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The Museum Issue

Celebrating the Greater Capital Region’s Cultural Bounty: If you think you have to travel to the big city to find great collections of art, culture and natural history, think again—here are 14 reasons why Albany is at the epicenter of one of the country’s most impressive clusters of museums

by The Staff on March 1, 2012

The Adirondack Museum

Blue Mountain Lake might seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but what it’s really in the middle of—as in right smack in the middle of, geographically—is the Adirondack Park itself. So while it may be a historical coincidence that the Adirondack Museum now sits here at the intersection of Routes 28 and 30, it is fitting that the museum is centrally located within the vast park whose history and culture it so engagingly celebrates.

To trace the museum’s own history, we go back to one of the wealthiest families of the 19th century. Dr. Thomas Durant was vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad; some of the fortune he amassed was spent buying more than 600,000 acres of Adirondack land. His son William came here to manage the family investments and develop the tourism industry, in the process originating the architectural style for what are now known as Adirondack Great Camps. The family also built roads, railroads, steamboat lines and a grand resort hotel in Blue Mountain Lake (how wealthy tourists traveled to the hotel is depicted entertainingly in one of the museum’s exhibits).

But alas, they overextended themselves, and ran out of money.

Eventually, creditors seized Durant’s company’s assets; one of these, Eagle’s Nest Country Club, was sold to three New Yorkers, including Berthold Hochschild, whose family subsequently spent summers there. Harold Hochschild was fascinated with the region from the time he first arrived at age 12, eventually writing a history of the central Adirondacks, laying the blueprint for the museum, purchasing the resort where it now sits, and securing the Marion River Carry Railroad engine and passenger car, the centerpieces of one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.

Today the museum (which opens for the season May 25), whose mission is to expand public understanding of Adirondack history and the relationship between people and the Adirondack wilderness, sits on 32 lovely acres with multiple buildings housing exhibits that explore outdoor recreation, boats and boating, transportation, tourism, industry, furniture, fine arts and more. Its holdings represent the largest collection of Adirondack material, including original artworks, photographs, boats and vehicles, including the carriage that rushed vacationing Vice President Theodore Roosevelt to the train on Sept. 14, 1901. President William McKinley had been shot a week earlier, but appeared to be recovering from his wounds; the exhibit tells the story of how Roosevelt, who had just finished a climb up Mount Marcy, was fetched from the mountain by a park ranger carrying the news that McKinley was near death.

The museum can be reached in two hours and change from Albany and can be experienced as a long day trip; for visitors spending more time in the Adirondacks, it’s an activity not to be missed (it can fit surprisingly well into a trip to Lake Placid, if you’re not in too much of a hurry and think you might enjoy taking the back route into the High Peaks). And remember, if you think Blue Mountain Lake is in the middle of nowhere, to Harold Hochschild, it was the center of the universe.

–Stephen Leon

Albany Institute of History and Art

Photo by Erin Pihlaja

In 2009, and for more than a year after due to its popularity, the Albany Institute of History and Art presented Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture to celebrate Albany’s quadricentennial. This sweeping epic of an exhibit almost sums up the institute’s raison d’etre: to collect, preserve, interpret, and promote interest in the long and pivotal history of Albany and the upper Hudson Valley. And who better to do it than AIHA, an organization almost as old as America. Founded in 1791 as an agricultural society, the museum, whose first president was Robert R. Livingstone, evolved from, and merged with, other organizations until constructing a Classical-Revival building (designed by noted local architect Marcus T. Reynolds) in 1907. Over the course of the 20th century, the institute has defined its purpose—one memorable event was Thomas Cole’s first-ever retrospective—and acquired the historic Rice residence, a Beaux-Arts style mansion, by donation. In 2001, the institute was renovated and expanded, creating a connecting glass atrium that provides a stunning gallery for the museum’s sculpture collection, including the largest repository of works by Erastus Dow Palmer.

Also among the institute’s distinguished and vast collections are an important selection of Hudson River School paintings, many on permanent display in the spacious Salon; a superlative selection of Albany-made silver; and a world-renowned assemblage of cast-iron stoves. Many of its objects have national significance, not just because of the region’s two centuries of importance in trade and commerce, but because of the accomplishments of the artists and craftsmen who lived and worked here (Ezra Ames is but one shining example). This merest sampling of the institute’s holdings is augmented by its beloved Ancient Egyptian room; its representations of the area’s early-Colonial Dutch heritage, including rare Dutch ceramics; a library containing tens of thousands of photographs, volumes of printed material, and ephemera; and furnishings, clothing, and decorative arts of all varieties. The institute also hosts traveling exhibits, art events, and scholarly lecture series, and regularly publishes fascinating books on its material culture.

