A summer of galleries filled with vibrant art is once again on the horizon.
And this year, museum officials are confident the upcoming exhibitions — several of which were postponed during 2020 — will happen.
“We are looking to a brighter and uplifting 2021 and are excited by our eagerly-awaited new feature exhibition, ‘Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration,’” said Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell Museum Director and CEO, in a recent email. “Several years in the making, and postponed from last summer, this exhibition gathers hundreds of works of fantastical art and outlines the history of Fantasy art from its roots in ancient mythological stories to the contemporary illustration of today: think ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Dungeons & Dragons.’”
“Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration,” opens June 12 and will remain on view through Oct. 31, 2021.
Additionally, the Rockwell’s grounds will transform into the “Land of Enchantment,” with outdoor sculpture installations in a juried exhibition to accompany the fantasy art inside the galleries.
“As the world reopens, the museum will offer much-needed magic, delight and escapism to transcend the trials of the pandemic to our daily lives. We invite all to dream of better days ahead,” Norton Moffatt said.
In early 2020, cultural institutions across the Berkshires were anticipating a summer season filled to the brim with art and music. Then, midway through March 2020, everything came to a screeching halt.
But museum officials remained optimistic, as the state-mandated shutdown was supposed to end at the beginning of May — concert dates were moved, openings pushed back and newborn farm animals were welcomed into the world via Zoom and Facebook Live broadcasts.
Hancock Shaker Village, in Pittsfield, was the first to welcome visitors in early May. Patrons of the living history museum were the first allowed to return; following social distancing guidelines in masks as they walked along painted arrows on one-way paths to visit the baby animals in outdoor pens. The Village would celebrate its 60th anniversary as a museum in a similar fashion a few months later.
“Time doesn’t feel very linear these days. The end of 2020 is in sight, and we hope for many things in 2021 — starting with the return of comfort and joy,” said Jennifer Trainer Thompson, director of Hancock Shaker Village, in an email. “We are grateful to all who have supported us, and for the fact that this Village has endured for over 200 years, and will continue not only to endure, but to inspire. Onward to 2021!”
But it would be two additional months before the Rockwell, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art would be allowed to open to the public again.
Despite having to cancel the annual Fresh Grass Festival and High Mud Comedy Fest, along with concerts by Liz Phair and the Violent Femmes, Mass MoCA officials remained optimistic, as advanced timed-tickets didn’t discourage patrons from returning to the museum’s vast galleries.
“2020 forced us to take a hard look at our mission and reimagine how we could support artists, art-making, and the community and continue to bring bold new work to our visitors during a global pandemic,” said Tracy Moore, interim director and CEO via email. “And we did it — three new exhibitions, performing artists-in-residence, and virtual programs for thousands of students and visitors, masked and socially distanced, kept Mass MoCA buzzing with creativity and wonder.”
Mass MoCA opened Blane De St. Croix’s “How to Move a Landscape,” “Kissing Through A Curtain” and “Wendy Red Star: Apsàalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird” following the museum’s July reopening, as well as several smaller exhibitions, including Richard Nielsen’s “This is Not a Gag.”
“In spite of the extraordinary challenges of the past year, we learned that Mass MoCA is more resilient than we ever thought it would need to be … While the future is full of continued uncertainty, we’re ready to face it with a renewed commitment to listening and learning, dismantling systems of bias, and creating equitable conditions for people of all backgrounds to make and experience art,” Moore said.
She added, “In the year ahead, we’ll say a fond farewell to our founding director [Joseph Thompson, who retired in late 2020] as we embark on a search for new leadership and plan for the future. We’ll welcome music and performances back to our stages and courtyards; we’ll fill our galleries with new art; we’ll deepen our commitment to the city and region we share; we’ll all celebrate together again.”
Car Seat Headrest and They Might Be Giants, which postponed concerts in 2020, are slated to perform this year. And, the museum is poised to open several new exhibitions, including Glenn Kaino’s “In the Light of a Shadow,” in March, which “allows us to look at the intersectionality between the history of civil rights and the racial and ecological implications of the global pandemic.”
In April, the museum will open the group show, “Close to You,” which centers around “the voices of BIPOC and queer artists, who — in spite of marginalization and disenfranchisement — have imagined divergent modes of kinship in the form of chosen families, safe havens and shared languages.”
And in Williamstown, The Clark will begin the year with several smaller shows — “Erin Shirreff: Remainders,” on Jan. 16 and “A Change in the Light: The Cliché-verre in 19th-Century France” on Feb. 13 — before kicking off the summer season a month early.
“Like everyone else, we are looking forward to a better year ahead in 2021. Our first priority, of course, remains the health and safety of our visitors and our staff,” said Olivier Meslay, Hardymon Director of The Clark, in an email. “But we have been working hard in hopes that we will be able to share an exciting year of exhibitions. There’s an energy and a sense of discovery in these upcoming shows that we think our visitors will truly enjoy.”
On May 8, the museum will celebrate the opening of “Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne: Nature Transformed,” one of the two shows that had to be rescheduled from 2020 due to the challenges created by the pandemic.
“Nikolai Astrup: Visions of Norway,” the first major exhibition of the artist’s works ever to be presented in North America, will open June 19 and run through Sept. 19. Postponed from 2020, the show is expected to create many new fans of his work as visitors discover his unique paintings that are so interconnected with Norwegian history, traditions and myths.
In July, The Clark will open “Dürer and After,” the museum’s first exhibition of Albrecht Dürer’s works from its permanent collection in more than a decade.
Despite having to close for several months, The Clark also opened several shows, including its first outdoor exhibition of site-specific sculptures.
“While 2020 was a year none of us would ever have imagined or want to repeat, we end the year grateful for our community and the support and enthusiasm they showed as we carefully reopened,“ Meslay said. “We were so happy that our grounds became a real resource for our community as people took advantage of our walking trails to get outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds us.
“And as our ‘Ground/work’ exhibition was installed throughout the summer, people took a real delight in discovering art all across our campus — indoors and out. Art and nature can provide restorative moments of respite and inspiration — precisely what we all needed over these last many months.”