of Pittsfield.