During its long and prestigious existence, the institute has also acquired magnificent artifacts from further off: from intricately carved Japanese netsuke to British and American fortepianos and women’s bonnets and hats. These little-known items will be on display in a new exhibit opening in April, Great, Strange, and Rarely Seen: Objects from the Vaults.

–Ann Morrow

The Arkell Museum at Canajoharie

The Mohawk Valley was upstate New York’s industrial heartland. The valley’s geography made possible the Erie Canal and the New York Central Railroad, providing the conduits along which commerce flourished and factories thrived. Great fortunes were made, and one of these fortunes grew from Barrett Arkell’s Beech-Nut food processing company in Canajoharie.

Arkell loved his hometown and he loved art, so it was no surprise that, one, he refused to sell Beech-Nut at any price during his lifetime, and, two, he founded the Arkell Library and Art Gallery in Canajoharie in 1925. The latter served two functions. It honored his beloved late father, a state senator, and it gave Arkell a place to show off his collection. He owned paintings by American artists now considered among the best of the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries: George Inness, William M. Chase, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keefe, Maurice Prendergast and Winslow Homer.

As Kathryn Geurin wrote in these pages in 2008, “For more than 80 years, the significance of the collection went largely unrecognized in the region.” Enter the Arkell Hall Foundation, which was initially endowed in 1948 by Barrett Arkell’s sister, Bertelle Arkell Barbour. They funded, to the tune of $13 million, the construction of the current Arkell Museum, an aesthetic gem that’s an extension of the original museum and library, and which opened in September 2007.

In addition to providing a home for Barrett Arkell’s collection, the Arkell Museum exhibits advertising art and workplace photography associated with the Beech Nut company in the early 20th century, as well as photographs, diaries, letters and ephemera associated with the history of the Mohawk Valley.

As for the cultural mission of the Arkell, the exhibits they’ve curated and hosted over the last four-and-one-half years have shined a light on artists central to the cultural life of the region. For example, last year’s Drawn to the Same Place: The Drawings of Rufus Grider and Fritz Vogt 1885-1900 showcased sketches and paintings of the Mohawk Valley by a couple of regional artists. It gave us a window into how people of the 19th century saw themselves, as well as glimpses of long lost (or altered) landscapes and homes.

The Arkell has become central to the cultural life of the region.

–Shawn Stone

The Berkshire Museum

Children gape in wonder at the brightly colored fish, watch the turtles slowly climb in and out of the water, comb the tide pool for fascinating objects, ask their parents if the frogs are real, maybe summon up their courage to look at the snakes. Yes, they are in an aquarium, but only until they head back upstairs to take in what the rest of the wonderfully diverse Berkshire Museum has to offer.

Photo by William Wright

The paper manufacturer (and U.S. currency supplier) Crane & Company has been a pillar of Berkshire County industry for two centuries; it was third-generation owner Zenas Crane who, inspired by the Smithsonian and other great art and natural-history museums, founded the Berkshire Museum in 1903. Thanks to Crane’s dedication and vision, and his desire for the museum to be “a window on the world,” the varied collections of the museum include everything from fine art to natural science specimens to ancient artifacts. Crane encouraged the development of collections that would bring the world home to the Berkshires, and used his own wealth to further his mission, including purchasing an impressive collection of paintings from the Hudson River School.

Among the other attractions are fossil collections, an Egyptian mummy, early Mediterranean jewelry, the writing desk of Nathaniel Hawthorne, local ecosystem and wildlife displays, and a room of wildlife dioramas from around the world, smaller in size than the ones at the American Museum of Natural History, but equally mesmerizing. There is also the new Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation, which celebrates inventions and advances that happened in the Berkshires, and the exhibit Alexander Calder: An Artist at Play, which showcases nine original wooden push-and-pull toys created by the artist in 1927, along with replicas that that visitors can play with.

If you’re getting the picture that the Berkshire Museum is an ideal place to take the kids, you’re right. But it also has a serious reputation as a museum that has been the first to show artists like Calder and Norman Rockwell, has exhibited many other great artists from around the world, and has often loaned items from its collections to other traveling exhibits. Add the many special events, lectures and films in the Little Cinema, and its safe to say that the vision of Zenas Crane carries on.

