Christmas Arrives Early at the Berkshire Museum
The 106-year-old Berkshire Museum not only preserves paintings, photographs, antiquities, and other artifacts that depict our region’s natural and cultural history; it also safeguards the spirit of traditional New England Christmas. The 25th annual Festival of Trees (through January 3) is an antidote to shopping mall ennui and another example of how proud-again Pittsfield excels at celebrating big holidays. (Its Fourth of July Parade was named one of the top ten in the country by USA Today.) The museum commissioned a contemporary star by local artist Eric Drury (photographed above by Pittsfield Contemporary) to hang in the elegant Crane Room, providing a dollop of 21st century attitude.
For the past quarter century the museum has invited businesses (such as the Red Lion Inn and Country Curtains), other cultural institutions (such as Jacob’s Pillow and the Ferrin Gallery), community groups (such as the Berkshire Humane Society and Berkshire Stonewall Coalition) and schools (such as Berkshire Country Day and Darrow) to create original Christmas trees to be displayed in its galleries. The theme for the silver anniversary is, appropriately, “Silver Bells,” and the museum is augmenting its display of scores of trees this year with other artworks. “We really want to make clear that the Berkshire Museum has an incredibly rich historical collection and also supports contemporary artists,” says executive director Stuart Chase. He has unearthed some antique silver from the museum’s storerooms—a 19th century European menorah and a Tiffany silver cup with gold lining given to Civil War General William F. Bartlett of Pittsfield in 1874—and there will be a loan exhibition of contemporary silver pieces (right) by the Monterey silversmiths Michael & Maureen Banner. At the entrance to the Festival of Trees exhibit, the walls will be hung with the sparkling abstract photographs (below) of Sharon Lips, who lives in East Chatham, NY, and is the president of the Berkshire Museum Camera Club.
The opening night party for the Festival of Trees is always held in the glorious Art Deco Crane Room, a vast oak-paneled space with a working fireplace, which feels like it was lifted from Rockefeller Center. If you’re nostalgic for bygone department stores and hotel tea rooms, sipping cocktails in the Crane Room and listening to gospel singer Jennifer Poole do her rendition of “Silver Bells” may give you a sense of deja vu. (And if you’ve been looking for an excuse to have your children or grandchildren get dressed up for a party, the opening night gala is meant to be family friendly.)
As the grand dame of South Street, the Berkshire Museum considers bringing people to downtown Pittsfield its civic duty, and it has a full roster of holiday events. And if Christmas is not your holiday, the museum is also opening a new mixed media exhibition, Tonalities, which includes photographs by Edward Steichen and works on paper by Jim Dine, Henry Moore, and Philip Guston from the permanent collection. “We always say, We’re a museum for everyone,” says Chase.
Festival of Trees
November 14 - January 3
Gala Preview Party: November 13, 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
$45 members/$55 general public/$60 at the door
The Little Black Dress, Thursday November 19 at 1 p.m.
A fanciful performance linking floral design, festive accessories, and fashion diva Coco Chanel.
The McKrells’ Christmas,
Saturday November 28 at 7 p.m.
Songs, stories, recitations, and virtuosic instrumentals by the renowned performers of traditional and original Celtic, folk, Americana, and bluegrass music.
Berkshire Hillsmen Holiday Special, Saturday December 5 at 1 p.m.
A family performance featuring holiday songs of yesteryear performed with harmony and humor by a barbershop quartet.
The Berkshire Music School’s Holiday Cabaret,
Sunday December 6 at 1 p.m.
Holiday classics with a cabaret twist.
Holiday Family Day, Saturday December 12 from 1 - 5 p.m.
A full afternoon of hands-on fun and family-friendly performances culminates with the official lighting of the Museum’s tree.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr, December 28 & 29 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Enjoy an enchanting musical production of this timeless tale by Berkshire Children’s Theater.
New Years’ Eve Celebration for Kids, December 31 at 11 a.m.
Children can ring in the New Year early with mind-boggling tricks by magician David Hall, followed by festive refreshment.