Pittsfield protesters rally in support of art

August 12, 2017 07:04 PM

PITTSFIELD, Mass. – They held signs and chanted as cars went by honking their horns in solidarity with the protesters in front of the Berkshire Museum on South Street on Saturday.

"Art is absolutely essential for any community," protester Joann Harnden said.

That's the message the protesters are trying to convey as the museum gets ready to sell some of its valuable works of art.

"What they're doing is crazy," said protester Susan Lockwood. "They need to show some humility and they need to recognize they made a mistake."

The 22-member board of trustees last month approved the sale from its permanent collection, primarily paintings by well-known artists like Albert Bierstadt and Norman Rockwell.

"Norman Rockwell donated these two paintings that are part of the group of 40," Harnden said. "He donated them himself. He's a huge part of the local history of this area."

Elizabeth McGraw, the president of the Berkshire Museum's board of trustees, says the museum doesn't really have a choice. She says they debated for two years before coming to the agonizing conclusion.

"I don't think you can ever ask any board member of a museum if they have to choose between keeping the institution open and selling parts of their collection," McGraw said. "It's a very difficult decision."

McGraw says they need to keep the place open for the community and it's not sustainable to be in debt for over a million dollars every year.

Proceeds from the auctions will help fund new projects, some renovations, and open up display options. It will also create an endowment to help make the museum more sustainable for the future.

"No donors have come out of the heavens like they think they will," McGraw said. "We were being very transparent and telling them what was going on."

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WNYT Staff

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