Save the Art - Save the Museum
JOIN US in raising funds to support the legal actions underway and public outreach.
If the Berkshire Museum sells its 40 most important works, scheduled for auction November 13th, it will be failing its highest calling as the keeper of Berkshire cultural heritage. Please help us fund legal action and public information to PAUSE this sale so alternatives can be found.
Message from our treasurer Sharon Gregory "With legal initiatives now underway, Save the Art & Save the Museum will continue to raise funds to support legal actions and community outreach. While current legal action will hopefully create a pause, we have a way to go to ensure the return of our art treasures.
The actions of our courts and our Attorney General will set a precedent affecting all museums, especially those in MA, in their interpretation of law regarding non-profit board responsibilities. We continue to lobby our officials and encourage others through our outreach efforts to protect the public interest. Please continue to support our efforts to reverse the Museum's decisions that we deem to be unethical regardless of good intentions of many."
WHAT YOU CAN DO ...
DONATE through Go Fund Me.
PETITION on Change.Org
to the Attorney General, Maura Healy, Museum Director, Van Shields, Board President, Elizabeth McGraw.
FACEBOOK PAGE - Save the Art - Save the Museum - articles and messages about events
WEBSITE and FAQ's - compilation of articles, background information and FAQ's
Who are we? Save the Art - Save the Museum (STA-STM) is a grassroots organization of individuals who share a common concern about the Museum's plan to de-accession its most precious works of art. Save the Art oversees all funds and the distribution of donations for public outreach and the exploration of a lawsuit in order to obtain a temporary injunction to stop the sale. If litigation is necessary, monies will go toward legal fees for the lawsuit and injunction. Official titles don't exist, but Leslie Ferrin, Kimberly Rawson and Carol Diehl are in charge of media communications. Sharon Gregory is financial investigator and liaison with other groups interested in litigation. Numerous others participate in weekly meetings.
Where does the money go? STA-STM has contracted with a local attorney for the deposit of donations into a separate client trust account. STA-STM shall direct the attorney to safeguard all donations and and disburse them in accordance with our stated purposes, public outreach and possible legal action. This attorney's only role is to monitor the donations and execute disbursements at the direction of STA-STM. This attorney is not the attorney who may be hired to conduct the litigation and has no personal interest in any moneys received.
All donations will go toward public outreach and to a fund to explore legal avenues to try to pause the Sotheby's auction. Some of the funds would be applied to assist in the retention of a law firm.
Where are we based? We meet in Pittsfield, Massachusetts at least once per week.
The Museum's “New Vision” violates the public trust, flouts long-held museum ethics, and sets a damaging precedent that will be felt in museums and cultural institutions across the country. It dishonors the founders and stewards of the museum's past and deprives future generations of their cultural inheritance. Instead we support an “alternative vision” for the museum where, instead of sending these great works into private hands where they will most likely never be seen in public again, they are used as a springboard to establish the Berkshire Museum as one of Massachusetts’ great regional museums of art, history, and culture. As such it will provide access to great art within walking distance to the children of Pittsfield, attract tourism, and energize the city’s economy.
We love the museum and are confident that, given that the outcry has reached national proportions, if the directors were to pause and rethink their plans, they could transform this attention into enormously increased financial support, as happened when the Detroit Institute of the Arts faced similar circumstances.
We will be grateful for any donation, large or small. Even a modest contribution will be evidence of our large groundswell of support.
Save the Art / Save the Museum
The origins of the Berkshire Museum go back to 1871, when the Massachusetts legislature enacted a charitable corporation called the Trustees of the Berkshire Athenaeum, where there existed an art museum. Then came Zenas Crane. In 1903, Zenas Crane of Crane & Company of Dalton was the energetic and financial force behind the creation of a separate museum on South Street. Crane advocated the same charitable corporation that ran the Athenaeum also run the new museum. The legislature changed the name to the Trustees of the Berkshire Athenaeum and Museum in March of 1903. The following month, Crane then deeded the South Street parcel to the Trustees. Zenas Crane, who invested his wealth in his community, actively sought out art and artifacts for the Berkshire Museum (some of the significant works scheduled to be sold), and encouraged the development of collections that would display, under one roof, the splendors of nature and the sublime creations of human genius—science and art, natural and manmade beauty, together in intellectual and aesthetic collaboration—a “window on the world.”
Zenas Crane donated not only the space, but also bequeathed $200,000 and entrusted much of the fine art collection to the museum. Other Berkshire County families donated art and money to the museum over time. Norman Rockwell himself, a resident of the Berkshires, donated his own works. Would Zenas Crane and Norman Rockwell have given art to the Museum had they known that their donations would be monetized and sold to the highest bidder?
