Letter: Shields' replacement is here in Berkshires
The Berkshire Museum should not waste money on a national search for a new director to replace Van Shields. There is one person right here who can both reverse the damage already done, steer the museum correctly and regain community support. That person is the current director of Hancock Shaker Village, Jennifer Trainer Thompson. A higher salary for the combined directorship to lead both institutions with a closer partnership than already exists would be less than paying two individuals and would free up money to hire a proper curator of the museum. While I know that a merger has been explored in the past, the synergy of combining both venues might prove beneficial in many ways.
As chief development person at Mass MoCA for two decades, Jennifer has the credibility and art background to win back the many residents who loudly and correctly objected to the selling of the Berkshire Museum's "crown jewels." However, this proposal must be contingent on halting any further sales. After all, the man who spearheaded this insane policy is now gone and they already have sufficient funds from the recent sales; the difference between $44 million and the "allowed" $55 million is not going to make that much of a difference to the museum's future, but retaining the art will. By the way, just because the museum got legal permission to sell never made it right, logical or ethical. Furthermore, the museum has announced that it really doesn't know what its "new vision" will be — it is starting fresh. How on earth can one determine the amount of money needed?
Please, stop the craziness immediately, get Jennifer to lead the revival — and maybe, just maybe, the Berkshire Museum will survive.
The writer is an artist and founder of the Berkshire Art Museum in North Adams.
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