Using Community Resources to Support and Inspire an Interest is Art

Local Resources Support Community-Based Studies of Art

Park Hill Orchard in Easthampton is home of “Art in the Orchard,” an orchard-based gallery of outdoor sculptures and installation art to peruse with family. Bringing “Culture into Horticulutre,” the orchard features the work of dozens of artists whose work is brought to life amongst the apple trees and changing landscape as we move from summer to fall.

Art is ever-present in life, and serves as an important means of communication and self-expression. Much of childhood is spent adding art to the world, and there is much to learn from exploring art and engaging in methods of creation!

Resources abound for learning about everything from art history to art materials, and here in western Massachusetts, the bulk of art-related learning resources are community-based.

From museums to community organizations to art spaces, there are endless ways for families to learn about and engage in the arts… and we have a great list for you! 


Western Massachusetts is filled with museums, each of which offers unique opportunities for learning about nearly any topic. Many of these museums focus on art, and families can use these institutions in order to learn about painting, photography, illustration, sculpture, and other forms of artistic expression.

In the Berkshires, Mass MoCA offers a re-purposed mill building filled with humungous galleries of contemporary art, including a permanent exhibition of Sol Lewitt paintings. Located in North Adams, Mass MoCA’s KidSpace offers kid-friendly exhibits and hands-on activities for young museum-goers. In nearby Williamstown, The Clark showcases European and American art from the Renaissance up until the 20th century. Focused on advancing and extending the public’s understanding of art, The Clark also offers programs that help visitors understand and explore its exhibits. The nearby Williams College Museum of Art offers collections of American art, as well as art from around the world and from many time periods.

Further south in the Berkshire region is Chesterwood, the Stockbridge estate once home to Daniel Chester French – the sculptor who created the Lincoln Memorial. Chesterwood offers both permanent and temporary exhibitions, its permanent collections gems including works that speak to the sculptural genius of Danial Chester French. Also in Stockbridge is The Norman Rockwell Museum, home to Rockwell’s iconic covers from The Saturday Evening Post, as well as rotating exhibits showcasing art and illustration.

In the Pioneer Valley, the Five Colleges have much to offer for community-based studies of art. In Northampton, the Smith College Museum of Art offers rotating exhibitions and interpretive programs, and perhaps the most beautiful bathrooms in all of Massachusetts. Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum offers similar opportunities amongst galleries filled with seasonal shows and permanent collections. The Mead is also currently home to the Millennium Camera, which will take one long-exposure photograph of the local landscape over the course of the next 1,000 years. Intended to highlight the role that climate change will play in the evolution of the local landscape, the Millennium Camera’s single image will be revealed in the year 3015.

At UMass, the University Museum of Contemporary Art serves as a teaching museum where students and community members are able to access contemporary art through gallery shows and educational programs. Currently, families can visit to see an exhibit of portraits by photographer Chuck Close. In South Hadley, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum is home to over 16,000 art pieces from all around the world, and is one of the oldest collegiate art museums in the country. Families can explore everything from ancient Egyptian works to American contemporary art. At Hampshire College, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art showcases the illustrations of Eric Carle and showcases the work of countless other children’s literature greats through rotating gallery shows.

Additional exploration of art-filled galleries can take place at the Springfield Museums, where the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts offers opportunities to see work from famous painters, and currently showcases an exhibition of American impressionist paintings (through October 25th).

Community Organizations

Throughout western Massachusetts, arts-based community organizations help to support and promote the arts within the local community by helping to connect artists, art venues, and art-making spaces with community members. Such organizations help to strengthen local culture and community by offering community celebrations, art walk events, and classes and workshops. By taking advantage of the arts-based educational resources offered by such organizations, families can tap into the local art scene and learn about creativity in western Massachusetts.

In the Pioneer Valley, families can explore Turners Falls with Turners Falls RiverCulture, venture through Easthampton with the support of Easthampton City Arts+, or tap into Holyoke’s arts scene at Gateway City Arts. In the Berkshires, Pittsfield comes alive for summertime 3rd Thursday arts events, and North Adams’ creative culture is connected thanks to DownStreet Art.

Art Spaces

To engage in the exploration of art materials, families can visit a local art studio to create and explore. At The Art Garden in Shelburne Falls, families can visit during drop-in hours to mess about with materials both expected and unexpected. Exhibits of work from local artists (often participants in The Art Garden’s programs) adorn the walls, offering inspiration to drop-in artists, and material bins filled with everything from crayons and paint sets to recycled household items offer endless possibilities for creation.

Online Resources

While western Massachusetts’ museums offer a wide array of art pieces, online resources can be used to add depth and breadth to studies of art and art history. Using Google Cultural Institute, families can explore the museum collections of institutions in far-flung places (like Romania or Spain!) and dig deep into the archives of organizations all over the globe. By connecting museums and other institutions worldwide, Google Cultural Institute allows users to virtually tour and learn about the pieces included in thousands of curated collections.

Similarly, the Norman Rockwell Museum’s new online resource, Illustration History, allows families to explore the history of the art of illustration. Filled with important and interesting images, biographical information about artists, and information explaining the cultural context of illustrations, Illustration History provides an in-depth look at the role of illustration and the transformations that the art has undergone as culture has evolved.

Community-Based Art Projects

Another way to add depth the studies of art is by participating in a community-based art project. Young artists who are able to use the internet (alone or with help) can participate in ATCs for All, an art-sharing community based on the making and sharing of Artist Trading Cards (or ATCs for short). ATCs for All offers online galleries of trading cards, monthly theme challenges, and opportunities for artists to use the internet to facilitate the sharing of tangible works of art – including but not limited to Artist Trading Cards.

[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]

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