A rich cultural history, world-class summer arts festivals and a bucolic landscape of forests and verdant hills make the Berkshires, at the extreme western edge of Massachusetts, an especially enticing region.
Just south of I-90 and fifty miles west of Springfield, the spotless main street of STOCKBRIDGE is classic Berkshires, captured by the work of artist Norman Rockwell, who lived here for 25 years until his death in 1978. The most comprehensive of several tributes to the artist in New England, the Norman Rockwell Museum displays some 574 of his original paintings and drawings, most of which were Saturday Evening Post covers.
Roughly five miles north of Stockbridge on US-7, tourists flock to LENOX each year for its summer performing arts festivals, but there are also a couple of literary attractions hereabouts worth checking out.
From 1790 until 1960, the Hancock Shaker Village, eleven miles northwest of Lenox, was an active Shaker community, and today offers an illuminating insight into this remarkable Christian sect. A branch of the Quakers that had fled England to America in 1774, the Shakers were named for the convulsive fits of glee they experienced when worshipping. Hancock retains one of the biggest collections of Shaker furniture in the country and is home to eighteen preserved clapboard buildings.
In the northwest corner of the Berkshires, sleepy NORTH ADAMS and bucolic WILLIAMSTOWN are the unlikely locations of the region’s premier art showcases. The former is home to the glorious Mass MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), a sprawling collection of modern installations (including Sol LeWitt’s mind-bending work), videos and upside-down trees in a captivating old textile mill. In Williamstown, the highlight of The Clark is its 32-strong collection of Renoirs, while the ravishing Williams College Museum of Art specializes in American art from the late eighteenth century onwards, including the world’s largest repository of work by brothers Maurice and Charles Prendergast.