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Berkshire Eagle/Our Opinion: Tough challenge faces new museum director

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s parachute designs, the Berkshire Museum’s new director, Jeff Rogers, works on building a parachute of his own with Craneville Elementary School students during his first week at the museum in Pittsfield on April 5. Eagle File Photo

Becoming an executive director of any generic nonprofit would pose challenges in this day and age but the challenges facing Jeffrey Rodgers, the new executive director of the Berkshire Museum, are unique and particularly formidable. He is charged with taking the museum forward following a controversial art sale that fractured the Pittsfield’s institution’s relationship with the community and with the larger museum and art world. If the museum is to succeed by any measure, the new executive director and the board of trustees will have to heal wounds that are deep and still open.

The museum’s decision to sell off cherished art, including work by Norman Rockwell, to raise money to pay off debts and pursue a “New Vision” generated a furor that extended well beyond the Berkshires. A state Supreme Judicial Court order issued in response to lawsuits attempting to block the sale allowed the museum to sell up to $55 million worth of art. With the departure of executive director Van Shields, Mr. Rodgers, the provost and chief operating officer of the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Fla., was hired and arrived in Pittsfield a month ago with the controversy still smouldering.

In an editorial board meeting at The Eagle on Tuesday, Mr. Rodgers said the sale of 22 artworks brought in $53.25 million and that no further sales are coming (Eagle, May 8). All of the art works that had been up for sale but were not purchased are back in the museum, with the exception of one that is still to be shipped. The end of the sale of art won’t close any wounds but it should prevent them being widened any further.

New leader seeks dialogue to bridge Berkshire Museum’s past, future

Jeff Rogers
Jeff Rodgers, who began his role as executive director of the Berkshire Museum about a month ago, said that he has since received emails and Facebook messages from people who were unhappy with the direction the museum had taken regarding art sales but welcomed him to the community, regardless. Eagle File Photo

by Haven Orecchio-Egresitz

PITTSFIELD — Now that the controversial art sales have come to a close, the Berkshire Museum team is focusing on infrastructure needs, and repairing relationships with the local and museum communities, Executive Director Jeff Rodgers said Tuesday.

The sale of 22 works from the museum’s collection brought in $53.25 million, about $1.75 million less than allowed by a Supreme Judicial Court order last year.

“We brought all of the art back in-house, so it’s all back with us except one piece, which is being conserved, and that will be shipped back to us,” Rodgers said. “We are done with that process.”

Filing details Shields’ severance package from Berkshire Museum

Larry Parnass, The Berkshire Eagle
December 8, 2018

The Berkshire Museum agreed to pay its former executive director $92,000 to leave his post last June, a month after the institution sold a dozen of its most valuable works.

When Van Shields abruptly left the museum June 26, both he and his employer declined to speak about the financial terms of his departure, which came nearly one year after he trumpeted a “New Vision” for the 105-year-old institution that hinged on selling prized works from its collection. 

Save the Art to receive a “Champion of Artists” award from the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition (MALC) at the State House in Boston on November 14, 2018

Press Release – Save the Art
November 14, 2018

On November 14, Save the Art–Save the Museum (STA) will receive a “Champion of Artists” award from the Massachusetts Artists Leader’s Coalition (MALC) in recognition of its efforts to stop the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s treasured art collection and increase awareness of the critical issue of protection of the Public Trust.

Continue reading “Save the Art to receive a “Champion of Artists” award from the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition (MALC) at the State House in Boston on November 14, 2018”

Save the Art group receives a “Champion of Artists” award from the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition (MALC) at the State House in Boston

The 2018 MALC Champions of Artists Award Winners. Left to R, Ken Green (STA), Adrienne Hawkins (Dance Artist, Master Teacher, Choreographer, Meri Jenkins (Former Cultural Districts Program Manager/Mass Cultural Council, Julie Hennrikus (Founder of Your Ladders, Arts Advocate, Mystery Author), Lou Jones (Photographer) and the Save the Art – Save the Museum group (Art Advocates Protecting the Public Trust at the Berkshire Museum)

12th Annual Artists Under the Dome
Great Hall at the State House
November 14, 2018

SAVE THE ART–SAVE THE MUSEUM (STA) received a “Champion of Artists” award from the Massachusetts Artists Leader’s Coalition (MALC) in recognition of its efforts to stop the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s treasured art collection and increase awareness of the critical issue of protection of the Public Trust.

