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The Clark Art Institute Gala: A Truly Grand Re-Opening

Lisa Green reports from Williamstown.
On Saturday, June 28, the gala to celebrate the opening of the expanded Clark Art Institute was commensurate with the endeavor and investment that went into the creation of the magnificent new campus. More than 700 guests (and, it seemed, an almost equal number of earpiece-wearing catering crew and iPad-toting museum staff) milled around the capacious outdoor terrace and its stunning reflecting pool. Several open bars and a jazz trio kept the crowd occupied until the official opening remarks began.

Jazz trio members Andy Wrba, bass, Andy Jaffe, keyboard and Bill Chapman, drums, performed early in the evening, and later were joined by famed saxophonist Charles Neville; Christy Abel and Rob Abel with Jane Stuebner, a member of the host committee, enjoyed the perfect summer evening.

Michael Conforti, The Clark’s director, welcomed the guests and thanked the major players, community and staff for their efforts in the completion of the new facility.
Gov Deval Patrick praised the project (and quickly left for another event), and Peter Wilmott, president of the Board of Trustees, also spoke. Then, as the doors to the new Clark were opened at last, Conforti invited guests to follow him into the newly transformed Museum Building.

It was clear from conversations overhead that leaders in the museum and gallery worlds were present to assess, enjoy and compare notes.

Andrew Spindler, an antiques dealer from Gloucester, chatted with Mathias Waschek, director of the Worcester Art Museum; Melinda Wingate and Ealan Wingate, who is the director of the Gagosian Gallery in New York, strolled the Impressionist Gallery.

Marc Gotlieb, director of the Graduate Program in the History of Art at Williams College, talked shop with Brent Benjamin, director of the St. Louis Art Museum.

The visionary architects and designers were on hand, including Tadao Ando of Tadao Ando Architect & Associates, who designed the new Visitor Center.

Lisa Giersbach with Elizabeth Randall and Eric Kramer from Reed Hilderbrand of Cambridge, the firm that conceived the dramatic landscape design; Annabelle Selldorf, the architect who reconceived the original Museum Building, and Rachel Judlowe.

The gala engaged all the senses. There was music inside, carefully chosen to complement the galleries and The Clark’s ever-growing international stature. In the Impressionist Gallery, the flutist Alex Sopp performed Debussy’s “Syrinx” and Colin Jacobsen, violinist and Eric Jacobsen, cellist, played Ravel’s Duo for Violin and Cello.

Colin Jacobson and violist Max Mandel performed in the Glass Box; The Knights, an orchestral collective, performed contemporary works by Chinese composers and a bit of Mozart, a perfect blend of east and west, in the new special exhibition gallery.

As Director Conforti said, the project couldn’t have been completed without the support of the community, and many of them were present at the gala. At left, Massachusetts State Representative Gail Cariddi of the First Berkshire District and her colleague, State Representative Paul Mark of the Second Berkshire District, expressed their admiration for the new Clark.

George Ahl, a board member of MASS MoCA and Tracy Finnegan of Williamstown; Robert Lach, a member of the Class of 1990 History of Art program at Williams, with Ghetta Hirsch, a painter and museum supporter.

The evening brought out members of nearby cultural organizations. At right, Eric Kerns, director of Marketing and Development at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Kate Morris, Molly Kerns and Hans Morris, chairman of the MASS MoCA Foundation Board of Trustees.



The new gift shop was filled with buyers; Susan Lowry and Vicky Lowry live in New York, but still consider themselves Williamstown “townies.”

Henry Flynt (seated), who knew the Clarks, lived across the street from the museum and watched as the first building went up. “This is a very special day for him,” said Suzanne Flynt, his daughter-in-law (standing behind him). David Kriegel and Cynthia Flynt also shared the event with him.

It’s possible the opening was most meaningful to The Clark’s staff, who, it must be said, handled the massive gala celebration with aplomb (and the ever-present iPads and walkie-talkies). The event’s design was courtesy of David Stark Design & Productions. The food, served buffet style (much of it locally resourced), marked the debut of The Clark’s new catering service by Stephen STARR events, which created, among other shot-glass jewels, a to-die-for white chocolate pudding. Above, Ralph Colaizzi, Merritt Colaizzi, campaign director, Terri Boccia, Acquisitions librarian and Karl Mullen.

Museum Director Michael Conforti with his children, Peter Conforti and Julia Conforti; Laurie Marrs and Lydia Ross, both of the Advancement office.

The spectacular end to the evening? Not really — an after party followed at the Stone Hill Center.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/29/14 at 01:46 PM • Permalink