Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 25, 2020

On the Road: Liza Donnelly Work Showcased at NRM

Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA
by Shera Cohen

Like the rest of the population on our planet, I had to figure out a reasonable and safe summer vacation for myself. Also, after 25 years of writing “What I Did on My Summer Vacation in the Berkshires,” maybe it was about time to take somewhat of a different journey as well as approach to my articles.

With no theatre, music, and/or dance to attend, I felt abandoned. I cannot imagine how the actors, musicians, dancers, and all of the many behind-the-scenes talent, now jobless and forlorn, felt. How could l help this urgent overwhelming experience besides echoing the words of others (“Things will be better next year.”), making small donations when I could, and using In the Spotlight as a forum that art is not dead, nor is the Berkshires?

Liza Donnelly, copyright 2002
However, as Covid-19 lessened to some degree and doors literally began to open, art and the Berkshires were not as dim as they had seemed. I looked around. Museums were still there, right where I left them. Historic homes, too. With agonizing planning and implementation of staff, and every minutia of preparation acceptable to government health standards, summer could survive. Please refer to to read about the many opportunities that our writers have.

Last weekend, I traveled to Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge. The property includes a large white museum filled with Rockwell originals, a pristine landscape, a workshop/cottage, and scattered whimsical sculptures disbursed. The latter are art pieces created by one of Norman’s sons.

Each summer, I try to focus on the touring exhibit by a guest artist. This year, the works of cartoonist Liza Donnelly’s were a delight. I hadn’t really thought of cartooning as an art form. However, seeing the prolific drawings that filled the large main gallery, taught me that Ms. Donnelly is not only one who can draw, yet at the same time write dialog; two talents that come together, seemingly with ease. Probably few Spotlight readers have heard of Liza Donnelly, but trust me, you have seen her cartoons, particularly in  The New York Times, probably at the dentist’s office.

I have a friend of many years who is a professional cartoonist. What a fun job that must be, I always think. Chris Allard, of Springfield, whose art has been seen on PBS and throughout the United States, told me “I see cartooning as an expression of humor.” Liza Donnelly, who I have never met, says, “Cartoons are a dialogue—a sharing of humor and a sharing of the human condition.”

Observing Chris’ skills over the course of several years gave me somewhat of a base to view Ms. Donnelly’s cartoons. By no means am I a critic of this genre; if the little story is whimsical and clear, I am a happy with what I see. One of Chris’ ersatz mentors was Charles Addams, creator of the New Yorker cartoons. Maybe a model of some of Chris’ style echoes Donnelly’s own New Yorker drawings?

Liza Donnelly, copyright 2004
Donnelly’s curated exhibit includes a handwritten letter by a young Liza to Charles Schultz, of “Peanuts” fame. Little Ms. Donnelly must have been thrilled to read Schultz’ own handwritten letter. Not quoting directly, the famous cartoonist praised Liza’s talent, encouraging her to keep up the good work. That she did. And, Norman Rockwell Museum gives visitors an opportunity to chuckle, laugh out loud, or smile.

This exhibit ends in mid-September. Reservations by phone or online must be made prior. Only 17 visitors are permitted in any one gallery at a time. Please adhere to the museum’s simple rules. Friendly staff are stationed throughout the museum to answer questions. By the way, NRM’s store is one of the biggest, most diverse in the Berkshires. Check the website at or call 413-298-4100.