–Stephen Leon

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

The roots of the Clark Art Institute can be traced back to a straightforward impulse: the love of art. Sterling Clark inherited a 19th-century sewing-machine fortune from his parents. This gave him means. He also inherited their art collection and enthusiasm for art, which gave him purpose. Clark settled in Paris in the years before World War I, and began to collect a variety of visual art: painting, drawings, books and prints. He bought what he liked, and he had the money and taste to buy both “old masters” and works by newer fellows like Renoir, Homer and Degas. He and his wife Francine (whom he met and married in France) eventually concentrated on buying late 19th-century French works, and they spent the first half of the 20th century building a tremendous collection.

How the Clarks ended up building a museum for their collection in the sleepy Berkshire college town of Williamstown, Mass., after initially acquiring a Manhattan location, is a twisty tale that involves fraternal intrigue, postwar fears of nuclear destruction, and warm, longstanding family ties to Williams College and Williamstown. But whatever combination of reasons led to locating the Clark in Massachusetts, it was to our great, longstanding cultural benefit when it opened in 1955.

In addition to exhibiting their world-class collection (and hosting traveling exhibits of a similar caliber), the Clark is dedicated to research and scholarship. Their partnerships with Williams College and MASS MoCA serve to strengthen the Berkshires as a cultural center.

Today, the Clark is in the middle of executing architect Tadao Ando’s master plan for renovating and adding to museum campus. Work will be completed in 2014, but the Clark’s magnificent collection can be sampled through the exhibit Clark Remix, a “dynamic salon-style installation featuring some 80 paintings, 20 sculptures, and 300 of the institute’s finest examples of decorative arts.” And the Clark continues its multidisciplinary cultural mission with lectures, a superb film series, and live performances: This weekend you can sample Clark Remix and enjoy a chamber music concert.

The Clark helps keep the “cultural Berkshires” vibrant long after summer is gone.

–Shawn Stone

Fenimore Art Museum

For upstate New Yorkers, the name Cooperstown is synonymous with class field trips to the Baseball Hall of Fame. A mile down New York Highway 80E on the same stretch of road, tucked back from the street, is the Fenimore Art Museum. The gleaming white pillars of the neo-Georgian estate are easy to spot behind several massive oak trees. With every last shrub, bush, and blade of grass coifed to perfection, the exterior is as much as a sight to behold as the interior.

James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist after whom the museum is named, once said of Cooperstown, “Lying, as it does, off the great routes, the village of Cooperstown is less known than it deserves to be.  Few persons visit it, without acknowledging the beauties of its natural scenery, and the general neatness and decency of the place itself. . . . Everything shows a direction towards . . . an improving civilization.”

The Fenimore Art Museum highlights the essence of Cooper’s description of Cooperstown, and it goes beyond that: It weaves together an intricate topography of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century American life through art.

In 1944, curator and art collector Stephen Carlton Clark (brother of Sterling Clark) donated the Fenimore House to the New York State Historical Association to use as a site for many of the folk and fine-art pieces he would later donate. James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th-century farmhouse overlooking Otsego Lake made for an exemplary location to have a permanent gallery of skillfully crafted art—it’s the same spot where he garnered the inspiration to write The Last of the Mohicans.

The Eugene and Clare Thaw exhibition explores not just American Indian culture in New York State, but American Indian cultures as far away as the Great Basin, Southwest, and California. Nearly 850 pieces have been aggregated by the Thaws or by donors.

The folk art collection is rich with paintings, quilts, carvings and weathervanes dating as far back as the mid-18th century.

The Fenimore Art Museum won’t open for the season until April 1, so pencil in an early spring drive through scenic Cooperstown—a colorful history of America awaits you.

–Lauren Servideo

The Hyde Collection

So much for provincialism. Whatever attributes the Capital Region may lack, great art isn’t one of them. Take for example the Hyde Collection. Within this old house in tiny Glens Falls resides a world-renowned Rembrandt—Christ With Arms Folded, which has just returned from a world tour—that keeps company with Rubens’ celebrated Head of a Moor. And a Degas ballerina, a 4th-century B.C.E. Greek statue, a Van Gogh drawing, a Josiah Wedgewood jasperware cameo, and a Winslow Homer bronze bronco—along with astonishing groupings of Impressionist and Renaissance artworks and the highest craftsmanship of decorative arts ranging from Caldwell chandeliers to medieval Flemish tapestries. The list of boldface names the Hyde can drop is too long to mention, but Picasso, Botticelli, Van Dyck and Whistler are representative.

