Backstories: The Other Side of Art at The Clark

Backstories: The Other Side of Art on View at
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
December 22nd-April 21st in Williamstown

Works of art can lead a double life, with one side revealed to the public and the other hidden from view. In the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s exhibition Backstories: The Other Side of Art, these often hidden sides will come to light as a selection of works tell their little-known “backstories,” revealing when and how they were made, how they have been cared for by collectors, and the many changes they have undergone.

Museums and galleries use more than just the pieces displayed in the exhibits they show to identify them – the stories behind paintings, sculptures, and other creative works are often much richer than they seem at first glance.  Information like signatures, dates, and other notes can often be found on the back of paintings, while busts and vases often have information carved into their bases.  Artists also often used the reverse sides of their works to do sketches or make notes about their piece.  These markings and small bits of information can help viewers learn more about things like the historical context in which a piece was created, the previous homes and/or owners of the piece, and the materials used by the artist.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is offering a special new exhibit, Backstories: The Other Side of Art, focused on these hidden stories!  On view between December 22nd, 2012 and April 21st, 2013, the exhibit is filled with works displayed non-traditionally so that viewers can inspect both sides of the story – literally!  Visitors can inspect the back sides of paintings, see interesting double-sided portraits, view preliminary sketches on the back of beautiful drawings, and examine all 360 degrees of a silver milk jug engraved with the names of all of its owners (including Benjamin Franklin!).

Exploring this exhibit with your family or students (or on your own!) can provide a powerful learning experience – youth of all ages can learn about the importance of looking at art within its historical context, offering exposure to basic skills in identifying art techniques, historical relationships, and time periods.  It can get them thinking about the backstory of other pieces of art too … maybe even spark an interest in researching the history behind other great works of art!

If your children or students have read and enjoyed E.L. Konigsburg’s book,  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, they love this real-life explorations of the backstories of art!  This title would be great to pair with a visit to Backstories.

For more information visit or call the Clark Institute at 413-458-2303.  The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, MA.  Admission to the exhibit is included with regular museum admission ($).

Family Day at The Clark Celebrates the Exhibit, Picasso Looks at Degas

Family Day at The Clark Celebrates the Exhibit, Picasso Looks at Degas
Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Free Family Day at the Clark on June 27th, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, celebrates the exhibition Picasso Looks at Degas with art activities, dance and theater performances, ice carving, and more; includes free admission to the museum.

A spectacular FREE day of family activities on Sunday, June 27, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, will celebrate the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s summer exhibition, Picasso Looks at Degas, which examines Picasso’s lifelong fascination with the life and work of Degas. The day will feature art activities and workshops, entertainment for all ages, local food vendors, and more. Admission to the Clark’s galleries and most activities is free on this festive day. Registration for workshops and other programs is not required.

Ongoing, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm

Explore the grounds and enjoy fun performances and activities:

  • Gather your courage and ride the mechanical Spanish bull
  • Cool off at the “Take a Bath” water sprinkler park
  • Delight in the moveable Degas and Picasso statues
  • Watch ice sculptor Craig O’Connell of Images in Ice create a frozen masterpiece
  • Create a mix of bath salts, decorate a mirror, and paste together a Cubist cube
  • Enhance your hair with wrapping, braiding, and colorful extensions
  • Capture your movements in a flipbook and watch yourself jump, dance, and run
  • Learn to sculpt in a sculpture project inspired by Degas and Picasso

Other time specific activities, check for times

  • Be mesmerized by the impassioned performance and dazzling footwork of critically-acclaimed Spanish flamenco dancer Inés Arrubla of Inés Arrubla Flamenco Dance Theater. “Inés Arrubla, what a dancer!  She is so subtle, so assured…Inés brought decades of tradition, passion and skill to the stage…it was spectacular.”–The Berkshire Eagle
  • Pay homage to Degas’s dancers with a special performance by members of  the Albany Berkshire Ballet
  • Learn to emulate the masters in a mono-printmaking workshop with artist Andrew Davis
  • Join Picasso People for an amazing performance that sets Picasso’s masterpieces into motion and brings more than a dozen of the artist’s people to life. Novel costuming and masks enlivened by music, mime, and puppetry translates the energy behind Picasso’s work into an array of clever stories and reveals how his life experiences inspired his creativity.

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Fairy Houses and Gnome Homes at The Clark this Sunday

Free Family Day at The Clark in Williamstown, MA on April 25th, 2010

It’s a campus wide family adventure during the People and Spaces Family Day at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute on Sunday, April 25th, 2010 from 12 to 4 pm. This free day will explore how people fit into different spaces, places, and settings. Try to keep your bearings in a maze, create detailed clothespin people, build a miniature museum, climb a wall, and visit the Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris exhibition. Admission and activities are free.

  • Fairy houses and gnome homes will dot the Clark’s expansive campus waiting to be discovered. The tiny dwellings, made from natural materials, will be created by members of the community during the April 17 to 25 school vacation week. Maps of the houses will be handed out at the welcome desk; take a walking tour and visit one or visit them all.
  • Take a wooden clothespin, add fabric, hair, and Boldini-inspired accessories (including top hats and pearls) to create your very own miniature person. Need a museum for your tiny person to visit? Create one complete with mini clay sculptures you will make and scaled down images of Boldini paintings. Supplies will be provided.
  • Want to test your orienteering skills? Challenging maze activities (complete with headlamps) will be led by the Williams Outing Club. Or maybe you want to explore space by climbing an inflatable wall (weather dependant).
  • Acrobats from Nimble Arts, a circus arts center from Brattleboro, VT, will present an amazing performance focusing on moving through space.
  • Other activities include family gallery talks in the Giovanni Boldini in Impressionist Paris exhibition.

A visit to the Clark is a rewarding family experience year-round with 140 acres of scenic meadows and trails providing ample opportunities for families to hike, run and play, spot the many birds inhabiting the area, and try geo-caching. The Clark’s grounds are open to the public free of charge. Free admission to the galleries is always offered to children 18 and under and students with valid ID.

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Suggested Events 01/24/09-01/30/09

Inaugural Address Viewing at Elmer's in Ashfield, MA

Community members packed the house at Elmer's in Ashfield, MA as they gather together to share and watch Obama's inaugural address on a big screen TV. - (c) Tony(a) Lemos of Ashfield, MA


If you have a family-friendly event or educational program happening in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to let us know about, post your event on our “Suggest An Event” page.


There are so many great events happening this weekend, with many great reasons to visit our local museums.

On Saturday, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield is hosting a free day with opening day festivities for the exhibit, Race to the Top.  Events include ice carving, dog sledding, lecture on Inuit wisdom and an early evening party. Click here to read more.

Then on Sunday, the Stone Hill Center’s winter wonderland setting at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown will provide the perfect backdrop for free fantastic family fun from 12:30 to 3:30 pm with more dog sledding, snowshoe excursions, snow sculpting and painting, sledding and a campfire complete with hot chocolate.  Click here to read more.

In case you missed it this week, check out the post The Wonderment of Museum to find out how to get the most of your visit to museums.


Keeth from The Harmonica Pocket co-hosts this week’s episode of HFVS. On Saturday, tune in from 9-10am to 103.3FM (Northampton, MA) or listen on-line at Then after lunch time, head over to Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA to see them perform live at 1pm in Club B-10 . You’ll be happy you did!

Suggest an Event | Local Forecast | Get Directions | Free Museum Passes | School Closings and Delays | Family Centers (Ages 0-4) | Facebook

Events Happening in the Hilltowns

Saturday – 01/24/09

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