The current administration, in an attempt to shore up its finances, fund a “New Vision” and ensure the Museum’s stability “for the next hundred years,” has sent 40 of its most valuable artworks for auction starting November 13th. They say the works, from which they hope to raise $40-60 million, are “not essential” to the Museum’s new mission with its focus on science and technology, primarily for children. Among the works to be sold works are two paintings by Norman Rockwell donated by the artist for the Museum’s “permanent collection,” significant works by Hudson River School artists, including Albert Bierstadt and Fredric Edwin Church, and sculpture by Alexander Calder, now internationally-recognized but once a local artist whose first commissions were for the Berkshire Museum.
While the Museum conducted focus groups in forming their “New Vision,” because participants were not informed about how it would be funded, the results are not valid. Following the Museum’s revelation to the public, which occurred after the works were consigned to Sotheby’s, several financial analysts, including those at the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), which supported the Museum with over $1M in grants over the past ten years, have established that the Museum has exaggerated its financial need. In addition to the MCC, major museum organizations have made public their strong opposition to the sale, including the Smithsonian Institution, from which the Museum was forced to withdraw its affiliation.
Latest in national news coverage, is Felix Salmon’s comprehensive article in The New Yorker (October 4, 2017). Salmon concludes, “There’s no good reason for the museum’s rush: its endowment can easily last a couple more years, during which time the trustees could, were they so inclined, make every effort to keep the museum’s best paintings in the Berkshires, where they belong.”
Help us make that happen.
Save the Art - Save the Museum Informational Rally
The Berkshire-based citizens group Save the Art – Save the Museum will stage a rally outside Harvard University Friday, Dec. 15 in connection with a national meeting of museum professionals organized by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and hosted by the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture. Save the Art – Save the Museum has garnered international coverage as a grass roots collective opposing the sale of 40 artworks by the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.
Save the Art invites fellow supporters to join their permitted rally, which will be held on the sidewalk to Harvard University’s Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, on Friday, Dec. 15 from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Cambridge rally was co-organized by Save the Art – Save the Museum members Michael Morin of Newton and Sara Clement of Pittsfield. “I will be in Cambridge to share our community's experience, offer a warning to other communities, and bring attention to the efforts of AAM and other cultural organizations shedding light on the thorny issue of selling works held in the public trust,” Clement said. “If the Berkshire Museum’s sale succeeds in Pittsfield, the precedent it sets will threaten all public collections in the Commonwealth. It would allow all not-for-profit boards to monetize collections by claiming financial crisis, even if the crisis was the result of poor management.”
The conference, titled “Don't Raid the Cookie Jar: Creating Early Interventions to Prevent Deaccessioning Crises,” has been convened to address “the timely issue of deaccessioning.” It was organized in the wake of the Berkshire Museum controversy, which is currently the subject of an investigation by the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The rally is designed to supply informational outreach and to support the protection of cultural collections everywhere.
Officially designated a “workshop,” the event will be held Dec. 14-15 in partnership with the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD); the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH); the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG), and the New England Museum Association (NEMA). The intent of the meeting, as stated on the AAM website, is to create practical interventions to deaccessioning via a combination of lectures, working sessions, and a plenary discussion. For more about the conference, see www.aam-us.org/events/don't-raid-the-cookie-jar
“We’re encouraged to see grass roots efforts such as Save the Art – Save the Museum supporting the standards of the museum field,” said Laura Lott, president and CEO of the AAM, in a joint statement on behalf of AAM and AAMD. “We agree that museum collections are held in the public trust and must not be treated as disposable financial assets. And we remain willing and available to work with the Berkshire Museum to identify and support the implementation of alternatives to the sale of collections that they are currently pursuing. We sympathize with museums across the US facing financial challenges. This is why our December 14-15 workshop is focused on finding practical solutions to help museums avoid financial crises.”
“The AAM convening is an opportunity to reaffirm longstanding standards for collections management and care so that museums continue to enjoy the public support they have earned,” said Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker. Walker, who has come out against the Berkshire Museum’s proposed sale, added, “Our nonprofit museums hold a unique position as stewards of our shared cultural heritage, and as such have a special responsibility to ensure public trust.”
The Berkshire Museum controversy has brought international attention to the unsanctioned sale of art and other treasures from public institutions. “Since July, the world has watched our community’s struggle,” said Leslie Ferrin, a founding member of Save the Art. “Now, during this pause provided by the court-ordered injunction on the Sothebys sale, word continues to spread about the museum’s efforts to change the way museums fund their goals.
“The legal impact of our museum’s efforts to sell for reasons other than to directly benefit the collection would be devastating,” Ferrin said. “The consequences will be felt not just in the Berkshires but everywhere public collections and properties are held in public trust. It is not only art that will disappear from public view should they succeed.”
“This is a test of the legal system and its ability to legislate between the financial claims of the Berkshire Museum and the protection the public collections,” said Morin, originally from Pittsfield. “If the sale goes through, then public lands, public buildings, and cultural collections are at risk. Nothing will be safe anymore.”
