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Worthington, MA in the Berkshires

Stunning scenery, beautiful contemporary craft, and a collegial atmosphere combined to make this month’s Founders’ Circle  “Heart of the Berkshires” a phenomenal experience. Twenty-one FC members and five colleagues from the Renwick alliance journeyed to western MA to undertake an exciting exploration of glass and clay artists and artistry. This unique trip was expertly curated by Leslie Ferrin and narrated by Mark Leach.

And what a unique experience it was! My name is Deborah Halliday and this is my experience. Photos taken by John Thompson.

Day One: We arrived Thursday and settled into first class accommodations at the historic Porches Inn in North Adams, MA, which also happens to be home to Mass MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). The museum, which is located in a reclaimed industrial complex of 16 buildings, has been retrofitted to house art galleries, display large installation art exhibits, and provide studio space for emerging artists.

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Mass MoCA

That evening a brisk walk took us over to the museum for an orientation and brief visit, followed by a delicious dinner in the company of Leslie Ferrin and artists Cynthia Reeves and Tom and Marilyn Patti.

Day Two: Friday morning dawned crystal clear and cool. We made our way back to Mass MoCA for a more in depth look at several exhibits. A highlight of the visit was James Turrell’s “Into the Light”, a large-scale installation that explores viewers’ perceptions of architecture through the use of light.

Our next stop was the Schantz gallery, which exhibits works by 50+ international glass artists, including masters such as Lino Tagliapetra, Dale Chihuly and Richard Jolley.

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Schantz Gallery

A luncheon followed in the gallery, hosted by Jim Schantz, catered by the Red Lion Inn and in the company of glass artist Bill Carlson, his wife, Annie, & Czech artist, Martin Rosol.  Truly a rare experience, dining surrounded by such spectacular art!

Our afternoon destination was the Norman Rockwell museum, which displayed an abundance of his life work for us to appreciate.

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Before the Shot by Norman Rockwell

In addition, we enjoyed an exhibition that compared and contrasted Rockwell’s art with the art of Andy Warhol!  Talk about two different takes on Americana!

The afternoon wrapped up in the charming town of Lenox, MA where several of us purchased jewelry at the extraordinary Sienna Gallery and others strolled the town enjoying the local galleries and ambiance.

After a fun packed day we relaxed by sipping beers at a local brewery before ending the evening with another superb meal.

Day Three: Saturday morning began with a lovely ride through the colorful autumn leaves and quaint towns of western MA to take us to the home of famed studio potter Mark Shapiro.  We quickly became part of the creative process – during the initial firing of his new salt kiln Mark invited us to participate by feeding wood to the flames!

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Feeding the Flames of Creativity

A quick walk through the woods took us to his studio where we were treated to a demonstration of his craft-making prowess as he created a beautiful piece of pottery at the wheel.

A truly different experience awaited us in Williamsburg.  The porcelain artist Mara Superior toured us through her home, which houses many of her intricate hand painted works of art as well as the wood pieces of her late husband Roy.  She then delighted us with a tour of a very special place, Roy Superior’s woodworking shop, preserved just as he left it.

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Roy Superior’s workshop

We next arrived in Cummington to a lovely lunch at the gallery Project Art, which exhibits selected works from Ferrin Contemporary current projects.  Of special interest was the art of ceramic sculptors Sergei Isapov and Kadri Parnamets.  Sergei graciously worked with us to decorate some of his pottery, which he promised to glaze, fire and send on to us.  A great memento to remember a special moment!

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Sergei Isapov, Kadrli Parnamets with FC member Carol Gorelick

Studio glass artist Wesley Fleming and wife later greeted us with refreshments at their remote country home.  Afterwards, in his studio a few steps away, Wesley fascinated us with a demonstration of his studio glass skills as he created a slightly larger than life-sized glass spider hanging from a blade of grass.

Our last visit of the day was to the stunning mountaintop home of the famous glass artist Josh Simpson and his wife, astronaut Cady Coleman.  Josh creates his world famous lifelike “planets” and royal blue “New Mexico glass” in a barn sized glass studio which houses 3 major glass ovens.  There we were treated to something he had never done before: a sit-down dinner in his hotshop while demonstrating glass making with the lights dimmed! 

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What a magnificent experience – a filet mignon dinner, the ovens before you, the heat in your face, the firelight in your eyes, artistry at work.  Sublime!

Day Four: On the last day of our trip, tired but happy, we made one last stop.  As a perfect counterpoint to the contemporary craft seen so far, we visited the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.  The Clark collection consists of European and American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 14th to the early 20th century. Now it’s time to return home!