What makes the Hyde so unique is that it is both a history house that still retains the imprint of the family that lived there, and a vital museum offering important temporary exhibits and community programming. The Hyde has hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Jim MacMillan (Walking Through Ground Zero: Images From the First 24 Hours) and has Toulouse Lautrec & Company opening this week. Yet few museums can match the experience of entering Charlotte Hyde’s window-filled bedroom and imagining how the first thing she saw every morning was a Renoir portrait.

Charlotte Pruyn Hyde was born in Glens Falls in 1867, the daughter of a paper-mill owner. She married her husband, Louis Fiske Hyde, a Harvard Law student, in 1906. When they returned to Glens Falls, Charlotte and her two sisters built adjoining Renaissance palazzo-style mansions on the bluffs above the Hudson River. The architect, Henry Forbes Bigelow, was noted for the charm of his residential interiors; this can be seen in Hyde House’s inside courtyard and soaring skylight (decorated with a 14th-century Venetian fountain). Both art lovers, Charlotte and Louis traveled yearly to Europe, becoming part of America’s “golden age” of private art collecting. Though they were advised by the leading art connoisseurs of the time, they mostly bought what they liked and wanted to live with; the intimacy of that cohabitation remains, such as the surprise of seeing an ancient Japanese watercolor across from an early-American inlaid chest, or a Steinway grand piano centering the medieval artifacts of the Music Room.

After Louis died in 1934, Charlotte added a significant array of modern masters, including Cezanne, Ingres, Goya, and Seurat. Before she died in 1963, she bequeathed the house, its exquisite furnishings, and the collection to the city of Glens Falls, funding it with a trust so the site could delight and inform area residents for generations to come. In the decades since, the Hyde has acquired the mansions of her two sisters, built a wing for exhibitions, and expanded with an auditorium and other educational facilities.

Known for its eclectic sophistication, the collection is frequently asked for loans to exhibits in the most prestigious museums in America and Europe. And you can still take a peek into the bathroom, and view the sunken bathtub that must’ve been quite the conversation piece in its day.

–Ann Morrow

Irish American Heritage Museum

Most Albanians are aware of Albany’s Irish heritage, and how Irish immigrants helped to shape the region’s politics and architecture. And usually, that’s about all they know. Yet even those who are well versed in this Irish heritage, which began in 1686 when the city was given its charter by the Irish-born royal governor, Thomas Dongan, may be surprised by the prominence and diversity of the history and contributions of the Irish in New York and the rest of America. But as of mid-January, this legacy is much more accessible, now that the Irish American Heritage Museum has moved into its new home in downtown Albany, where its weeklong opening celebration drew capacity crowds.

For 25 years at its exhibit center in East Durham, the museum was open only during the summer. Though many of its exhibits, such as An Gorta Mor: The Great Hunger, went out on well-received tours, the museum was hampered in its educational and cultural missions. For many years, it aimed for a location in the capital city, and after an intensive search, the museum chose the historic Meginniss Building on Broadway, both for its location, just off 787 and near the state Capitol the Irish helped to build, and for its industrial ambience, which underwent an award-winning renovation.

The gallery-like interior is much more than a space where exhibits can be hung on the walls and changed every few weeks, however. It already has a wide-ranging schedule that includes hands-on genealogical instruction, kids’ fairs, film festivals in collaboration with the Irish film archive, and a music project involving the remastering of a large collection of rare LP recordings of Irish pick-up bands, some of whom went on to bigger and better-known careers. And it’s already receiving important donations, such as a significant oil portrait given to the museum by aging collectors who wanted to find the painting an appropriate home.

The museum includes the Paul O’Dwyer Library and archives from the Ancient Order of Hibernians. But for all its scholarship, it has a cutting-edge side, too: Critically acclaimed Irish artist Roisin Fitzpatrick will be bringing her super-hot Artist of the Light installation for exhibit in May.

