Letter: Damage to museum, city will not be easily repaired

Posted
To the editor:

On April 7, an open letter was placed on the Save the Art-Save the Museum Facebook pages and website. Readers were invited to sign if they agreed with it. Within three days, over 300 people had signed, and names are still being added. A complete updated list of signers can be viewed at artberkshires.com.

The goal of strengthening the Berkshire Museum could have united the community as a source of local pride, if the Board of Trustees had transparently and actively sought support and alternative ideas from the public. By promoting its great art collection, the museum could have become a valuable engine for Pittsfield's revitalization and the city's identity as a vibrant regional arts center.

The museum's present board and staff are not the owners of the amazing art collection that was built over generations for the public. They are merely temporary stewards. True stewardship would have allowed community dialogue and engagement to develop a real strategy to enable the museum to survive and thrive and protect the art at the core of its mission, as well as supporting its other roles.

Unfortunately, the museum leadership chose the opposite course, by secretly pursuing a massive selloff of much of its irreplaceable public art collection. It then rigidly presented it as a stark either/or choice of "sell or close." The suddenness of that announcement last summer, and lack of true engagement with the public since then, aroused dismay and opposition that has been shared by many people — far more widely than those who most actively and visibly opposed it.

The lack of opportunities for true dialogue about the museum's plans also undermined the consensus and momentum of efforts to connect Pittsfield to the Berkshires' cultural life and economy. It has caused needless divisiveness in the community. It also created false dichotomies between old and young, art versus education, science versus culture, heritage versus progress, and "art loving elitism" versus "progressive" populism.

The city's overall revitalization efforts are also collateral damage. The museum's public relations campaign led to portrayals of Pittsfield nationally as a declining community that cannot support its public resources. And the Berkshire Museum's name has become a national symbol of the destructive prospect of institutions selling public art to the highest private bidders in the global art market.

Although the Berkshire Museum has won the legal challenges, its "victory" may become a pyrrhic one. Unfortunately, as the hammer drops at Sotheby's for the sell-off of Pittsfield's artistic heritage, the public trust is also being lost.

The museum now says it's time to come together and "constructively" support its future. Where have they been for the past several years? Why did they brush aside the ideas of a thoughtful and concerned public, and the offers of assistance from experts and organizations?

Is it too late to mitigate the damage? Unless the board truly reconsiders the nature of its plans and engages the public to find a better solution for our community, the damage to the Berkshire Museum and the unfortunate impact on Pittsfield, will not be easily healed.

Margaret Heilbrun,

Housatonic

Grier Horner,

Martha Lenz,

John Townes,

all of Pittsfield

The letter was also signed by the following Berkshire residents: Jeanne Boudreau, Adams; Robert Heilbrun, Alford; Donna Broga, Becket; Margit Hotchkiss, Berkshire; Monique J. Menard, Berkshire; Nora O'Keefe, Berkshire; Ruth Wheeler, Berkshire; Wavelyn Hine, Cheshire;Candice Cimini-Farrell, Dalton; Linda Kaye-Moses, Dalton; Rae Langsdale, Dalton; Dave Martindale, Dalton; Leonardo Quiles, Dalton; Evan Soldinger, Dalton; Daniel Bellow, Great Barrington; Robert Braddick, Great Barrington; Roselle Chartock, Great Barrington; Jane Costa, Great Barrington; Lawrence Davis-Hollander, Great Barrington; Jim Reed, Great Barrington.

Gail Downey, Hinsdale; Lori Flynn, Hinsdale; John Ryall, Hinsdale; Penelope Duus, Housatonic; Prudence Barton, Lanesborough; Chris Erb, Lanesborough; Martha Freedman, Lanesborough; Russell Freedman, Lanesborough; Sandy McNight, Lee; Kristy Sayres Methe. Lee; Joan Bruno, Lenox; Karen Chase, Lenox; Paul Graubard, Lenox; Ani Grosser, Lenox; Lucy Holland, Lenox; Jeanet T. Ingalls, Lenox; Don Jordan, Lenox; Susie Kaufman, Lenox; Mitch Lee Kruszyna; Lenox; Larry Lane, Lenox; Susan Lyman, Lenox; Kim Ostellino, Lenox; Carol Price, Lenox; Roberta Russell, Lenox; Sura Sheldon, Lenox; Richard Taylor, Lenox; Carolyn Wade, Lenox; Elizabeth Weinberg, Lenox; Ellen Arndt Mendel, Lenoxdale.

Andrew DeVries, Middlefield; Ann Getsinger, New Marlborough; Diane Kvidera, North Adams; Katherine Montgomery, North Adams; Patricia Strauch, Otis.

Barbara Arpante, Catherine Beer-Rankell, David Belcher, Morris Bennett; Rose Bohmann, PeggyBraun, Gisele Breton, Aidan Clement, Sara Clement, Bobby Coon, Janice Cullen, Gwendolyn Davis, Joan DiMartino, Evan Dobelle, Kit Dobelle, Paul Dodds, Joe Durwin, Cynthia Gardner, Ken Green, Laurie Green, Kathy Griffin Maconga, Linda Gunderson, Jonathan Hanson, Kyron Hanson, Sara Hathaway, Drew Herzig, Matthew Hubley, Stephanie Isaak Ricchi, Randy Johnson, Joan Khat O'Brien, Rick Kielman, Fred Landes, Cara Lauzon, Ann Loehr Tyler, June E. Lucido, Steven Mason, Marsha McDermott, Alan Monasch, Arlene Murdock, Marka Neary Deleo, Carl Olson, Chris Post, Lisa Provencher, A.G.Putnam, Dan Pytko, Joanne Quattrocchi, Wendy Rabinowitz, Tom Reardon, Anne Roland, Lucy Sacco, Janet Sallaway, Pat Sanginetti, Susan Sauve, Steve Sayres, Charles Schweigert, Beatrice Selig, Regina Selig Mason, Jill Senecal, Danielle Steinmann, Adell Thomas, Mark Tully, Peter Weissenstein, Judy Williamson, Marion Wolf, Nina Wyskiel Wojcik and Deb Senger — all of Pittsfield.

Karen Carmean, Richmond; Jody Donald, Richmond; Henry Kirchdorfer, Stockbridge; Melanie Kirchdorfer, Stockbridge; Gary Miller, Stockbridge; Sally Underwood Miller, Stockbridge; Celia Kittredge, Tyringham; Cynthia Dillon Payne, Williamstown; Jessica Fisher, Williamstown; Roberta Fortini-Curran.Williamstown; John Stomberg, Williamstown; Stephen Sheppard, Williamstown; Valerie Kohn, Windsor; Monika Sosnowski, Windsor; Michele Dodge, Worthington.






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