Mass MoCA takes its act to big city
Wow! You should have seen the turnout for Mass MoCA’s New York City fundraising celebration. In her speech, Stacy Cochcran, who was instrumental in putting the event together, commented about the word “gala” being overused at these events. All too often, she said, the word connotes a rich “in” crowd when organizations like Mass MoCA should be reaching outward. I think she has a point.
Inclusion is very important and I am impressed that Mass MoCA is thinking along those lines. The affair was held in one of New York City’s oldest synagogues which now houses The Angel Orensanz Foundation.
The beautiful building has been meticulously restored and knocks your socks off when you see it. It’s right around the corner from the world-famous Katz’s Delicatessen which has the best turkey, cole slaw and Russian dressing sandwiches in the world.
The place was crowded with supporters but the piéce de résistance was the presence of that incredible couple, Don Gummer and Meryl Streep. Someone asked if I had a chance to speak with them, and I replied that I could have more easily had a conversation with the Pope while watching him from St. Peter’s Square. Museum Director Joe Thompson and his lovely wife, Jennifer Trainer, have really put North Adams on the map and the group of folks who showed up to support the institution were truly an affirmation that when it comes to contemporary art, there is nothing like Mass MoCA.
Sitting next to me was the outgoing mayor of North Adams, Big John Barrett.
You just have to love the man. He knows more about government and how to run a city than anyone I have ever met. As I sat there listening to him, I thought how ironic it was that Mayor Jim Ruberto won his race in Pittsfield in part because of the support of the arts community while a few disgruntled, self-styled arts types did John Barrett in.
The museum became a focal point in the campaign when Dick Alcombright let it be known that North Adams was more than Mass MoCA. I sure hope Alcombright doesn’t translate his win into a mandate not to help the now world famous museum. That would be a colossal mistake. In fact, my bet would be that nothing could be more likely to make him a one-term mayor.
As for Barrett, I would sure think that some school of government would grab him up as fast as possible. I have taught local government in my time and I can tell you that students would much rather learn from those that have done it rather than from those who get it out of a book. No one could be better for that kind of position than Barrett.
The lovely Roselle and I were privileged to go to two outstanding events in a single evening. The first was the announcement at Cranwell of the upcoming Tanglewood season. The big room was jammed with some of the major givers who came to hear the always eloquent, sardonic and funny Mark Volpe talk about what’s in store. This is going to be one of the best years ever, with all the major stars including James Taylor and Carole King doing two nights of pure magic. I warn you to get your tickets the moment they become available because otherwise you’ll be left out in the hot. When J.T. got up to speak with Carole, you could have heard a pin drop. The guy always reminds me of Abraham Lincoln, who I knew quite well. He is so earnest that you hang on every word. When you think of how we love our James and his wonderful wife Kim and how much they have done for Tanglewood, the whole thing is as Berkshires as Berkshires can be.
Then we went to see Peter Yarrow at The Colonial. He’s a wonderful man who has dedicated himself to making the world a better place. Of course, he spoke at length about the late Mary Travers and he was very moving. It was a real feather in the cap for David Fleming and his Colonial Theatre to land Yarrow and his daughter Bethany. I can’t believe what a wonderful singer Bethany Yarrow is. In her between-songs patter, she referenced the late Odetta, who had one of the most extraordinary voices in the history of folk music.
I have to tell you, Odetta would have been proud of the younger Yarrow. Peter was great, as always, but Bethany, well, Bethany blew us all away. Good for the Colonial, which more and more is showing what a vibrant and generous community organization can be.
Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 11/28/09