Rockwell's now-classic illustrations of robust
Americana often drew their inspiration from a cultural palette
nurtured by the creatively fertile hills of Massachusetts'
hills of Berkshire County soon developed eyes. And today "the
hills have eyes" that bear witness to the region's
growing cultural legacy and an accompanying increase in the
number of people who vacation here.
-- often referred to as "America's premier cultural
resort" -- is so named for the 33 townships that comprise
Folks from points near
and far make the pilgrimage to Northwestern Massachusetts to
soak in a culture rich in performing arts, galleries, and
museums. They also come to enjoy the Berkshires' incomparable
natural beauty -- a scenic grace that has historically lured
many artists looking to unleash their creative genius.
Rockwell, for example,
chose to hang his hat in Stockbridge. "I just love
Stockbridge," Rockwell said during his hey-day as an
artist with The Saturday Evening Post. "I mean,
Stockbridge is the best of America," he continued, "the
best of New England."
Rockwell's friends and
neighbors became the subject of his work, as did the
quintessential New England clapboards of Stockbridge's
historic village square. One of Rockwell's most enduring
Main Street at Christmas," provides a
panoramic glimpse of the lush Berkshire hills. The painting
also includes the world-renowned and still-standing
Revolutionary-era antique known as the Red Lion Inn. Built in
1773, the inn proved particularly popular to America's Jet Set
before, during, and after Prohibition.
In contrast to the
tinkling of glasses at the Red Lion, you have the clash of
cymbals in nearby Lenox, where the world-renowned Boston
Symphony Orchestra returns each year for a summer
residency at the pastoral Tanglewood estate.
features two performance venues - the impressive new Seiji
Ojawa Hall and the outdoor amphitheater setting of
the Koussevitzky Music Shed. The symphony's summer music
series always features some of the most accomplished classical
musicians worldwide, and for at least part of the summer, the
symphony gives way to the Boston Pops.
Although it's tough to
top the Pops, the international fame quotient drops not a bit
when you head east to the Jacob's
Pillow Dance Festival. This culturally diverse
summertime celebration brings together artists from the United
States, France, Japan, Ireland, Africa, Sweden, Brazil, Spain,
Canada, and The Netherlands. Pillow performances showcase
everything from ballet to Flamenco to contemporary gyrations
set to hip-hop. The dancers haven even been known to throw in
a few good interpretations of Shakespeare for good measure.
As for those who like
their Shakespeare unadulterated, there's Shakespeare
and Co., a theater troupe that performs each summer
at The Mount, novelist
Edith Wharton's summer home in Lenox.
Berkshire Theater Festival, another summertime
tradition that attracts elite-level talent, also calls the
Mount home, and the Williamstown
Theater Festival, which takes place at Williams
College, unites thespian stars from both traditional theater
and the silver screen. The
Barrington Stage Company continues to draw rave
reviews for its performances in Great Barrington, and the
prestigious Berkshire Opera Company
satisfies theater-goers who crave some music as well.
The performing arts of
the summer season, however, are but only one entrée on
the Berkshires' rich cultural menu. And as Rockwell's
paintings reveal, the hills of Berkshire County are never more
beautiful than they are during the fall and winter.
year-round cultural offerings include a vast collection of art
and history at the Berkshire Museum
in Pittsfield and some
you-won't-believe-it-till-you-see-it exhibits in North Adams
at the MASS MoCA, the
world's largest contemporary art museum.
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in
Williamstown houses a broad range of French impressionists,
old Masters, and American paintings. The
Williams College Museum of Art sheds new light on
traditional works with its spectacularly illuminated exhibit
Sculpture is on
display at Stockbridge's
Chesterwood, the home of Daniel Chester French, the
artist who sculpted the Lincoln Memorial Statue. And the
literary arts are well-represented within the open doors of
Arrowhead, the home of Pittsfield's Herman
Melville, whose timeless works include his classic,
It doesn't get any
more timeless, though, than Pittsfield's Hancock
Shaker Village. This truly is a place where time
has always stood still. The Shakers' religious convictions
precluded outside influence, which meant that this
self-sufficient sect did without electricity and plumbing.
Their now well-preserved village offers a rare glimpse into a
lifestyle that, in most places, time has long forgotten.
If you're looking for
some action on your Berkshire vacation, look no further then
the great outdoors. Butternut,
Catamount, Brodie, and Jiminy
Peak, among other ski resorts, offer downhill runs
and snowboarding for all skill levels, and cross-country
skiing areas provide a chance to view the awesome scenery. If
you're visiting in the warmer months, a multitude of state
forests, wildlife trails, and parks feature hikes that offer
stunning views of Mount Monadnock,
Monument Mountain, and Mount
Greylock, as well as the more-distant Green
Mountains and Catskills.
With all this
available activity, the problem won't be what to do do, but
how to fit it all in. Whether the purpose of your visit is an
outdoor-oriented family trip or cultural enrichment, the
Berkshires of Massachusetts won't disappoint.