Our Opinion: Expanded culture scene is for all comers

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Berkshire County's cultural attractions, now in full summer roar, have had great appeal to visitors since the Gilded Age. But the locals are welcome, too — and increasingly so . The institutions have been amping up their outreach to local residents in recent years, in increasingly imaginative ways, building their audiences in the process.

One of the earliest examples is the Clark Art Institute's Sensational Summer Family Day, which had its 20th anniversary on Sunday (Eagle, July 8). An estimated 2,000 people attended the five-hour event, which takes full advantage of the museum's gorgeous 140-acre campus in Williamstown.

If some of the children enjoying the great outdoors on a beautiful Berkshire Sunday are brought indoors for a look at the renowned art work on display, all the better. It's never too early to begin appreciating art, and with its family day, the Clark begins the process of winning patrons from a new generation.

On July 19, a week from Friday, the Boston Symphony Orchestra will join the city of Pittsfield for its first ever live video concert in the Berkshires' central city. "Tanglewood in the City — Pittsfield edition — is modeled on the video concerts staged in Boston Common. That evening's Tanglewood concert featuring the works of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel will be shown on a 15-by-27-foot screen in Pittsfield Common. The BSO has been stepping up its outreach to Pittsfield and Berkshire, a prime example of which is last month's opening of the Linde Center for Music and Learning. While the center will expand Tanglewood's traditional focus on music education, it will also be a year-round presence in the Berkshires — the first ever for the BSO and Tanglewood — and will be open for community events and programs much of the year.

The Berkshires' theaters, museums, historic homes and music venues as a rule provide either discounts for Berkshire residents or designed days in which discounts are available for locals. Some, like Jacob's Pillow, which provides free round-trip bus service from Pittsfield every Saturday through August 24, have explored ways to make it easier for residents without cars to enjoy their offerings.

While the Gilded Age still resonates strongly in the Berkshires through its historic venues, we are now in an egalitarian age in which everyone can and should take advantage of what the Berkshires have to offer. And not just in summer. Shoulder seasons have been expanded, with Barrington Stage, the Berkshire Theatre Group and Shakespeare & Company expanding their seasons to close to year-round. The expanded shoulder seasons and off-seasons mean that the venues are not only open to everyone but they are open past the summer season that has traditionally defined the growing Berkshire cultural scene.



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