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The Berkshires & Western Massachusetts
The Berkshires Region is popularly referred to as America's Premier Cultural Resort. Beyond the scenic beauty, the draw here is the remarkable collection of activities in music, painting, theater, dance and other artistic expression. Located within 3 hours of Boston and New York City, this area attracts summer residents, vacationers and weekenders by the millions throughout the year.

 

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.

 

Modern, Jazz, ballet and other dance forms are performed at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts

The Berkshires and Western Massachusetts entered the world art stage this year with the opening of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, known as MASS MoCA. This is the largest contemporary art museum in the world, and just opened on May 30 in North Adams. MASS MoCA is expected to be a major player in the world art scene, adding to the already prestigious selection of art museums and exhibits located here.

The history of the Berkshires takes us back to the English farmers who moved inland from the coastal colonies during 1700s. In the late 1800s as the cities developed with the industrial revolution, successful business tycoons, authors and other notables traveled to these idyllic mountains as a getaway from city life. These were successful people with artistic and cultural interests, and they encouraged and financed theatrical groups, musicians, dancers, artists and libraries. From these beginnings in the late 1800s, this area has continued as an important cultural and arts center.

Norman Rockwell

 

Rockwell's "Triple Self Portrait" appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

 

Many of our great literary contributors lived or summered in the Berkshires, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Other residents have included Daniel Chester French, sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, and American illustrator, Norman Rockwell, who lived and worked here for the last 25 years of his life. Many well known artists now make their homes in the Berkshires.

There are a number of historic attractions in the area. One of the largest is Hancock Shaker Village, located in Pittsfield and home to the Shakers from 1790 to 1960. With 22 restored buildings on 1200 acres, the City of Peace offers a fascinating look at Shaker life with a working farm, craftspeople, livestock, vegetables and herbs.

The Berkshires Museum in Pittsfield is a wonderful collection of exhibits of art, science and natural history. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge houses the largest collection of original Rockwell art anywhere. The current location on Route 183 opened in 1993 when the previous building was unable to handle the volume of people flocking to see Rockwell's work.

 

Berkshires Museum

 

Berkshires Museum
Photo: Steven Ziglar

The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown is known for its collections of impressionistic paintings and features a large number of works by Renoir. The Williams College Museum of Art offers over 10,000 pieces in its extraordinary collection.

Perhaps the most renowned single cultural icon of the Berkshires is Tanglewood. Since 1937, this performing arts center has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Tanglewood is the hub around which the music scene spins, offering orchestral concerts, chamber music, recitals, pop artists, jazz and the Boston Pops.

Instrumental music is hardly the only show in town. The Albany Berkshire Ballet offers a summer season and winter performances of the Nutcracker. This summer, both Berkshire Opera and Shakespeare & Co . will present world-premieres based on Edith Wharton's novel Summer. Theatrical productions are an important facet of artistic life here, and they continue to grow in number, with several theatre companies in residence. One of the most popular and long-standing festivals is the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, which has hosted performances since 1933. Its ten-week season brings the best of modern, jazz and classical ballet to the Berkshires.

Cultural interests aside, the great outdoors in summer offers the best of hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, whitewater rafting and more. There are approximately 20 state parks and forests. There are a number of golf courses, tennis courts, and other sporting activities. And if you would like to rest awhile and see one of the greatest sports exhibits anywhere, don't miss the Basketball Hall of Fame, located in Springfield.

Shoppers will enjoy factory outlet malls, a number of specialty boutiques and fine quality restaurants and inns throughout the Berkshires region. To quickly find attractions, restaurants and shops in the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts area, use the Find Attractions search engine. To quickly locate lodgings, use the Find Lodging search engine.

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