–Ann Morrow


While the Massachussetts Museum of Contemporary Art is still only 13 years young, the buildings in which it resides span three centuries. The 110,000-square-foot industrial complex at the edge of the Hoosic River has been a fixture of North Adams, Mass., since the late 1700s, when all manner of milling and manufacturing took root. The turn of the 20th century found the space being used as a massive textile printing plant before Sprague Electric took over the 26 buildings in 1942. Upon Sprague’s closing in 1986, Williams College Museum of Art director Thomas Krens floated the idea that the tremendous space could be used as an unprecedented venue for displaying large-scale contemporary artwork. Krens’ colleague Joseph C. Thompson took over the project, and with more than a decade of fundraising and architectural repurposing, MASS MoCA opened as the “country’s largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts.”

From a curatorial point of view, there’s very little that MASS MoCA can’t do. The 13-acre complex features 19 galleries, one as long as a football field, a number of theaters, courtyards and an outdoor field that can be utilized as a large-scale music venue. The list of internationally significant contemporary artists who have shown in the facility goes on and on, while MASS MoCA staff are continually finding new uses for the buildings. The Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective, on view until 2033, inhabits the entire three floors of Building #7. And while the event is on hiatus for the year, the Wilco Solid Sound festival may be the most ambitious use of the venue’s exhibition and performance capabilities yet.

New shows include Sanford Biggers’ exploration of Afrofuturism, The Cartographer’s Conundrum, Anna Betbeze’s textile works, and a group show called Making Room: The Space Between Two and Three Dimensions.

–Josh Potter

The New York State Museum

If you grew up anywhere in the state within school busing distance of Albany, you probably have at least one strong memory of the New York State Museum. Maybe you played hide and seek in the Adirondack Wilderness room, thought you saw one of the human statues move in the Native Peoples show, made elephant sounds behind your teacher’s back next to the Cohoes Mastodon, or held hands with a crush on the 1916 carousel. The perfect combination of timely new shows about New York topics such as The World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response and timeless ongoing exhibits that haven’t changed a bit since you first saw them as a kid, the New York State Museum is the perfect field-trip destination—whether or not you’re young enough to need a parent chaperone.

Founded in 1836 as the State Geological and Natural History Survey, the museum’s initial function was to house animal, vegetable and mineral specimans before taking an anthropological turn to document the state’s native peoples in 1850. The facility continued to evolve throughout the 19th century as the catalog grew; it survived a fire and a period of time housed in the State Education Building; it gained larger audiences, anthropological dioramas and a new educational mission in the early 20th century; and with the construction of the Empire State Plaza, the museum moved into its current home in the Cultural Education Center in 1976.

The museum’s scope is so vast that a visit can prove a dizzying trip through geologic history, antique automobiles and the set of Sesame Street, which is to say that it’s the perfect antidote to a rainy day. Factor in the range of lectures, workshops, children’s programs, after-school programs and teacher’s resources, and the museum is undoubtedly one of our great free public treasures.

–Josh Potter

The Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell was born in New York City and spent much of his life there, in the Westchester County suburb of New Rochelle, and in Vermont. In 1953, the successful painter and illustrator moved his family to Stockbridge, Mass., so that his wife, who suffered from depression, could be treated at the Austen Riggs Center, a noted psychiatric hospital. Rockwell spent the last 25 years of his life in Stockbridge, and his name eventually became synonymous with the small town whose daily life and inhabitants inspired many of his works, and where the Norman Rockwell Museum was founded in 1969.

The museum quietly spent its first 24 years at the Old Corner House on Main Street in Stockbridge, but became a world-renowned cultural institution after it moved to its present location, a 36-acre site overlooking the Housatonic River Valley. The main museum building, designed by architect Robert A. M. Stern, is open to the public year-round; Rockwell’s studio, a separate building that was moved from its original Stockbridge location to the museum site, is open from May through October.

In the studio, visitors can see Rockwell’s personal library, some of his original art materials, furnishings, and other personal items. The museum also houses the Norman Rockwell Archives, a collection of photographs, letters, personal calendars, fan mail, and business documents. Temporary exhibits often highlight the work of another illustrator, or a particular technique, or a historical trend, such as the 2009 exhibit that vividly demonstrated how American illustrators were employed to drum up patriotic fervor for World War I.

The main attraction, of course, is the permanent collection—and what a collection! From the famous Saturday Evening Post covers like The Rookie and The Marriage License (the latter for which Rockwell employed Berkshire locals as models, as he often did) to social commentaries like The Problem We All Live With and The Four Freedoms, to crowd pleasers like Home for Christmas, the museum offers a penetrating look into Norman Rockwell’s body of work and some of the motivations behind it. And it dares art snobs who have passed off Rockwell as too wholesome and Hallmark-card-like to take a closer look.

