(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – A major new exhibition of New Deal-era photographs of Shaker communities, displays of work by contemporary regional artists, a reenactment of an historic footrace pitting Herman Melville against Nathaniel Hawthorne, a 50-mile “ultramarathon” through Pittsfield State Forest, a two-part “Shaker Shalom” joint Shaker-Jewish event featuring a klezmer concert, workshops on quilting, blacksmithing, raising bees and poultry, and the ever-popular Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm and fall Country Fair are just some of the attractions Hancock Shaker Village (HSV) is heralding this spring, summer, and fall.
The living history museum’s 2012 season, running from April 7 through October 28, includes a major new exhibition titled A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA, featuring the work of photographer Noel Vicentini, who was hired as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project in 1936 to document the Shaker villages in upstate New York and western Massachusetts for the newly-formed Index of American Design. The result was over 200 black-and-white photographs showcasing Shaker craft, architecture, and culture.
There will also be three exhibitions in the Poultry House Gallery, showcasing the work of prominent local artists Marge Bride, Mike Cohen, Susan Merrill, Ivor Parry, Wendy Rabinowitz, and Scott Taylor.
The village will host an array of community events, such as the ever-popular spring Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm and fall Country Fair. The schedule also includes more than 20 workshops and Return & Learn events that explore the connection between the Shakers and contemporary life, with topics ranging from quilting and blacksmithing to raising backyard bees and poultry to a reenactment of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous footrace around the Round Stone Barn.
HSV will offer five specialty tours this year, including a revamped Behind-the-Scenes Farm Tour during Baby Animals that includes a private narrated hayride with baby animals on board, plus “Choose Your Own Shaker Adventure” custom tours in which participants choose from a list of more than 30 topics, as well as tours that focus on children, “off limits” attics and basements, and the village at twilight.
HSV is collaborating on projects with several different organizations. Earlier this spring, the Berkshire Museum displayed the village incubator and 40 chicken eggs, many of which hatched in time for the museum’s 109th anniversary celebration. This summer, HSV and Congregation Knesset Israel are co-presenting a two-part event called Shaker Shalom. The first evening on June 26 is a panel titled Shaker Soul and Jewish Neshama; a Spiritual Bond Conversation with David Weiner, Rabbi of Knesset Israel, Kim Kie, New Hope United Methodist Church Pastor, and a noted Shaker scholar. On August 12, Shaker Shalom: A Gala Celebration and Concert will benefit both groups and feature an elegant kosher Shaker cuisine picnic and a Shaker-Jewish fusion concert by Paul Green and his Neshoma Klezmer Ensemble. HSV is also sponsoring a fundraising outing to Jacob’s Pillow on July 13 to see Tero Saarinen’s Shaker-inspired piece, Borrowed Light.
In an effort to diversify its business model, HSV is partnering with Mahaiwe Tents to have a 350 person-capacity tent on site from May through October to host weddings, company picnics, and family reunions. “The tent deck offers one of the best views in the Berkshires, overlooking the entire historic Shaker Village. Like the UMass Amherst-HSV graduate degree program and our C.S.A. (community supported agriculture) program, enhancing our meetings and events amenities is another way we are exploring non-traditional revenue generation that supports the core mission of the Village,” said Laura Wolf, HSV director of operations and marketing.
HSV is teaming up with race director Michael Menard to present the Hancock Shaker Village 50 Ultramarathon on September 22, which will be the first-ever ultra running event to be held in the Berkshires. The 50-mile race will begin and end at HSV and travel through the Pittsfield State Forest and along the Taconic Crest Trail. Families of runners will enjoy discounted admission to explore the Village while their runners are on the trails. The race is limited to 100 participants and Anita Ortiz, recently featured in Trail Runner magazine, was the first person to register. Michael Menard says, “Ultra running is about harmony. It’s a very spiritual sport in that it is rarely about who wins, but rather about testing yourself. This is why I thought this sport and Hancock Shaker Village would be a perfect match for each other.”
Situated on a picturesque expanse of farm, field, and woodland in Pittsfield, Mass., Hancock Shaker Village is an outdoor living history museum and center for the study of principled living in the 21st century. The fully restored Village includes 18 historic buildings, heirloom medicinal and vegetable gardens, 22,000 examples of Shaker furniture, crafts, tools, and clothes that depict daily life at the Shakers’ City of Peace through its 220 years, as well as heritage breed farm animals and spectacular hiking trails. There are daily tours, craft and cooking demonstrations, lectures and workshops, and a variety of activities for children and families, as well as a Museum Store and Shaker-inspired cuisine at the Village Harvest Café. The Discovery Room offers hands-on opportunities for kids of all ages to try their hand at chair seat weaving, working at a loom, trying on Shaker-style clothing, or milking a life-sized replica of a cow. An interactive audio tour (free with admission) is available in English, French, Italian, and German. For more information, call 800.817.1137 or go to Hancock Shaker Village (HSV).
Hancock Shaker Village is open daily for self-guided visits from April 7 through October 28. April 7 through June 30, the Village is open 10 am to 4 pm daily and July 1 through October 28, hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily.
Hancock Shaker Village members and children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. Admission for adults is $17 and youth visitors aged 13 to 17 are $8.