Letter to the Berkshire Museum

July 24, 2017
Elizabeth McGraw, President
Van Shields, Executive Director
The Berkshire Museum
39 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201

Dear Ms. McGraw and Mr. Shields:

We are writing to join those requesting that the Berkshire Museum reconsider the sale of 40 works of art from its collection. As artists and members of the cultural economy of the Berkshires, we know firsthand the impact that the visual arts has on our community. Many of us spent our youth in front of some of those very paintings, sparking our imaginations and our creativity, inspiring us to become artists and cultural workers. Others were introduced to the museum as adult art professionals, and our practice was enriched by its intersection of art, history, and natural science. It breaks our hearts to think that the next generation of young people and community members would be deprived of that opportunity.

As members and supporters of the Berkshire Museum, we understand the board and staff were faced with a difficult decision, and we all want the museum to grow and thrive and remain relevant. However, we strongly believe that the visual arts should be an integral part of that vision. As others have pointed out, monetizing these priceless and irreplaceable works of art is considered unethical and risks the future success of the museum, alienating the larger museum community and future donors.

Instead, we propose that the leadership of the museum think of these works of art not as a disposable asset but as a means to strengthen the mission and future vision of the museum, thereby garnering support from the arts community, whose devotion to the Berkshires has already been well proven. We would like to invite the leadership of the museum to meet with us and discuss how we might work together to create a stronger future for the Berkshire Museum that includes the visual arts.

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