- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

LENOX, Massachusetts (AP) - Organize your time right, and in one fall day in Western Massachusetts, you can hit three first-class art museums, a historic site and the state’s highest peak - all against the backdrop of autumn color in the Berkshire Mountains.

I arrived at the Clark Art Institute for its 10 a.m. opening, then high-tailed it over to the contemporary art museum MASS MoCA. After a drive to the top of Mount Greylock, I hit the Norman Rockwell Museum, then ended my day with a 4 p.m. tour of The Mount, home of author Edith Wharton.

The region also offers charming Main Streets, roadside farmstands and a variety of places to eat and stay, from Bascom Lodge, a rustic stone-and-timber lodge atop Mount Greylock, to the classic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, founded in 1773. Sit in a rocking chair on Red Lion’s front porch and you’ll feel like you’re in a Rockwell painting. Here are some details.



The Clark broke attendance records this season with two blockbuster exhibits, one on Van Gogh that just closed, the other a show about the iconic “Whistler’s Mother,” on display through Sept. 27. But don’t despair if you missed them: The Clark’s permanent collection has plenty to see, including paintings by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet and 30 works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The lovely grounds include wooded paths, reflecting pools, cows in a field and mountain views.



Perhaps you’re the type of person who prefers still-lifes and Impressionism to contemporary art. I can only say: Give MASS MoCA a chance. You’ve got to experience it to appreciate it. Gape at the immensity of Clifford Ross’ “Sopris Wall I,” a massive, hyper-detailed negative print of a photo of Colorado’s Mount Sopris that stands 24 feet high and 114 feet long. Get lost amid the galleries housing Sol LeWitt’s colorful, geometric wall drawings. Be hypnotized by the video “Eclipse,” which dramatizes the extinction of passenger pigeons. The museum’s location, a brick complex of 19th century factory buildings connected by walkways and courtyards, is part of the magic.



Traditionalists who balk at contemporary art will love this museum devoted to Norman Rockwell, best known for illustrations that idealize classic American values like faith and family. For millennials and modernists who may need some context to appreciate Rockwell, the museum does a great job telling his story. While he’s famous for depicting sentimental scenes like a Thanksgiving dinner, he also drew the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” a muscular female factory worker during World War II, and he did not shy away from difficult topics like civil rights. His work includes a portrait of a small African-American girl heading to school in the company of U.S. marshals. Also at the museum through Oct. 26: “Roz Chast: Cartoon Memoirs.”



You can visit Edith Wharton’s 1901 house on your own, but you’d miss so many delicious tidbits offered in the guided tour, from the intimate details of her dysfunctional marriage to the photos she staged of herself writing all dressed up at a desk (she actually wrote in bed, with her dogs). The tour explains just how unconventional she was: an heiress who refused to be a lady of leisure but instead wrote 40 books in 40 years, including best-sellers like “The Age of Innocence.” In her day, Wharton was also known for her nonfiction, including writings about home design, and The Mount reflects that passion. Don’t miss the gardens and woodlands. The Mount is also a National Historic Landmark, one of just 5 percent of those sites dedicated to women.



It’s a short 8-mile drive to the 3,491-foot summit for spectacular views on a clear day. (On cloudy days, you’ll find yourself, as Henry Thoreau did in 1844, in an “ocean of mist.”) The visitors center can offer advice on hikes, which range from short, easy round trips to an 11.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail.


If You Go…

CLARK ART INSTITUTE: 225 South St., Williamstown, Massachusetts; https://www.clarkart.edu/ or 413-458-2303. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults, $20; children under 18, free.

MASS MOCA: 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Massachusetts; https://www.massmoca.org/ or 413-662-2111. Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. except Tuesdays. Adults, $18; children 6-16, $8.

THE MOUNT: 2 Plunkett St., Lenox, Massachusetts; https://www.edithwharton.org/ or 413-551-5111. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through Oct. 31 (house closes 1 p.m. Sept. 19 and 26). Adults, $18; free, ages 18 and under. Admission includes guided tours.

NORMAN ROCKWELL MUSEUM: 9 Glendale Road (Route 183), Stockbridge, Massachusetts; https://www.nrm.org or 413-298-4100. Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through October (until 4 p.m. weekdays November-April). Adults, $18; children 6-18, $6.

MOUNT GREYLOCK: Visitors center, 30 Rockwell Road, Lanesborough, Massachusetts; https://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-west/mount-greylock-directions.html . Summit parking, $6 through Columbus Day ($5 for Massachusetts license plates).

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