The mission of the BAA is to connect artists and the community in order to inspire creativity and increase access to the visual arts.
Membership in the Berkshire Art Association supports the college BAA Fellowships and the annual Fellowship Show at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and grants to Berkshire County high school art classes for art field trips. It also supports special projects like Pittsfield’s First Fridays Artswalks and the 10×10 RAP (Real Art Party), a collaboration with Storefront Artist Project and the Berkshire Museum.
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.
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 the 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.
From 2006 through 2007, the Berkshire Art Association coordinated Art Of The Game – a baseball-themed public art celebration of Pittsfield’s long baseball history and involving youth, schools, sculptors, painters and installation artists, and baseball enthusiasts and players. Today, visitors to Pittsfield will still see baseball themed art around the City.
We helped inaugurate summer juried outdoor art shows in downtown Pittsfield in 2005. Through 2010, the BAA collaborated with the City of Pittsfield’s Artscape Committee and Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. to present the Pittsfield Art Show, which became a major, creative economy event featuring more than 75 artists each year showing juried fine arts and fine crafts. Artists who participated may be found under the Artist Gallery listing on this website.
In 2012, the BAA helped local merchants and artists set up the First Fridays Artswalk under the auspices of Downtown Pittsfield, Inc. BAA is continuing its financial sponsorship in 2013.
In 2013, BAA is launching the 10×10 RAP (Real Art Party) – a fun(d) venture with Storefront Artist Project and the Berkshire Museum to benefit Berkshire art students. Art donated by artists is being shown at the Berkshire Museum and sold via ARTix at a culminating party during the City of Pittsfield’s 10×10 Festival in February. Proceeds will benefit the BAA college fellowships, art field trip grants for Berkshire high schools, and free admission for art students to the Berkshire Museum.
In October 2015, shortly after our fall annual meeting, the board met for a day-long retreat, facilitated by experienced non-profit leader Dr. Scott Murray. We reaffirmed our commitment to the visual arts and Berkshire county and the great legacy of the BAA. We decided to start our 64th year with a more concise mission statement and a new brand identity, created by local artist Regina Burgio.
As the Berkshire Art Association moves into the future, we will continue to evolve as we seek to further to our core mission. We invite your participation.