Annual Conference Brings Culture and Business Leaders to the Berkshires in February

For Immediate Release

January 24, 2007

Organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), and the Williams College Museum of Art, the 4th annual Berkshire Conference provides a forum for exploring the social, cultural and economic ramifications of the dynamic and increasingly complex interaction between the worlds of business and culture. The Berkshire Conference provides the opportunity for arts, business, and policy leaders to gather for serious dialogue. The conference is built around a series of five moderated panel discussions that explore institutional developments, philanthropic and management trends, and the connections between the worlds of culture, business, and media. More than 150 invited guests attend for the weekend, boosting hotel occupancy throughout the region and attracting new visitors to the many cultural activities offered in the region.

While the conference sessions are not open to the public, limited seats are available for the keynote address on Friday, February 9, at 8 pm at the Clark. The conference’s keynote speaker is playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Free tickets for Smith’s talk must be reserved in advance and are available on a first-come basis by calling 413-458-0524.

Hailed by Newsweek as “the most exciting individual in American theater,” Smith uses her singular brand of theater to explore issues of race, community and character in America. She was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellowship for creating “a new form of theater — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism and intimate reverie.”

Smith is perhaps best known as the author and performer of two one-woman plays about racial tensions in American cities — Fires in the Mirror (Obie Award-winner and runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize) and Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 (Obie Award-winner and Tony Award nominee). She plays National Security Advisor Nancy McNally on NBC’s The West Wing and co-starred in the CBS drama, Presidio Med. She appeared in the films The Human Stain, Philadelphia, Dave, and The American President, and on TV’s The Practice.

Her latest book (2006) is Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts — For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind. She also is the author of Talk to Me: Travels in Media & Politics, which documents the creative process behind her play, House Arrest. In an effort to discern the mythic role of the presidency in American society, Smith interviewed over 400 people from all walks of life, from prison inmates to President Clinton.

In 1998 in association with the Ford Foundation, Smith founded the institute on the Arts & Civic Dialogue at Harvard (now at New York University). The institute's mission is to explore the role of the arts in relation to vital social issues.

Smith is a tenured professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and is affiliated with the NYU School of Law, where she teaches a course on “The Art of Listening.” Smith is working on a book about art and politics. Her new play, Let Me Down Easy, debuts in 2007.

At the conclusion of the conference, the organizers will publish a series of white papers summarizing the proceedings, which will be made available to the public. White papers from past conferences are available on the Berkshire Conference website at www.berkshireconference.org.

The Clark, located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, is one of only a few institutions in the United States that is both a public art museum and a research and academic center supported by a distinguished art library. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (daily in July and August). Admission is free November through May. Admission June 1 through October 31 is $12.50 for adults, free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. Through June 30, 2007, MASS MoCA’s galleries are open from 11 am to 5 pm, closed Tuesdays. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students with ID, $4 for children six to 16 and free for children five and under. Members are admitted free at all times. More information on MASS MoCA and its exhibitions is available at www.massmoca.org or by calling 413-662-2111.

One of the finest college art museums in the country, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) houses 12,000 works that span the history of art. Within the broad range of time periods and cultures represented, the collection emphasizes modern and contemporary art, American art from the late 18th century to present, and the art of world cultures. Admission to the museum is always free as are a host of educational programs that are available to the public. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 1 to 5 pm. Wheelchair accessible. For more info, call 413-597-2429.

For more info. on the Berkshire Conference, visit www.berkshireconference.org.

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