Save the Art
Save the Art – Save the Museum is a citizens’ group dedicated to serving and preserving the integrity of the Berkshire Museum and its collections. It began as a grass roots effort on social media shortly after the Museum announced plans for the sale in July. Members now meet regularly to organize opposition to the deaccession as well as to educate the public on viable alternatives to it.
Save the Art began as a spontaneous protest on social media shortly after the Museum announced plans for the sale in July. It currently has more than 2,500 members on its combined Facebook pages, drawing support across the Berkshires and all over the US. Save the Art has gathered more than 2,000 signatures on petitions sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General, and has generated an outpouring of letters of concern to state officials, representatives and the press. The group turned the matter into a state and national issue, with extensive national and international coverage.
Rather Than Sell the Work
Save the Art believes that deaccession of the Rockwells and other masterpieces (including major works by Bierstadt, Church and Calder), dishonors the founders and stewards of the Berkshire Museum's past and deprives future generations of their cultural inheritance. In pursuing the auction, the Museum betrays its longstanding role as keeper of Berkshire cultural memory. The sale violates the public trust, flouts ethical principles broadly held in the museum community, and sets a damaging precedent for museums and cultural institutions across the nation.
Rather than sending these great works into private collections, where they will never be seen in public again, we encourage the Museum to use them as a springboard to establish the Berkshire Museum as one of Massachusetts’ great regional museums of art, history and culture. As such, the Museum would provide access to the county's art and cultural heritage within walking distance to the children of Pittsfield, attract tourism, and energize the city’s economy.
For more information on Save the Art – Save the Museum, see artberkshires.org
Please continue to donate and share with others, we thank you for your support - small or large, each donation counts. For news and updates go to artberkshires.com
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – As the date rapidly approaches for the controversial sale of art from the Berkshire Museum, the grassroots citizens' group Save the Art - Save the Museum will hold an emergency “eleventh-hour” demonstration to oppose the auction of 40 artworks, including two iconic Norman Rockwell paintings. The demonstration will be held in front of the Berkshire Museum on Saturday, Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On the same day, Save the Art is also staging a protest gathering at Sotheby's, York Ave. at 72nd St., in New York City, also from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. New York organizers encourage supporters to take the opportunity to see the works now on display for auction and meet others who oppose the sale.
Save the Art was deeply disappointed by Tuesday’s ruling by Judge John Agostini in Berkshire Superior Court allowing the auction to proceed on Monday, Nov. 13. Save the Art, along with plaintiffs in the case, are hopeful that the decision will be appealed and that Attorney General Maura Healey will prevail with an injunction to pause the sale.
The world is watching as the Berkshire Museum controversy continues to unfold. National and international media outlets have reported on Save the Art’s efforts to convince the museum’s trustees to reverse their decision to deaccession the artwork.
“The judge's opinion says the sale can go forward, but that doesn't make it right to sell off the museum's collection,” said Carol Diehl, spokesperson for Save the Art. “We want everyone who is upset by this sale to join us on Saturday to demonstrate just how loud and large our voice is.”
“Artists and museum experts across the country have condemned selling the artworks as both unethical and shortsighted,” Diehl said. “Selling off the heart of the Berkshire Museum's collection will irreparably damage Berkshire County's artistic and cultural heritage. The implications go far beyond one small community in western Massachusetts; the loss of these artworks will set a destructive precedent for art collections throughout the U.S.”
“The trustees and others who allow these treasures to leave the county will be remembered in the future for having robbed generations of Berkshire children of their cultural legacy,” Diehl continued. “While there is still time, we call on the Museum leadership to change this disgraceful and divisive course and seek other ways to implement its 'New Vision'.”
Diehl praised the groundswell of support Save the Art's efforts have received since its October 28 rally, which drew more than 100 people. “The enthusiasm generated by our group's efforts have demonstrated how important the art is to the people of Berkshire County,” she said. “It has been encouraging to see such a smart and diverse group come forward to support stopping the sale. We hope the museum leadership will listen to the will of the people.”
Public statement from SAVE THE ART - SAVE THE MUSEUM "Tuesday's ruling by Judge John Agostini in Berkshire Superior Court is deeply disappointing. We believe the criticisms of the Attorney General are misdirected. The AG's office has pursued its investigation in a thorough and appropriate manner. The inquiry was impeded by the Berkshire Museum's unresponsiveness and lack of transparency, conduct all too common since the deaccession was announced in July. Judge Agostini's praise of the Board of Trustees' “thoughtful decisions” overlooks a pattern of well-documented misdeeds and bad faith. The AGO's cross-claim filed on November 2nd clearly stated the necessity for an injunction. We are hopeful that this ruling will be appealed in a higher court and that Attorney General Maura Healey will prevail." If you would like to add your voice - contact Courtney Alladro in the Charities Division (617) 963-2545