Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 11, 2021

Collaborations in the Berkshires: There's More Art than What You See on the Surface

by Shera Cohen

This is the second part of a series on Summer in the Berkshires 2021. The first part can be read here: "Where Genres & Geography Mix"

Many of these venues double and triple as showcases for experiences historic, cultural, and artistic. This is all about collaboration. Examples are abundant; here are just some.

Arrowhead’s vista of mountain ranges is, not so coincidentally, the shape and likeness of a whale. In addition, Herman Melville’s home doubles as the site of Berkshire Historical Society.

Berkshire Museum is the site of underwater mysteries in the Berkshire Aquarium, in a room solely devoted to sea life. Adjacent to the aquarium, the Little Cinema’s summer-long series of current independent films provides movies and documentaries that are difficult to find elsewhere.

Chesterwood has been permanently designated as one of the well-respected sites in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and several years ago partnered with Sculpture Now. What better location for modern sculpture to stand side-by-side with the Lincoln Memorial. This year, the Art School of the Berkshires joined the party.

photo by Rebekah Vesey Studio

Personal kudos to Hancock Shaker Village and Chester Theatre. Out of the lonely Pandemic came a marriage of equals; each a different genre which, at first, seem atypical. The small, old town hall building converted into a theatre in Chester simply could not accommodate the important spacing restrictions required for this summer. I don’t know who proposed to whom but it was decided to erect a tent with staging and seating on the grounds of the Village for Chester’s unique, primarily new plays. Audiences can not only patronize the theatre, but the village as well. Don’t be surprised to see sheep and cows en route to the box office. A shout out to these unique partners in what will hopefully be a successful summer.

Jacob’s Pillow has faced the worst set-back of any venue in 2020. Its second theatre was ruined in a conflagration that seemed irreparable. Yet, bravo to the management, staff, dancers, and audience which worked to temporarily rebuild, literally from the ashes. At the same time, the Pillow collaborated with film makers, visual artists, and lecturers. Dance continues this summer!
Mass MoCa is not just your usual art museum. Its collaborations date back over a century, as this museum grew from the literal bricks and mortar of what had been factories in the northern Berkshires.

The Mount was the home of author Edith Wharton. I am guessing that she would be delighted and overwhelmed that her estate is now abundant with concerts, dance, gardens representing those of Europe, lectures by today’s famous authors, not to mention writing classes, and even yoga groups. She would take special pride in becoming the home of Sculpture Now. For several years (omitting last year’s Covid pandemic), world-renowned sculptors collaborated with the Mount to create an exhibit worthy of awe. The pieces are all for outdoor display. To me, Sculpture Now is a charming window-watching show of art on an enormous scale.
Shakespeare & Company has spawned numerous indoor and outdoor theatres, collaborating with nature. Who needs the forests of many Shakespeare tales, when the trees surround the stages? By the way, Shakes rents its site in the off months to the smaller but amazing WAM Theatre. Don’t forget the Farmers’ Market, perhaps not unlike those of the 1500’s. Other Shakes co-partners are this summer’s drive-in movies as well as the Berkshire International Film Festival.
Tanglewood’s pristine campus doubles, triples, and quadruples as the homes of Boston Symphony Orchestra, BUTI Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), Tanglewood Learning Institute, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Boston Symphony Chamber Music, and forgive me as I unknowingly have forgotten other notable music groups. PS: yoga on the lawn adds to the personal peace of Tanglewood.
Turn Park’s
photo courtesy Turn
 creators, a family from Russia, have created a unique outdoor setting for
sculptures by artists throughout the world. Oftentimes, Turn Park works with music and theatre groups for its outdoor programs.