Whenever there’s a place where the well-to-do have vacationed for years, you can bet there’s a vibrant cultural scene. In The Berkshires, it explodes.
Whether it be the visual or performing arts, there’s enough to keep you going here for weeks. And that’s not just the case in the summer, since many of the arts centers remain open year-round.
The Norman Rockwell Museum is one such example. It’s a good thing because it’s a must. Be sure to leave time for their museum gift store, too. Other top museums in the area include The Clark Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art, both in Williamstown and Mass MOCA, or the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, in North Adams. The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield showcases a variety of works and exhibitions in art, history and science, many of which are of interest to children and adults.
On a smaller scale, you have the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams and The Mount, Edith’s Wharton’s home and gardens, in Lenox as well as the Bidwell House Museum south of there in Monterey. The latter offers a wonderful look at colonial life in America. Fast forward a couple of centuries and plunge yourself into American Abstract Art at the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio. (Did you pronounce that name right?) Kids of all ages also love the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum in Lenox, which is open during the summer season only. And if you’ve ever gazed upon the Lincoln Memorial–drop-jawed–you must pay a visit to Chesterwood in Stockbridge, the country home, studio and gardens of America’s foremost sculptor, Daniel Chester French, the genius behind the sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
Ever hear of the Massachusetts Whale Trail? It’s a new state tourist attraction and can you believe there’s a stop in the Berkshires? In Pittsfield to be exact. Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick, his classic American novel published in 1851, from his home, known as Arrowhead, while gazing out upon Mount Greylock from his window. The Berkshire Historical Society is also housed here, so there’s lots of history to be had.
The Shakers made many important cultural contributions to American life through their art, crafts, architecture, food, beliefs and way of living. Immerse yourself in this more simplified approach to life, utility and design at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield. Best to plan at least a half day here and keep in mind that their openings are seasonal.
Summer Stock Theater has always played a big part in this region, so don’t tire yourself out too much during the day. Williamstown Theatre Festival has been going strong for well over six decades. The Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge, the oldest performing arts venue in The Berkshires, is ninety-years young. They offer all kinds of performances in theater, music, dance and other forms of entertainment. Opera aficionados delight in the eclectic programming at the Berkshire Opera Festival. And movement enthusiasts can find all kinds of inspiring dance performances at Jacob’s Pillow (despite its sleepy name). The granddaddy of them all, however, is Tanglewood in Lenox where the Boston Symphony Orchestra has summered since 1937. “The course of true love never did run smooth.” You might hear this or some other wise and prophetic words at a performance by Shakespeare & Company, also based in Lenox. For more regional theatre, check out the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield and the Mahaiwe Theatre in Great Barrington.
Try to spend a night out on the town at The Colonial Theatre, a National Historic Treasure circa 1903, that’s the pride and joy of Pittsfield. It almost doesn’t matter what you see there, since this little gem of a theater dazzles regardless of the event. Plus, it hosts performances year-round.
Art Galleries and studios abound throughout Berkshire County and some of the most notable include Greylock Gallery in Williamstown, Cheshire Glass Works in Cheshire, Sohn Fine Art Gallery and Scott Barrow Photo Gallery in Lenox and in Stockbridge, Schantz Galleries and Ozzie's Glass Gallery where glass blowing can often be seen at the latter.
Cover photo courtesy of Jeff Goldberg/Esto, Article photos courtesy of Jacob Pillows and Maribeth Clemente.