After months of silence, the galleries at several popular Berkshire museums will feature the symphony of shuffling shoes and the hushed tones of visitors once again this weekend.
MASS MoCA, the Clark Art Institute and the Norman Rockwell Museum are all slated to open this weekend for the first time since mid-March. Each will feature new exhibitions, hours and safety protocols.
“Admission is going to timed ticketing. Depending on what time your ticket allows you in the building, we’re asking people to come within that first hour of their time slot. They’re free to stay for as long as they want but we need to manage the number of people in the building and that’s how we can do so,” said Victoria Saltzman, the director of communications at the Clark, which opens Sunday.
Upon entering, visitors will be given prepackaged bags with a trail map and gallery guide, along with their admission sticker. As with most other businesses, masks will be required while indoors and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible. There will also be signs guiding visitors through the museum to alleviate any pinch-points.
In terms of new exhibitions, visitors will finally be able to view “Lines from Life: French Drawings from the Diamond Collection,” which was originally scheduled to open in March. It highlights nineteenth-century figure drawing, including works by Edgar Degas, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Odilon Redon and others.
“Because of their intimacy and immediacy, drawings offer unique insight into the artistic process,” said Anne Leonard, the Clark’s Manton curator of prints. “Herb and Carol Diamond’s collection helps us see how French artists changed their approaches to representing the human figure over the nineteenth century.”
Throughout the summer, visitors will also get to see a sweeping outdoor exhibition come together, the first of its kind on the Clark campus.
“If you can find a silver lining in the middle of a pandemic, we had been planning for the last three years our fist major outdoor exhibition so when that show opens later this summer there will be lots of art for people to see outside. It feels like it’s just a serendipitous moment to be able to provide an outdoor exhibition,” Saltzman said.
Called “Ground/work,” it includes installations by several international artists who have all created site-responsive work for the Clark. The first, created by Analia Saban, has already been installed at the base of Stone Hill. Saban’s installation, called “Teaching a Cow to Draw,” is a reimagining of a fence that reflects on key artistic principles, like the Golden Rule.
“The more you study it you begin to understand what a magnificent concept it is,” Saltzman said.
Not too far away, at MASS MoCA, there are quite a few new exhibitions for visitors to view as well as a chance to see live music; something that’s become quite rare in recent months.
Staff members have reworked one of the large outdoor concert areas in the former industrial complex, marking off seating areas so they’re all six feet apart.
“It’s a space that can hold more than 4,000 people and we will reduce the capacity in that space to 100 people, each concert-goer or small group of concert-goers will have six-foot space that’s mapped out on the ground designated as your little pod,” said Jodi Joseph, the director of communications at MASS MoCA.
“There are six-foot aisles between each pod. We ask that you bring your chair and you can set up in your pod up to four people.”
The stage is a gallery space on the second floor, which has a rolling door that opens out to the courtyard, so the musicians will be one floor above the audience members. On Saturday, there will be a members-only performance by SayReal and the following Saturday there will be a performance by Treya Lam.
Beyond concerts, there will also be several new exhibitions, some of which MASS MoCA staff members worked with artists to create throughout the shut-down.
“Like nearly everyone, we closed our doors in mid-March and we are just about to open them this weekend on July 11. That’s fairly atypical for MASS MoCA, we don’t even like to close during a snowstorm. It was heartbreaking to shut the doors and cease business as usual,” Joseph said.
“We’ve used the time productively. Specifically for the last six weeks, [we] have been busy making art. We have several members of our art fabrication team working in the galleries alongside exhibiting artists creating brand new works that we will unveil to the public this weekend.”
Some of those exhibitions and works include Blane De St. Croix’s “How to Move a Landscape.”
“He’s an artist who tackles the effects of climate change. His first exhibition at MASS MoCA is his largest ever solo museum exhibition and it’s focused on [the] time that he spent working with scientists in the Arctic,” Joseph said.
As part of the exhibition, the artist created a work that’s three stories high that echoes a sheet of dissolving ice.
Beyond De St. Croix’s work, the multimedia artist Wendy Red Star, whose work was on exhibition at the Tang Teaching Museum in 2018, is featured in the Kidspace. Red Star is a member of the Apsaalooke or Crow tribe and her work in “Children of the Large-Beaked Bird,” explores the history and representation of indigenous people.
Another new and timely exhibition explores what gets lost in translation or happens when communication is in some way mediated. It includes the work of ten contemporary artists and was originally supposed to open in March.
“It felt timely in the late winter and early spring when we were installing it and of course ever more so now as we think of how this pandemic has wreaked havoc from culture to culture, across borders and barriers. [It’s] even more timely now than March 23 when we had originally planned to open it,” Joseph said.
Finally, the Norman Rockwell Museum is slated to open on Sunday with a host of illustrative exhibitions, including “Liza Donnelly: Comic Relief,” featuring the witty and incisive works from the cartoonist, and “Rose O’Neill: Artist and Suffragette,” celebrating O’Neill’s activism and artwork.
Like the Clark and MASS MoCA, visitors to the Norman Rockwell Museum will be required to purchase admission tickets in advance.
Admission is timed and visitors will be brought inside in 30-minute increments. Visitors must also wear masks.
While the experience of museum-going may be a bit different, it seems that people are enthusiastic about getting back to the galleries.
“We sent out the announcement of our joint opening and almost immediately our phones began ringing as people heard the news and people are very excited at the chance to come back . . . For many people, the Clark’s collection feels like a very personal collection. People almost take ownership [of it]. So I think people have keenly missed their friends and the chance to be in those spaces and seeing those works of art in person again is something that a lot of people have been looking forward to,” Saltzman said.
Here is the modified schedule for each museum:
MASS MoCA: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Wed. - Mon.
Norman Rockwell Museum: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thu. - Mon.
The Clark Art Institute: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Tue. - Sun.
Each museum offers timed ticketing and visitors must reserve tickets in advance of their visit.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit massmoca.org, nrm.org or clarkart.edu.