Phyllis McGuire | Spring Street is the canvas for Williams College Museum of Art exhibit

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WILLIAMSTOWN — This summer, for the first time, the Williams College Museum of Art will exhibit works of art on Spring Street.

Starting Monday, Summer Space, WCMA's pop-up shop at 76 Spring St., will feature the Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces collection until Sept. 2.

The Williams College Museum of Art will be closed for the summer as it undergoes renovations. Apparently, that became a catalyst for WCMA transferring artwork to Spring Street.

"We wanted visibility, and everyone walking through Spring Street will have a chance to see the exhibit," said Pamela Franks, director of WCMA. Franks has been director of the museum since 2018, after 14 years at the Yale University Art Gallery, where she served as senior deputy director.

"I love the museum, and working with the students and the faculty," Franks said. "There's more potential here in such a great liberal arts college environment for making connections to art."

Under the Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces program, or WALLS, students may borrow a piece of art from the collection to have in their college living space for a semester. Each borrower is given a notebook and encouraged to write about his or her experience living with the artwork.

Since the WALLS program was launched in 2014, the collection has been expanded from 90 works of art to 127. The collection includes work from artists such as Albrecht Durer, Paul Cezanne and Tiitus Kaphar.

The day Franks and I spoke by phone, work had just begun on renovations to Lawrence Hall, the building that houses WCMA.

"It was very important that we address some concerns," Franks said. "We knew what needed to be done to keep with professional museum standards, and we decided it would better to close for the summer rather than prolong the process."

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Renovations will include adding a space where visitors can gather to wait for other members of their group to arrive, a carpentry shop for developing exhibitions and a ramp to the Object Lab.

The Object Lab contains items that have something to do with what is being taught at the college, such as a chemistry, religion or art history course, Franks explained. Faculty and museum staff collaborate in selecting the appropriate works of art.

Middle school students from the area come to the museum as participants in a program called Creating a Culture of Respect, a collaboration between the Williams College Museum of Art, the Clark Art Institute and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The program uses art to raise awareness of human relationships, in particular, our capacity for acting with cruelty and compassion.

People who visit museums for the sheer pleasure of gazing at paintings or other works of art will not be disappointed at WCMA. There are 1,500 works of art in the museum, including the largest collection in the world of the work of artist brothers Maurice and Charles Pendergast.

"We rotate the art a lot," said Franks.

Recently, an exhibit was devoted to the work of James Van Der Zee (1886-1983).

Van Der Zee, a native of Lenox, is best known for his imagery chronicling African American life.

WCMA is free and open to the public, as is WCMA's Summer Space. Summer Space will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and an associate will be able to answer visitor questions.

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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