By Kara L. Thornton
The Berkshires of western Massachusetts has been beloved for centuries and is best known for its natural scenic beauty, gilded age mansions, picturesque towns, farm-to-table dining, and culture that abounds from north to south. What may be less known are the many outdoor cultural campuses featuring walking trails and beautiful natural settings with outdoor sculpture.
The Mount, in Lenox, is the country estate of the author Edith Wharton. In addition to the beautiful home, the Mount offers incredible gardens, trails and an outdoor contemporary sculpture exhibit (in season) featuring the work of over 20 renowned artists curated by Sculpture Now. The manicured and curated forest settings and non-challenging trails offer a perfect place for these outdoor sculptures and add to the magical feeling of the entire estate. Stroll along the grounds and gardens and enjoy the varied and beautiful sculptures that will surprise and delight you at every turn.
The Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge encompasses over 15 acres of land and features dozens of display areas that feature thousands of varieties of herbaceous and woody plants suited to the Berkshires, with many that are native. They also have a different in-season outdoor exhibit every year. Of note, the Berkshire Botanical Garden just became the recipient of a world-class topiary garden, considered to be one of the finest collections of topiaries in North America. It includes 21 large, custom-designed topiaries in nine different vignettes. They include cavorting frogs, a hunting dog and pheasant, a yew wing chair and boxwood easy chair, and Jumbo the elephant, with his multi-ton root ball, howdah with glass ball finials, and water-spouting trunk. The Garden’s 15 acres are generally wheelchair friendly with paths through many parts of the Garden in addition to manicured lawns throughout many other areas. Seating is available throughout the Garden. Berkshire Botanical Garden is open year-round, and their beautiful display gardens can be toured from May 1 through Columbus Day.
Chesterwood, in Stockbridge, is the former country home, studio and gardens of America’s foremost sculptor, Daniel Chester French (Lincoln Memorial). For over 40 years, Chesterwood has been hosting an outdoor sculpture show amongst the grounds of the estate. Over the years, Chesterwood has exhibited sculpture by almost six hundred emerging and established artists, including Leonard Baskin, Morgan Bulkeley, Herbert Ferber, Glenda Goodacre, Albert Paley, and Richard Stankiewicz. Notably, Chesterwood is one of the earliest venues in the United States to showcase large-scale works in an outdoor setting. The sculptures are installed throughout the woodland walks at Chesterwood.
The Norman Rockwell Museum houses the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell art including 998 original paintings and drawings. The Museum is located on a scenic 36-acre site that includes stunning Berkshire vistas, gardens, specimen trees, plants (identified with labels), and sculptures created by Norman Rockwell’s son Peter Rockwell. Enjoy field paths to the Housatonic River, or pick an apple from trees planted for each Rockwell grandchild.
TurnPark Art Space, in the charming town of West Stockbridge, combines a sculpture park, exhibition venues, and a stone amphitheater for outdoor performances. Turn Park was conceived as an art space and a place for exploration for both children and adults and showcases contemporary architecture and sculpture. Situated on 16-acres of a former quarry TurnPark Art Space boasts a unique and diverse landscape including hills, meadows, a lake, and a 65-foot vertical drop offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
In Northern Berkshires, Field Farm in Williamstown (a property of the Trustees of Reservations) houses a pair of modernist homes (post-WWII Architecture) surrounded by 300 acres of open fields, woods
The Clark Art Museum, in addition to housing a magnificent art collection, has a newly reimagined campus that, among other things, features a three-tiered reflecting pool on a beautiful 140-acre campus with expansive lawns, meadows, and walking trails and scenic views of Williamstown, the Green Mountains and Taconic Range. Enjoy a relaxing lunch while sitting on chairs surrounding the reflecting pool. While there check out
Crystal, Thomas Schütte’s site-specific installation at the Clark, and the artist’s first full-scale architectural artwork in the United States. Schütte chose the unusual asymmetrical shape of Crystal by imagining a small piece of crystal scaled up to architectural proportions. The interior is clad in wood and the outside is zinc-coated copper, a modern material that speaks to contemporary means and methods. Crystal provides visitors the opportunity to reflect on how landscapes and places, including the Clark’s own campus, are constructed and preserved.
So take some time to get outside, you never know what you will discover here #intheberkshires.