Passing the Torch

Passing the Torch

Date:  October 20, 2015

Berkshire Art association Honors Norman and Rose Avnet, Danielle Steinmann Becomes President at Annual Meeting

The public is invited to a reception honoring Norman Avnet and his late wife Rose for their extraordinary support of the Berkshire Art Association on Tuesday, October 20th at 5:30pm at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield’s Upstreet Cultural District, located at 28 Renne Avenue.  The reception will be followed by the Berkshire Art Association’s annual meeting at 6pm where Danielle Steinmann will be installed as the new Berkshire Art Association President, succeeding longtime president Mary Rentz, who will continue on the board as past president.

Dr. Norman Avnet and his late wife, Rose, have been generous leaders in the Pittsfield community since the 1970s, when Norman assumed the Chairmanship of Berkshire Medical Center’s Radiology Department.  Lovers of the arts, they were active members of the Berkshire Art Association, Jacob’s Pillow, Temple Anshe Amunim, the Berkshire Museum, and many other organizations.  Norman was a founder of what is now the Osher Lifetime Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College.  Rose served as President of the Berkshire Art Association and was on its Board when she passed away in 2007.

In the 1980s, the Avnets established an investment fund for the annual Berkshire Art Association college fellowships.  Until recently, Dr. Avnet actively managed the fund, which acts as an endowment for the annual BAA Fellowship Show.  With additional support from the community, BAA has been able to award $5000 in recent years to Berkshire college art students.  Henceforth, this fund will be known as “The Norman and Rose Avnet Berkshire Art Association Fellowship Fund.”

Since 1950, the non-profit Berkshire Art Association has been dedicated to encouraging emerging artists and to giving Berkshire residents and visitors opportunities to view and become engaged with contemporary trends in American art.  We promote the visual arts in Berkshire County by sponsoring art shows, educational programs and college level fellowships, and encouraging interaction among artists, art students, and the greater community.

About Danielle Steinmann
Danielle Steinmann has spent her career making connections between people, organizations, and subject matter through the creation of innovative, dynamic, and collaborative interpretive programs at non-profit organizations.  As Director of Visitor Interpretation at the Trustees of Reservations, she leads the effort to enliven, animate, and rejuvenate the Trustees’ many historic and cultural properties.  These properties include the National Historic Landmarks such as Naumkeag and Old Manse, and the iconic Castle Hill at Crane Estate.

Prior to joining the Trustees, Steinmann was the Associate Director of Interpretation and Public Programs at Hancock Shaker Village.  There she created visitor experiences designed to make the Shaker way of life relevant to contemporary audiences.  Before Hancock Shaker Village, Steinmann was the Assistant Curator of Education at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, where she initiated and developed new public programs and outreach strategies aimed at diverse audiences and oversaw the training and management of the Clark’s docents and paid guides.  She has taught Art History and Museum Studies courses as an adjunct faculty member at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Bennington College.  Her volunteer associations include the Berkshire Art Association, IS183 Art School, Storefront Artist Project, and the Contemporary Artists Center, North Adams.  Steinmann holds a BA cum laude in Art History and French Studies from Wellesley College and an MA in the History of Art and Architecture from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and has had extensive training in Visual Thinking Strategies and graduate coursework in education.  She currently lives in Pittsfield where she enjoys gardening, baking, canning, and hunting for mid-century modern treasures at estate sales.

About Mary Rentz
Mary Rentz has served as President of the Berkshire Art Association since 2002.  During these years, the Berkshire Art Association was the lead organizer of Sheeptacular Pittsfield!, the Pittsfield Art Shows, Art Of The Game, the 10×10 RAP (Real Art Party), annual BAA Fellowship Shows and several juried and invitational exhibits at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts. An active community volunteer, Mary is a former member of the Pittsfield’s Cultural Development Advisory Council, serves as vice-chair of Hancock Shaker Village, and received the Berkshire Award from Berkshire Museum earlier this year in recognition of the extraordinary work she has done through the Berkshire Art Association and other cultural organizations in the Berkshires.

About the Berkshire Art Association
For over forty years, between 1952 and 1998, the Berkshire Art Association held annual juried regional shows at the Berkshire Museum.  The first BAA exhibit had 70 works selected from 300 submitted and a catalog that sold for 20 cents.  By 1957 the BAA Show had gained the attention of artists and art lovers far beyond Berkshire County, including The New York Times.  Jurors have included Norman Rockwell, Professor Lane Faison of Williams College, Thomas Messer and Thomas Kren, both directors of the Guggenheim Museum, and directors of galleries at Carnegie Mellon, the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Rhode Island School of Design, Yale, Smith, the Whitney, and MOMA among many others.

In 1972 the first two student awards were given, $250 each, the start of what became the annual Fellowship for college art students.  For several years a $1,000 traveling prize for art students was awarded, funded by the Lawrence H. Bloedell family of Williamstown.

BAA upgraded its exhibits and catalogs in the 1980s,offered it first workshop on Artists’ Hazards, and began tours to New York artists studios.  By the late 1990s, the show was attracting over 800 entries and standing room only crowds for its opening night lectures and receptions.

The BAA also sponsored spring shows – Works on Paper and Invitationals.  Many interest groups kept the BAA’s mission vital – art classes; sketch groups; artist, fellowship, fundraising and reception committees; touring groups; and always a large and active Board.

After the museum decided to discontinue hosting juried art show, the Berkshire Art Association held the 2000 invitational exhibit at the DeSisto School Gallery in Stockbridge.  The BAA’s focus for the next few years was on Artist Talks, Studio Tours and the Fellowship Show.

The BAA Fellowship Show moved to the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, a perfect space for a small exhibition.  With an endowment and fundraising, awards have increased from $3,000 to $5,000 annually, and the opening awards reception is a well attended event.

The BAA was an organizing partner of a different kind of juried exhibit in 2004 – SHEEPTACULAR PITTSFIELD!  Artists decorated 70 Merino Sheep Sculptures, and artists, tourists, local citizens, and school children flocked downtown to enjoy this fun public art.  The BAA sponsored 5 Artists’ Talks and a Public Art Forum at the Berkshire Museum.

In 2005 the Berkshire Art Association helped inaugurate summer juried outdoor art shows in downtown Pittsfield, followed six years later by the First Fridays Artswalk in downtown Pittsfield.

From 2006 through 2007, the Berkshire Art Association coordinated Art Of The Game – a baseball-themed public art celebration involving youth, schools, sculptors, painters and installation artists, and baseball enthusiasts and players.  Visitors to Pittsfield will still see baseball themed art around the City.