Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 11, 2021

Collaborations in the Berkshires: Where Genres & Geography Mix

by Shera Cohen

Summer marriages are now aplenty, especially in this post-Covid 19 year. No, these are not the weddings with tiered cakes and champagne, white garters and terrible toasts, chocolate strawberries and baskets of monied envelopes.

Ventford Hall,
photo by Berkshire Light Photography
I use the words “marriages” and/or “weddings” to indicate, for the purpose of this article, true meaningful collaborations that become long or short-term connections. Summer, 2021 is no longer a time for art venues and individuals to continue the “me, me, me” isolationist mantra of survival of the fittest. Making things worse is the competition for: audiences, media space, big name stars, venues, and calendar dates. It seems that the paramount need for arts is the search for dollars. No surprise: there is not enough to go around, or even attempt to fulfill the obligations intended by donors, and anticipated by venues, in pre-pandemic 2019.

Who better to use as an example than myself? While not representing any particular class or color, economic or geographic distinction between me and the thousands of strangers who I see in the Berkshires, my guess that our common denominator is love of culture and arts. In the case of the Berkshires, these enriching experiences within a 45-mile radius of each other, not to mention encompassed by and set among the great natural landscape, are the epitome of the planet’s creation.

Some coupling was created during the height of the Pandemic and its continuation seems natural. The “ah-ha” moment. Why didn’t they think of that before? Like genres came together: music with music, theatre with theatre. Not a novel idea. Dance brought visual art, poetry, and youth theatre together where everyone is invited to participate. Hand-in-hand, the leaders of performing art venues in particular, put their heads together, rolled up their sleeves, and stood firm, facing the ravage and aftermath of Covid 19. It wasn’t just the art agencies that worked together physically and monetarily, but their boards and audiences did as well. The sounds of music, stomps of dancing feet, and hammering of sculpture were silent for over one year. The media responded; and patrons, many of whom never considered the opportunity to make meaningful donations, did so.

Having vacationed and written about the Berkshires for the past 25 years, I realized that in addition to like genres, location was a primary link. In the early years of my vacations my goal was to attend at least three activities each day.

What took me so long to realize was that within the matter of approximately 10 minutes, driving on only one street, we could hit the highlights of:

Stockbridge; i.e. Red Lion Inn’s lunch on the porch rocking chairs
to Berkshire Botanical Gardens at full bloom
to Chesterwood’s home and sculpture of Daniel Chester French
to the home of America’s paramount painter Normal Rockwell Museum

The return trip, off the same central road, took us to the Shrine of Divine Mercy, and Stockbridge Cemetery. This totals seven “must see” activities, all positioned in the heart of Stockbridge. Promotion of location, distance, and rest stops in this one small town could help all of these neighbors and visitors. 

photo courtesy Stockbridge Chamber 
The experience of being open-minded to examining and appreciating an art form, other than your personal favorite, is important. Who knows, there have been surprises for me and surely many others. The Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start: The same could be said about any town in the Berkshires. Let’s all get together in this natural collaboration.