–Stephen Leon

Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium

While the museum itself is tucked away on the hillside at the end of Nott Terrace Heights, the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium has a calling card on Nott Terrace that clues you in to its mission: a 1953 Alco locomotive manufactured in Schenectady.

The Schenectady Museum has assumed a science and technology mission for Tech Valley that reflects the Electric City’s long history of innovation. And, naturally, much of this is centered on General Electric, a corporation that the continues to be deeply intertwined with the city’s history. This mission is both historical, as reflected in the museum’s archives, and educational, reflected in the many exhibits geared toward students of all ages.

Founded in 1934, the museum merged in 1997 with the Hall of Electrical History; the museum’s archives now hold more than a million and a half photographs, 500 books, 1,000 films and numerous examples of technology. The exhibits reflect this history of innovation, but also look to the future with sections dedicated to energy development and the kid-friendly FETCH! Lab, which is an interactive exhibit tied in with the PBS show FETCH! and is offered in collaboration with WMHT.

And let’s not forget the planetarium: The “star” of the Suits-Bueche Planetarium is the sophisticated GOTO Chronos Star Machine, the only projector of its kind in the Northeast. It can show more than 8,000 stars and 24 constellations, and “can show the sky from any location on Earth 100,000 years in the past or future.”

Now that’s a trip worth taking.

–Shawn Stone

The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery

Like the architectural play of cubes and triangles that building designer Antoine Predock situated across the geological faultlines of the Skidmore College campus, the Tang was founded in fall of 2000 to straddle the various academic missions of the liberal arts college. More than an “art gallery” that, one faculty member says in the Tang’s online video tutorial, could be misinterpreted as “a big place to hang stuff,” the 39,000 square foot space is regarded as a “teaching museum” flexible enough in format to allow for exciting interdisciplinary collaborations, such as A Very Liquid Heaven, co-curated by Skidmore astrophysics and studio art professors.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

A prime example of this is the current pair of exhibitions on view until the end of May. Downstairs, Tough Life Diary is a 50-year retrospective of artist Nancy Grossman’s work in painting, collage and leather sculpture. Grossman’s explorations of feminism and the relationship of internal personal landscapes to external appearances through bondage-like leather masks serve as a fitting preamble to the political art of Donald Moffett upstairs. The first survey of Moffett’s work in 20 years, The Extravagant Vein adresses gay rights and notions of the subversion of appearances through inside-out paintings and video projected upon irredescent canvas.

–Josh Potter

Williams College Museum of Art

The Williams College Museum of Art has come a long way since its establishment in 1926. The museum now owns a permanent collection of more than 13,000 pieces, and boasts paintings, sculpture and photographs from brand-name celebrities of the art world. In fact, it is widely considered one of the finest college art museums in the country.

Located in a quaint setting amid the Berkshire Hills, the teaching museum attracts visitors and art students from across the world. There are now 14 galleries, and the grounds are home to multiple outdoor sculpture.

It’s impossible to miss American artist Louise Bourgeois’ bronze piece, Eyes (Nine Elements), which “looks” down on Route 2 at night with illuminated pupils.

Also located on the grounds is American artist Jenny Holzer’s 715 Molecules. The oversized stone table and benches are enjoyed by students, faculty and visitors of the campus.

The WCMA is renowned for its collection of works by Maurice and Charles Prendergast. With more than 450 paintings, sketchbooks and frames; the collection is the largest of any museum. In addition to the Prendergast collection, the WCMA owns a Georgia O’Keeffe, an Edward Hopper and a Diane Arbus.

Currently, the WCMA’s Reinstallation Project is mixing up the rules of exhibition and showing more pieces from the permanent collection than usual. The project opened on April 7, 2011, and will run for three years. Ten of the museum’s galleries house hundreds of major artworks along with 50 more works from the Yale University Art Gallery in eight separate exhibitions.

Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, and Pablo Picasso share the same space in one gallery. In another gallery, 5,000-year-old Egyptian artifacts and two Assyrian reliefs from 3500 B.C. bring the exhibition’s focus to the past and to the story of how the museum acquired the pieces.

There are plenty of reasons for art lovers to take a trip to the Williams College Museum of Art. Fans of historical artifacts and lovers of modern art will all appreciate the price of admiss

ion: It is, and always has been, free.

–Erin Pihlaja