Take a quiet walk in a forest of birch, elm and sugar maples. Wander in a meadow dotted with clover and wildflowers. How about a short hike or some geocaching with the kids?
A summer road trip to the Clark Art Institute in the scenic Berkshires is not your usual urban museum experience. The Clark is known not only for its paintings by Renoir, Homer, Sargent, Monet and many other American and European masters, but for its country setting, which offers mountain views, fresh air and room to roam. Visitors can step out the door and gaze upon a reflecting pool filled with river rocks or a pastoral landscape where cows graze on a green slope.
“In addition to our wonderful permanent collection and special exhibitions, the Clark’s 140-acre campus offers wonderful opportunities to experience the natural world,” says Sally Morse Majewski, manager of public relations and marketing at the Williamstown, Massachusetts museum.
“Hiking and walking trails are available for public use. An illustrated trail guide provides educational commentary on the trails and history of the landscape. We also have a geocache; coordinates are available on the Clark’s website.”
This summer, there are four exhibitions:
"Picasso: Encounters," an exploration of Pablo Picasso's large-scale printmaking experiments that begins with the seminal "Self-Portrait" (1901) from his Blue Period and includes 35 of his most important graphic achievements from 1904 to 1970.
"Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design,” an exhibit of furniture, paintings, ceramic and textiles that looks at the works of Tadema (1836-1912) and his design of a music room for the New York mansion of Henry Gurdon Marquand, a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
And there are two Helen Frankenthaler shows, one of her nature paintings and another of her woodcuts.
If you plan to spend the day at the Clark, it’s easy to splice outdoor time into your art viewing.
The campus offers six unpaved interconnected walking trails. A guide can be downloaded from the website or picked up at the reception desk.
From the main museum buildings, it’s a short walk to the Lunder Center at Stone Hill, where you can visit two galleries and watch art conservators at work in the Williams Art Conservation Center.
“The top of Stone Hill is probably the best view of Williamstown and the Green Mountains of Vermont,” says Majewski.
“Thomas Schutte: Crystal." (Provided)
Another 10-minute walk takes you through the meadow, past the cows, and up a hill to “Thomas Schutte: Crystal,” a box-like installation with dramatic views of mountains and trees.
Near the parking lot, check out the Clark’s lily pond, with its profusion of pink flowers.
When it’s time for lunch or a snack, there’s indoor/outdoor seating at Café 7 or terrace dining with a view at Stone Hill. Below the terrace, there are picnic tables. Bring your own picnic or buy food-to-go in the cafe.
Here are a few other suggestions for summer day trips that blend art, nature and the outdoors:
With the recent grand opening of Building 6, this contemporary art museum in North Adams, Massachusetts, is now the largest art museum in America.
With 250,000 square feet of art space, you’ll get plenty of exercise inside and out, as buildings are connected by open-air walkways and courtyards. There are also eight outdoor and seasonal installations, including Michael Oatman’s “all utopias fell,” a spaceship-like creation made from an old Airstream camper. Refresh and refuel at Lickety Split, a sandwich/salad café in the lobby; Gramercy Bistro, a fine dining spot with a view of the museum’s signature upside down trees; Bright Ideas Tap Room, a craft beer pub; or Tunnel City Coffee.
The Bennington Museum
This southern Vermont museum is known for its collection of Grandma Moses paintings. Current exhibits include “Buy Local,” old-time photographs of people and places from a recently acquired collection of 2,000 glass plate negatives.
In the museum’s six-acre backyard, take a walk on the George Aiken Wildflower Trail. The trail, open from dawn to dusk, is short, one-third of a mile, and there are benches along the path. The native ferns, flowers and trees are marked with identification labels. It’s free.
For a day trip, consider visiting the nearby Bennington Battle Monument, which at 306 feet is the tallest structure in Vermont. Ride an elevator to the observation deck for a view of three states. It’s open daily through Oct. 3. Rides cost $5 for adults, $1 for kids 6 to 14, free for younger children. Enjoy lunch, coffee or ice cream in downtown Bennington.
The home of novelist Edith Wharton in Lenox, Massachusetts, is this year’s venue for the annual outdoor exhibit by SculptureNow. Through Oct. 31, contemporary sculpture works by 30 artists are scattered on the grounds of the mansion. Sculpture tours are scheduled Sept. 17 and Oct. 15. It’s free. The Mount serves lunch al fresco in its Terrace Café.
Norman Rockwell Museum
Visitors are welcome to roam the 36 scenic acres around this popular tourist destination in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Artists may sketch or paint outdoors. There are gardens with labeled plants and trees, and paths that lead down to the Housatonic River. Bring a picnic lunch or dine at the outdoor Terrace Cafe.
Chesterwood Museum and Estate in Stockbridge, Mass. (Provided)
Down the road from the Norman Rockwell Museum, in Stockbridge, the former estate of famed American sculptor Daniel Chester French offers not only beautiful gardens and mountain vistas but “Out of Site,” the annual Contemporary Sculpture Show. The outdoor exhibit that opened June 16 features 15 artists, including Michael Oatman, Colin C. Boyd and Deborah Zlotsky, who will show their work along woodland paths and in the fields.