It All Started with a Letter

Once the public announcement was made, a letter was composed and gathered over 60 signatures from members of the community before it was delivered to the director and board president on July 27th.

The letter, signed by 22 artists, educators and arts professionals as of Monday, will be sent Tuesday to board of trustees President Elizabeth McGraw and Van Shields, the executive director of the museum, according to gallery owner Leslie Ferrin.

A facebook private group, “Save the Art at the Berkshire Museum of Natural History and Art,” was also launched in connection to the effort. It currentky has 1.1K members. A facebook public page, Save the Art – Save the Museum has 1,215 followers.

It appears unlikely a meeting would help change the museum’s position.

Earlier this month, the museum announced a $60 million initiative that is contingent upon the sale of the 40 artworks. The plan includes adding $40 million to its endowment and a $20 million renovation of its South Street building.

The letter criticized that approach.

“We propose that the leadership of the museum think of these works of art not as a disposable asset but as a means to strengthen the mission and future vision of the museum,” it reads.

The FB group that started to over 1000 attracting both locals and people from throughout the country and the world who signed petitions on and donated funds on that was started on October 8, 2017.

2275 people signed the petition including former staff who had left the museum

The goal of the Massachusetts Artists Leaders Coalition (MALC) is to ensure that Massachusetts artists of all disciplines have a voice in public dialogs, decisions, and key public policy initiatives that impact the artists community and the creative economy. MALC works to ensure that artists have a permanent place at the policy making table. Open Letter to the Berkshire Museum’s Board of TrusteesOctober 30, 2017


“The museum will place a heightened emphasis on science and natural history. The artworks it selected to sell, the complete list of which was disclosed Monday, no longer align with that”
Van Shields
Executive Director
Berkshire Museum


“The board has voted to deaccession the works and make them available for sale. The board is not considering reversing its direction.”
Lesley Ann Beck,
senior communications manager
written in an email response

SAVE THE ART is a grassroots citizens group established in 2017 with the intent of stopping the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s treasured art collection to find an alternate solution to its continued financial shortfall.

Who we are

While centered in the Pittsfield community, STA’s reach extends to the larger Berkshires region and beyond, with followers across the nation and the globe.

Many of STA’s core members and most ardent supporters currently live or have roots in Pittsfield and the surrounding Berkshire communities. Their connections to the Museum’s art collection often dated to childhood, and its sale continues to represent a painful loss.

In 2021, SAVE THE ART has 30+ core members, and a Facebook following of nearly 1,500 concerned citizens.

Our members represent a range of professional fields within the arts, including artists, designers, museum directors, curators, gallery owners, fine art appraisers, writers/editors, art critics, and poets. Members within the business, legal, consulting and social service professions include attorneys, educators, psychotherapists, marketing and corporate development executives, heritage tourism experts, and retail business owners.


“I have worked with this collection and was in charge of its care for close to 10 years, it belongs at the Berkshire Museum. It is meant to inspire future generations of kids from the area that may be otherwise intimidated by or unable to access another museum. This art belongs to them.”
Leanne Hayden
Alfred, Maine


“I am signing because when an artist such as Norman Rockwell himself donates paintings to any Museum his intention is that his gift will always stay with that museum. This has been proven by the letter than he wrote upon his unselfish donation and his expectation that Pittsfield and The Berkshires would always be their home!”
Sandra Ingalls
Clarksburg, MA


A grassroots citizens group established in 2017 with the intent of stopping the sale of the Berkshire Museum’s treasured art collection in order to find an alternate solution to its continued financial shortfall.


The mission of Save the Art is to advocate for and protect the Public Trust — the art and objects belonging to all of us that document humankind’s creative and social history through time.


We thank the Berkshire Eagle for their extensive investigative coverage, the journalists, op-ed writers and our community for their hundreds of letters of concern and applaud Larry Parnass / Investigations Editor for his 2018 Outstanding Journalism award.