Letter: Loss of museum's art conflicts with cultural goals
On the front page of the April 15 edition of The Eagle was a marvelous story from the Sunday New York Times about people moving from New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area to the Berkshires for our unique mixture culture and the nature. No amount of money could buy that advertising. Turn to Page A2, however, and one found a full-page statement signed by more than a hundred Berkshire County residents decrying the sale of the major works of art in the collection of the Berkshire Museum. Young, vigorous, smart people are coming here for our culture, but that culture is fast leaving, at least from Pittsfield. What a sad contrast between forward and backward movement.
North Adams is about to get a new building by Frank Gehry, probably the most creative architect working in the world today. Pittsfield is about to spend a chunk of money from the sale of its paintings on a third-rate — at best — wrecking of its historical architecture. Many thousands will eagerly visit the future Extreme Railroad Museum in North Adams to see the Gehry building. No one will choose to visit the Berkshire Museum for its new "architecture." The new museums on the boards for North Adams will be the products of imagination, as well as skill and hard work at money raising. There is no evidence of any of those qualities from the management or trustees of the Berkshire Museum, whose only success at raising funds so far is the sale of a particularly fine work by Norman Rockwell who gave it to the museum for the people of Berkshire County to enjoy in perpetuity. One wants to weep.
How could those in charge of the Berkshire Museum be so totally out of touch with what is transforming our county into a more prosperous and lively setting for us all? This is not the time to rally around a truly bad plan. This is a time to stop and think hard about what the best, most timely course might be. The future of the Berkshire Museum belongs to all of us. It's not too late.
E. J. Johnson,
The writer is the Amos Lawrence Professor of Art, emeritus, at Williams College.
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