Group Travel Articles

Amazing Views Inside and Out: The Art Museums of the Berkshires

Mass MoCAby Margit Hotchkiss

Within 35 scenic Berkshire miles, you can explore a diverse selection of world-class art museums, in settings that are stunning compositions unto themselves. From Mass MoCA, The Clark, and Williams College Museum of Art, to the Berkshire Museum and Norman Rockwell Museum—the views are truly amazing, inside and out, and change with each season.

“Incredible art in unparalleled locations”—visitors to our museums continually remark on how their experiences are enhanced by the outdoor opportunities available at each location. The landscapes, architecture, and distinct settings offer another layer to the museum visit, often enjoyed as much as the exceptional art and culture that fills the interiors of these fine institutions. Planning an impressive and exciting museum sojourn, whether for long day trips or a multi-day itinerary, is easy in the Berkshires.

Starting in the south – groups love to explore Norman Rockwell Museum, set in Stockbridge, MA, where the artist lived and worked for the last 25 years of his life. The beautiful 36-acre campus offers a leisurely and scenic walk from the Museum to Rockwell’s actual studio. Outdoor sculptures by Peter Rockwell, son of Norman, accent the very natural setting. Relax and soak in the sights and sounds, with benches and Adirondack chairs throughout the property, plus a covered terrace with a seasonal café. Gardens and specimen trees are equally impressive, recently labeled for lovers of horticulture! Of course, the art experience inside is the high point; heartwarming, thought-provoking, and poignant images of everyday life, Norman Rockwell’s art is relatable and inspiring. New exhibitions of other American Illustrators are introduced seasonally, and the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art is continually rotated, promising new experiences each visit.

A short ride north, (just 15-20 minutes) to downtown Pittsfield brings you to a local favorite, especially for families: Berkshire Museum. Art, history, and natural science exhibits are featured in a beautiful, century-old building. A range of art experiences includes an excellent collection of Hudson River School paintings, sculpture gallery, and regional artist features. Outside – native plantings offer a glimpse of the Berkshires environment, in a slightly more urban setting; and you can’t miss the life-size stegosaurus out front- a work of art in itself. Nearby shops, restaurants and galleries within walking distance make it easy for groups that want some free time to explore, with fantastic architecture to enjoy as well.

For yet another unique inside-out museum visit, travel north, to the historic mill town – North Adams – where a most innovative museum resides in repurposed warehouses. Fully embracing their unique setting, MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) intrigues visitors with both dramatic industrial spaces and cutting-edge contemporary art that presents fresh perspectives to groups looking for something new! Outside, an expanse of outdoor courtyards, art installations, and both varied textures and materials contrast perfectly with the sloping mountains, historic buildings, and angular steeples. With a distinct and engaging slate of performances and programs, MASS MoCA has established itself as the premiere location in America to enjoy new art in its many forms. Dining and shopping round out the experience, plus a future expansion promises even more to explore.

A quick jaunt northwest to the picture-postcard town of Williamstown, home to Williams
College and a lovely museum: Williams College Museum of Art. WCMA brings art, experts, students, and visitors together for unique museum experiences with an impressive permanent collection, and exhibitions that challenge assumptions about art and our world. Surrounded by a charming college landscape with scenic vistas, a lovely terrace, and a highly- recognized and photographed outdoor sculpture, the museum is also within an easy walk to the campus shops and quaint cafés.

Nearby is the “talk of the town”: the renovated and expanded Clark Art Museum, with much to discover across the sprawling 140-acre site — from the architectural wonders created by Tadao Ando, to the serene landscapes including meadows, walking trails, and a tiered reflecting pool that displays an ever-changing canvas of the surroundings. Undoubtedly, The Clark can provide hours of exploration, and their blockbuster exhibits rival the world’s finest museums. Lectures, tours, multimedia guides, and programs provide more depth for those who want to immerse themselves further. Multiple amenities make it a comfortable visit for everyone: shuttles, cafés, a reading room, bookstore, coffee bar, picnic areas, relaxing furnishings, and family spaces.

This is but a small sampling of cultural attractions in the Berkshires; for more art experiences group tours can tour wonderful galleries and working artist studios throughout the region. Like Norman Rockwell, many artists call the Berkshires home, and there are studios of past masters, available for public tours, including Chesterwood, the home and studio of Daniel Chester French; abstract artists William Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen home and studio. Click here for a comprehensive list of museums, historic sites and gardens click here.

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Margit Hotchkiss is the Deputy Director for Audience and Business Development at Norman Rockwell Museum. Prior to joining the Museum, she worked with Shakespeare and Company, Berkshire Museum; Berkshire Theatre Festival and The Colonial, after leaving corporate marketing in the Washington DC area.