In Stockbridge, the Norman Rockwell Museum exhibits more than 70 original works by the artist, including examples from every decade of his career as well as rarely seen works from public and private collections. The museum features a remarkable selection of Rockwell’s magazine cover illustrations, story illustrations and advertising art.
The Berkshires is also home to Williams College Art Museum; the Berkshire Museum, a family museum featuring an aquarium, fine art, natural science, history, a mummy, dioramas, sculpture and special traveling exhibits; the Williams College Chapin Library, home to books and manuscripts of the 19th and 20th centuries and a permanent display of The Four Founding Documents of the United States; and the Crane Museum of Papermaking — all cultural jewels.
There are numerous historical sites, such as the 200-year-old Hancock Shaker Village with 21 buildings, Shaker furniture, crafts, and a heritage farm and garden; Herman Melville’s home, Arrowhead; Chesterwood, the studio and estate of sculptor Daniel Chester French, best- known for “The Seated Lincoln” in the Lincoln Memorial; and the Mission House in Stockbridge, which was home to the Rev. John Sergeant, the first missionary to Native Americans in 1739.
An elegant 1750 parsonage, the Bidwell House and Museum, is in Monterey. In Lenox, The Mount preserves the 1902 mansion and gardens of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edith Wharton. Stockbridge is home to the grand Naumkeag house and gardens, designed by Stanford White in 1886. The Frelinghuysen Morris house and studio in Lenox exhibits a one-of-a-kind collection in the artist’s Bauhaus-style home. And Santarella Museum and Gardens in Tyringham is the sculptural museum, gardens and studio of Sir Henry Hudson Kitson, sculptor of “The Minuteman.”
The Berkshire Scenic Railway offers 11-mile narrated scenic train rides from Lenox Dale to the Stockbridge station, May through October. The Dark Ride Project in North Adams displays futuristic art. Showcasing local artists are the Berkshire Artisans-Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield and the Becket Arts Center of the hill towns, which also offers arts and crafts and children’s workshops.
For a stroll through 15 acres of intimate country landscapes and display gardens, visit the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, which from May to October showcases many plants that thrive in the Berkshires. The Botanical Garden also offers popular plant sales, special events, gardening classes and education for adults and children.
The Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge is the third-oldest theatre in the nation and, for decades, has presented some of the centuries’ most important playwrights — William Gibson, William Inge, Lillian Hellman, Eugene O’Neill, Harold Pinter, Noel Coward, George Bernard Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Tennessee Williams — and actors — Anne Bancroft, Richard Chamberlain, Hume Cronyn, Sigourney Weaver, Shirley Booth, Buster Keaton, Calista Flockhart, Gene Hackman, Julie Harris and Dustin Hoffman. The theatre was originally designed and built by Stanford White as the Stockbridge Casino, which opened in 1888.
The world-renowned Williamstown Theatre Festival won the prestigious Regional Theatre Tony Award for its 48 years of sustained theatrical excellence. Each summer, WTF presents more than 200 performances of classic and new plays on its Main and Nikos Stages, outdoor free theatre, the Cabaret, and countless readings, workshops and other special events, including a program for youngsters in North Adams called the Greylock Theatre Project. Many of its productions have moved to Broadway, to off-Broadway and to regional theatres around the nation.
Founded in 1995, Barrington Stage Company is a three-time winner of the Elliot Norton/ Boston Theatre Critics Award for The Diary of Anne Frank and Cabaret, the latter also garnering four Outer Critics Awards. Several of its other productions, including Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Three Viewings, A View from the Roof, and Mack and Mabel, have also been awarded the Year’s Top Play honors by either area or Boston critics. Each year the company produces three Mainstage productions, two Stage II productions, a Youth Theatre Production, a New Works Festival and a fall production.
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox is a classical company that was founded in 1978 by Tina Packer and fellow director Kristen Linklater, who came to the Berkshires to create a multiracial American Shakespeare company. The company today resides on a 64-acre campus that is expected to become the world’s first International Center for Shakespeare Performance & Studies. It consists of the 466-seat Founders’ Theatre, the 99-seat Spring Lawn Theatre and the new Rose Footprint stage, which seats 150 in surrounding bleachers. Shakespeare & Company is moving quickly to break ground on the world’s only historic reconstruction of the Rose Playhouse, which will be built with traditional materials using traditional English building methods, and surrounded by a Rose Village of working artisans’ shops, eating places, museum and gallery space, and a library.
The internationally celebrated Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival was founded in 1933 by the legendary Ted Shawn and today presents dance in all forms from around the globe. Exceptionally talented artists have taught, performed and created dance at the Pillow, and in 2001, Jacob’s Pillow was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Located in the scenic natural setting of Becket, it has been called “The Hub and Mecca of Dancing in North America” by Time magazine. Its school boasts an international faculty that trains interns in arts administration and technical theatre and preserves dance legacies through documentation and an extensive historical archive. The Ted Shawn Theatre and Doris Duke Studio Theatre each summer offer nine weeks of live dance performances, including ballet, modern and ethnic. The Albany Berkshire Ballet, which stages performances in the Berkshires, has delighted summer audiences for years. Each year, the troupe takes its holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, on tour from October through December.