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Clark Art Institute Presents Ideas for Master Plan

For Immediate Release

May 12, 2000

CLARK ART INSTITUTE PRESENTS IDEAS FOR MASTER PLAN Citing new events, strategies, and challenges, Clark director Michael Conforti talks about program highlights, far-reaching educational and research goals, and the Institute's need for growth. WILLIAMSTOWN, MA

Michael Conforti, director of the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, asked those attending a special members meeting today for their input into the Institute's master plan for the preservation and development of its 130 acre campus. "You're going to see a subtle shift in the Clark, and there's a lot going on here that we want to share with you," said Conforti. "We are presenting this master plan process to you as evidence of our commitment to community leadership, conservation, and stewardship. As the Clark enters its 45th anniversary year, we are just beginning to understand where we need to grow."

Conforti stressed that the Clark is a major economic and tourism force in the Berkshires, drawing between 175,000 and 200,000 visitors annually. The Massachusetts Cultural Council in February awarded the Clark a $64,000 grant to support exhibitions, education and research programs, the first time the Institute has received operating support from the state of Massachusetts. "The Clark has a special two-part mission: as an art museum and as a research and academic center," he said. "We have decided to step back and analyze our growth and in the process are investigating the appropriate balance of the needs of the Institute and the natural landscapes."

Conforti described for the audience the Clark's recent acquisitions and exhibitions; its new public family activities; its commitment to education and schoolchildren; the June arrival of Michael Cassin, new education curator, from the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh; the outdoor band concerts which will attract up to five thousand people in the summer; and its classical and popular music performances. He also described the Clark's upcoming Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930, a spectacular visual tour of America's fascination with the so-called "exotic" Middle East through art and popular culture.

The exhibition, which opens June 11, will also illustrate how Orientalism spread from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 into the world of department stores, music halls, movie houses and advertising. "As a visually stunning exhibition that also presents challenging concepts, Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures demonstrates the changes and growth at the Clark," Conforti said. "The Clark's role as an art museum and its mission as an incubator of new ideas are coming together, and this exhibition is a manifestation of that."

Don Clinton from the planning firm of Cooper, Robertson, and Partners, New York, presented the audience with the issues of land use and conservation, showing various maps of the area. Conforti emphasized that one of the Clark's biggest assets is the natural beauty of its surroundings. "The most important thing we can do is approach our growth from the stewardship position we have been entrusted with...the conservation for which we are known and respected," he said.

Conforti also announced that the Clark expects to have the master plan complete by the end of summer or early fall, and at that time will present the plan to the public. At this point, he said, the Institute is engaged in fact-finding, space analysis and understanding the dynamics of the property. Following the presentations, members of the audience were invited to ask questions or offer comments. Conforti pointed out that the meeting was being recorded so that all feedback can be reviewed and evaluated. All Clark members were invited to attend today's meeting. The Clark currently has more than 2100 members, an increase of 72 percent since 1995. The Clark Art Institute The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is one of handful of institutions in the United States that combines a public art museum with a complex of research and academic programs, including a major art history library. As such, the Clark functions as an international center in the museum field for research and discussion on the nature of art and art history.

The Clark was chartered in 1950 by Robert Sterling Clark and opened its doors in 1955, welcoming the public to a collection of artworks and books that he and his wife had assembled over the course of five decades. The collection is best known for Mr. and Mrs. Clark's extraordinary French Impressionist paintings, which take their place among a wider ensemble of masterworks that range from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century. Among the highlights are works by Ugolino di Nerio, Piero della Francesca, Fragonard, Corot, Bouguereau, Turner, and an especially strong representation of American artists, including Homer, Cassatt, and Sargent.

The Clark is also noted for its fine holdings of decorative arts and old master and nineteenth-century drawings and prints. Its library has grown to become one of the nation's premier resources for the study of European and American art, containing more than 200,000 printed books, bound periodicals, and auction sales catalogues. The Clark Fellows program brings leading scholars from universities and museums around the country and the world to Williamstown for up to a year, to develop, discuss and present their ideas and projects.

The conference and symposium program presents one major Clark Conference a year on a topic of vital importance to the field, as well as smaller symposia and lectures. This expansion of the Clark's activities further strengthens the Graduate Program in the History of Art, the country's foremost program of its kind, which is administered jointly with nearby Williams College.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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