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Vicki Saltzman, Masterpiece Maven
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute – more commonly referred to as The Clark – has been a Berkshires arts & culture landmark since the 1950s. Combining world-renowned exhibits with a leading center for research and academic programs, and an exciting rotation of special events, The Clark is ever-evolving.
At the forefront of The Clark’s dynamic transformations is the engaging and dynamic Director of Communications, Vicki Saltzman. We caught up with Vicki to learn about new initiatives, visitation, and what makes The Clark experience so special.
Tell us about The Clark and how you found yourself there.
The Clark Art Institute is one of the Commonwealth’s great cultural gems. Our museum collection is exceptional, with a particular strength in French paintings – most notably the Impressionists – but we have wonderful holdings of American, Old Master, Renaissance, and British paintings and works on paper, as well as European and American decorative arts. Renoir. Monet. Degas. Pissarro. Sargent. Homer. They’re all here – along with much, much more.
We are one of only three institutions in the U.S. that is both a museum and a center for academic research in the history of art. Our Research and Academic Program attracts scholars from around the world who come to the Clark to study; to write; to lecture; and to take advantage of our 270,000-volume art history library for their research. We also jointly administer a graduate program in art history with Williams College which is widely recognized as being one of the most important programs preparing future generations of art historians and museum professionals.
I was lucky enough to be asked to join the Clark’s staff in 2010, just as they were about to begin a major campus expansion program which transformed the Clark’s campus. I spent the first fifteen years of my career working for major construction firms, before transitioning into museums, so it was fun to combine my museum and construction experience as we worked through the project. I am pretty confident that I have the best job in the world and feel so fortunate to be a part of the team that has the privilege of sharing the Clark with our visitors every day.
What types of visitors are drawn to The Clark and how has that changed over the years?
When the Clark opened in 1955, it was a much quieter (and smaller) place than it is today. For a long time, it was the treasured best-kept secret of the Berkshires, primarily welcoming local visitors and art aficionados who trekked from far and wide to see the remarkable collection that Sterling and Francine Clark had amassed. Today, we have the privilege of welcoming more than 200,000 visitors per year to the Clark and they come to us from around the world. Some people come for the art, some people come to appreciate the exceptional architecture and landscape, many people come to enjoy our grounds and walking trails, and we hope everyone leaves feeling enriched and renewed by the experience of their time spent at the Clark.
Tell us about the new initiative called ArtCountry – who is involved, what do you hope to achieve?
ArtCountry is a really exciting new project for us! We’ve come to realize that as the Clark has grown, and as our friends at MASS MoCA are growing, a visit to the northern end of Berkshire County now offers so much more than just a day trip. We don’t think there’s anywhere else quite like our corner of the world. Within about a twenty minute drive from the Clark, visitors can explore the wonderful collection at the Williams College Museum of Art; experience art, music, and incredible festivals at MASS MoCA; engage with history and art at the Bennington Museum; or enjoy the amazing shows offered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival each summer. And so much more: great hiking, biking, and river kayaking. Maple syrup. Artisanal foods and craft beers. The Appalachian Trail. Farm stands and farm-to-table restaurants. Mountains, pastures, and endless beauty. Fresh air.
So, the four museums and the theatre festival have partnered to share our enthusiasm for all that’s here with visitors from all over. We like to say that ArtCountry is not about states – it’s about a state of mind. We’re nestled in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts and at the foot of the Green Mountains in southern Vermont, and we’re less than three hours from New York City and Boston. We have art and music all year round, but summer is especially lush. And this summer, we’re telling the world about it!
Can you share any new programing or exciting exhibits coming soon with us?
The Clark has a really exciting summer line-up planned and it truly offers something for everyone!
On June 3, we will open a wonderful exhibition Picasso: Encounters, which focuses on Pablo Picasso’s collaborative process as he explored and pioneered printmaking techniques. The show also looks at the influence of the many women who were Picasso’s muses throughout his career. The exhibition has thirty-five of Picasso’s remarkable prints on view, along with truly remarkable paintings on loan to the Clark through the exceptional generosity of the Musée national Picasso–Paris. If you want to see Picasso’s seminal Self Portrait from his Blue Period or his famed Portrait of Dora Maar this summer, then Williamstown is the place for you. We are thrilled to be able to bring these extraordinary works to the Clark for this rare opportunity.
Also opening on June 3 will be a fascinating show called Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and Design, which will give our visitors an opportunity to explore the history and artistry behind one of the most extravagant rooms created in the Gilded Age. The show looks at Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s work as he created a sumptuous music room for the New York millionaire Henry Gurdon Marquand, and will reunite many of the exceptional furnishings, paintings, sculptures, and decorative works that were created for the room. This exhibition is inspired by the wonderful Steinway piano in our collection which was designed by Alma-Tadema and was the centerpiece of the music room. This show tells a great story that intertwines art, design, and music and I think it’s going to be a huge favorite with our visitors.
And there’s more! On July 3, we will open two exhibitions looking at the works of Helen Frankenthaler, one of the leading American abstract expressionist artists.
One show, As in Nature, focuses on her paintings and includes some works of absolutely epic proportion, while the other, No Rules, looks at her woodblock prints. Both exhibitions feature works of absolutely breathtaking beauty and we’re particularly pleased to show them here since Frankenthaler is so closely tied to this region. She studied at Bennington College and maintained deep ties to the college throughout her life. And few people know it, but in the early 1980s, she was an artist-in-residence at Williams College and presented an exhibition of her paintings here at the Clark! We’re delighted to have the chance to give our visitors the chance to experience these remarkable works.
And then, there’s a whole summer of great programs including film series, lectures, musical events, and much, much more. We hope everyone will plan a visit to ArtCountry to enjoy the Clark and all of the other wonderful venues that surround us!
Thank you, Vicki!