The Berkshires Massachusetts
The Berkshires Massachusetts

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Summer Arts in the Berkshires

The Berkshire mountains offer some of the most gorgeous views, waterfalls and walks in New England, but visitors to the area will find an abundance of cultural and arts activities to engage the intellect as well as the senses. Each beautiful, well-kept old town cultivates its own regional creative endeavors, with local artists and craftspeople abounding, to complement the nationally celebrated venues dotting the extraordinary landscape like wildflowers. Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is the bustling, relatively cosmopolitan hub of this scenic region, with smaller and quieter - but no less culturally rich - Lenox, Lee, Pittsfield and Williamstown scattering northward.

     If you're in the Berkshires this summer and you happen to be a fan of Garrison Keillor and his long-running radio show The Prairie Home Companion, then you've hit the jackpot. On July 1st the witty and folksy Keillor brings his traveling show to Tanglewood Music Festival, in Lenox for a live broadcast. Tanglewood is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, so the show is sure to incorporate some of this prestigious music venue's home team. And in early August Tanglewood answers the long-standing question: What could be better than a serene evening of classical music? Why, a serene evening of classical music preceded by a wine- and gourmet-food tasting, that's what. The Fourth Annual Wine and Food Classic presents wine and artisanal delicacies both regional and global in the pastoral setting of the Hawthorne tent, with its glorious views of the Berkshire hills.

     Fans of international contemporary dance will find it difficult to choose from among the many offerings at Jacob's Pillow, in Lee during its annual summer Festival. "The Pillow," as its affectionately known, is bringing troupes from Spain, Israel, Mexico, Finland, China, Greence, Denmark and even that far-off land known as San Francisco to perform works inspired by, variously, bluegrass music, early silent film, and 50s love ballads. The dance troupes of esteemed and influential modern-dance choreographers such as Karole Armitage, Jose Limón and Mark Morris will bring new work to the stage, alongside youngbloods like Trey McIntyre and Shen Wei.

     Mass MoCA is the Berkshires most adventurous arts center, and it's going "A-Historical" this summer season, with exhibitions and performances that celebrate the rollercoaster-ride of cultural differences and contemporary perspectives. Mass MoCA inhabits a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings in North Adams and calls itself "an open platform"; on that platform in June you'll be privy to a carnival's worth of sights and sounds, including a Saturday kids' concert by the Deedle Deedle Dees ("rocking, educational and hilarious"), an evening of laughter with Mel Brooks' classic spoof "History of the World, Part 1" (featuring the late, great Madeline Kahn as "Empress Nympho," and narration by Orson Welles), and an actual carnival. Installation artist Carsten Holler has slowed down the light, sound and movement of familiar amusement park rides - remember the Gravitron, bumper cars and Twister? - and installed them in the massive Building 5 space. It's a surreal landscape sure to make you think twice about human perception and sensory experience. July brings the Fifth Annual Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival, with the popular art-rockers in residence for three weeks, doing their special brand of new improvisational music with kids, visiting musicians and even famed performance artist Meredith Monk.

     Catch this show before it travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown houses one of the most exquisite personal collections of fine art in the world. This summer, the spotlight is on Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings from the collections of brothers Sterling and Stephen, who between them had the foresight to lay their hands on works by, among others, French master Auguste Renoir, Americans Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt, and those who require no first name: Van Gogh, Seurat, Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso. The Clark is much more than a museum; visitors can take advantage of the 140-acre grounds, replete with walking trails, lawns and meadows.