Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 13, 2017

The First Annual Berkshires Art & Culture Festival (in Lenox)

Happy walls make happy people
By Shera Cohen

This successful Festival has taken place for many years in the Berkshires at the July 4th weekend, which is why it should sound familiar. However, this year marks the launch of BAF in Lenox, offering residents and tourist more opportunities to experience fine art on August 17-20, 2017, Eastover Retreat, Lenox, MA.

Why add a festival? According to Richard Rothbard, Executive Director of BAF, who paraphrases the well-known saying about success, responds, “Success breeds more of the same.”

ITS:   How did the Festival begin?

BAF: I was age 5 when I went to summer camp in Becket and then for many years. It was a special place. Years later, it hit me that the Berkshires is the right place for an arts festival. We opened at Ski Butternut. Almost 5,000 visitors attended. It was a monumental success. The artists did very well. It has pretty much gone that way ever since.

ITS:  What was the impetus for expansion to other locations, dates, and to Lenox? 

BAF: I have opened many art events. It’s a challenge that I love, and it’s my career. Creating opportunities for artists to sell their work is a remarkable and complex process. You become a go-to person for the wants and needs of a lot of strangers who are counting on you to bring them crowds of shoppers and hopefully buyers. Lenox is the cultural anchor of the Berkshires. When I discovered the Eastover Resort & Retreat it became clear that I needed to launch another show in Lenox. All the elements were in full boom in mid-August.

ITS:  Was it your goal to expand or did this happen because of the success of your prior festivals.

BAF: It takes a lot of advertising and marketing to get the attention of your customer. You need thousands of people to attend if your artists are going to be happy. If people don’t buy, then the show won’t have a future. I think the Lenox show has a lot of potential.

ITS: Who runs the show? Is it judged? What is the criteria?

BAF: We are the owners of An American Craftsman Galleries in NYC and Stockbridge. We curate or jury our shows to create an experience that has a broad appeal. Visitors will meet artists who exhibit in the Philadelphia and Smithsonian Craft Shows as well as artists who design and make work that is affordable and more utilitarian. Quality of workmanship and original design are primary when selecting artists.

ITS: What is your background? Are you an artist? 

BAF: I have always had a passion for theater. But, I did get my degree in finance and then spent 7 years in NYC pursuing an acting career. Played the Boy in“The Fantastiks” off-Broadway, had a lot of summer stock, and some TV commercials. I discovered the wood working of George Nakashima, and followed a path from furniture making to developing my version of the puzzled box and miniature boxes that tell stories. I have had a 40 -year career exhibiting at fairs throughout the country, opening galleries, and producing art events.
ITS: Why would you say it is important to purchase original art?

BAF: Both fine art and fine craft are part of the mixed work you will find in our shows. Purchasing a handmade object directly from the artist will bring tons of pleasure year after year because you know the actual maker. Buying directly from the makers has become a way of life for many people. Here is some food for thought.

Owning original artwork has a positive effect on the environments of people who own it, which inevitably makes life more enriching. Art is more than just decoration; it inspires us to look at the world in a different way. Buying art supports artists directly, allowing them to continue with their creative process, which in turn continues to improve the quality of life for all of us. Handmade anything beats mass-produced any day.

Owning something that's all yours is an exciting thing. Explore the world of art if you haven't started already. Don't worry about the d├ęcor. Just buy what you like. Happy walls make happy people.

For information on the Berkshire Arts Festival in Lenox, check the following websites: or

Photos: from Berkshires Art & Culture Festival