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Workers complete construction of the foundation for the original museum building at the Clark

Construction and Beginnings

In 1952 construction began on the original white marble building that was to house the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. After a lengthy search process, Sterling Clark chose Daniel Perry as architect. Clark himself became highly involved in the Institute’s creation, even living in a small apartment in the back galleries of the museum when he and Francine arrived for stays in Williamstown. His desire for domestic gallery spaces is clearly manifest in the ultimate design, which includes small and intimate galleries with many large windows that provide views of the nearby pond and pastures.

In 1955 the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute opened its doors under the guidance of its first director, former silver dealer Peter Guille. There were only two galleries on view, and the majority of the works were not displayed. The Clark slowly unveiled its treasures during several exhibitions in the coming years. However, from the beginning the Clark received critical acclaim. It was heralded in the Berkshire Evening Eagle as “a mecca of the art world” and celebrated as a “cultural asset” for Berkshire County as well as a resource for the Williams College community. The Boston Sunday Globe also praised its incredibly modern and innovative lighting and climate control systems. Even with such high praise and expectations none could have imagined what the Institute would become in the next half-century.