Berkshire County, Massachusetts

By Sara Frantz

Rolling Berkshire hills as seen from Lee, Massachusetts (my hometown) 

Primarily known for its rolling hills, the Berkshires are also known for the arts: Tanglewood, James Taylor, Clark Art Institute, Norman Rockwell and Jacob’s Pillow to name a few. One of my absolute favorite art gems is Mass MOCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art).

A (very brief) history: Mass MOCA consists of 26 buildings that sit on 16 acres of land in North Adams, MA. The site once functioned as an industrial plant comprised of various small textile industries from shoe manufacturers to wagon-makers. By the mid 1800s a cloth printing company had taken over the majority of the buildings until the great depression when it became home to Sprague Electric Company. When Sprague finally closed in 1985, a collective effort from the town of North Adams and Williams College Museum of Art helped to bring the museum to life. Mass MOCA opened to the public in 1999.

The first time I visited Mass MOCA I was 14. My rudimentary perception and understanding of art was about to change significantly in that one visit. An exhibit that has stayed with me since that day was in a large empty two story gallery where sheets of white paper sporadically and delicately fell from the ceiling. It was magical, like being inside of a snow globe and far from what I considered at the time to be art. There, ever after, Mass MOCA would always dazzle me.

Visitors come to see the expansive and ever-changing collection of contemporary art and sculpture nestled in this industrial maze as well as the the many music, dance and theater performances hosted at Mass MOCA every year. If I haven’t convinced you to visit, did you know Mass MOCA grows upside down maple trees, which they do in fact tap to make upside down maple syrup? Did I also happen to mention there is an on-site micro brewery? If you need any more reasons to visit Mass MOCA or the Berkshires...


Iconic upside down maple trees - photo from Mass MOCA website


The Mount - Edith Wharton’s Home

Norman Rockwell Museum Studio

Clark Art Institute

Jacob’s Pillow Dance