MALC is a statewide coalition formed to ensure that Massachusetts artists have a voice in key public policy initiatives that impact artists and the creative economy. The award honored STA for “the protection of all artists’ rights with regard to their legacy wishes, from donating work to their designated collecting institutions, to protecting work held in the public trust by art museums. We all owe them great thanks.”

Continue reading “Save the Art group receives a “Champion of Artists” award from the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition (MALC) at the State House in Boston”

Works by Berkshire Artist Nancy Graves in permanent collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Excerpted from the New York Times “Forms of Fantasy”
Cathleen McGuigan, DEC. 6, 1987

November 4, 2018

“Variability of Similar Forms”, Nancy Graves on view in the permanent collection of the Detroit Institute of Art. – This Berkshire native’s career was cut short but her output during her lifetime made her one of the most important sculptors of her generation. During this year of the woman when museums and galleries are digging into the untold history of female artists and offering prime spots in their schedules in an effort to diversify their programs, a survey of her work would be a natural for a regional museum to take on.

Continue reading “Works by Berkshire Artist Nancy Graves in permanent collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.”

2018 Champion of Artists Awardee Spotlight: Save the Art–Save the Museum (STA-STM)

October 28, 2018

As we lead up to 12th Annual “Artists Under The Dome” Event and the MALC 2018 “Champion of Artists” Awards on November 14, 2018, at the State House, we are highlighting each of the six “Champion of Artists” awardees. This post is highlighting Save the Art–Save the Museum (STA-STM): “Art advocates protecting the Public Trust at the Berkshire Museum“. This particular award is given in the memory of State Representative Chris Walsh.

Bonus Episode: Berkshire Museum Litigation Update (It’s not over!)

Your hosts, Steve Schindler & Katie Wilson-Milne

New York City, October 2, 2018

Katie and Steve get an update from attorney Nicholas O’Donnell about the status of the lawsuit he brought on behalf of certain members of the Berkshire Museum for breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims, in relation to the Museum’s sale of much of its valuable art collection to pay for operating and capital expenses.  While much of the art has been sold, the members fight on.  Nick explains the unusual posture of the case to our listeners.

*Note: On Monday, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ended the Berkshire Museum deaccessioning legal saga by upholding a decision by the court that members of the Berkshire Museum do not have standing to sue the Museum challenging the conduct of its Board of Directors.

MA Attorney General Healey Endorses Harrington, Discusses Berkshire Museum In Pittsfield

Mayor Linda Tyer, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Democratic Berkshire District Attorney candidate Andrea Harrington in Pittsfield Monday. ©2018 Photo by Josh Landes/WAMC

Josh Landes, WAMC Radiolab
October 2, 2018

With the fall election campaign heating up, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was in the Berkshires Monday.

Healey, along with local Democratic leaders like Mayor Linda Tyer and State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, appeared at the new Berkshire County Democratic Coordinated Campaign Headquarters on Pittsfield’s North Street to endorse District Attorney candidate Andrea Harrington, who won September’s primary.

Berkshire Museum to Auction More Works

Artforum, October 1, 2018

The board of trustees of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has announced that two works will be auctioned at Sotheby’s American art auction set to take place in New York on November 16. The pieces—Hunter in the Winter Wood by George Henry Durrie and The Last Arrow by Thomas Moran—are part of the second group of works that will be sold as part of the institution’s controversial deaccessioning plan, which was approved by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on April 5, 2018.