Letter: Museum plan fits city's cultural development
The Berkshire Museum, our community museum, is at the center of what has become a bitter controversy. After years of financial struggle, the museum's leadership has made a big decision, a difficult decision, but one that will guarantee the museum's sustainability long into the future.
During my years as mayor, I worked closely with the nonprofit cultural organizations in our city, and I understand all too well the challenges they face. Here in Pittsfield, the changing environment for business has meant a changing environment for philanthropy, with fewer corporations to support cultural partners. And we all know about the changes in state and federal support.
A critical part of the job was to set a vision for the community. At the Berkshire Museum, they have set a vision, that of a thriving museum that supports our students and teachers and offers exciting educational opportunities for everyone in the community. The museum has a proven track record of service to children and families over the years — in fact, demand for its educational programs increases all the time. The number of kids who experience the museum on field trips and in outreach programs just gets bigger.
What I see as most exciting is the possible economic impact that a financially healthy anchor institution in the heart of Pittsfield could have. Imagine the possibilities of year-round super-charged programs and activities, and the opportunities to collaborate with their cultural neighbors. And it is clear that the museum leadership listened to the community when it included an increased emphasis on science in its plans — a move that will differentiate our museum, making it an exciting destination we can all be proud of. And by staying true to its mission, the museum will integrate its increased science emphasis with history and art. Plans also include increased attention to artists living and working in the Berkshires today, with a gallery devoted to showing local artists and other people who make and create.
When my administration took the stand that cultural development would be a key to revitalize Pittsfield, we met with opposition from many quarters. The museum's plans are a perfect fit for what Pittsfield needs now, a truly "next big thing" in cultural development, while striving to transform lives.
I fully support the leadership of the museum's board of trustees and Van Shields, who faced the fundamental stewardship question: Given the Berkshire Museum's important role in our community, how do we ensure it will not only survive, but thrive?
James M. Ruberto,
The writer is the former mayor of Pittsfield.
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