“The Clark” and Mass MoCA––Two Outstanding Art Institutions Along the Mohawk Trail

December 2022

After Olana, we headed east on NY-Route 66 towards Western Massachusetts in the Berkshire Mountains to peep at the changing leaves of the deciduous forests. I covered that extraordinary experience at the beginning of this series. We didn’t expect to also enjoy impressive and provocative art as well at two lauded art institutions along MA-Route 2, also known as the Mohawk Trail.

Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA

World acclaimed “The Clark” in Williamstown, Massachusetts boasts an extensive collection of American and European art from the fourteenth to the early twentieth centuries, with a focus on the nineteenth century period. In 1955, Sterling and Francine Clark donated their substantial collection to Williams College to establish The Clark Art Institute.

The following are a random selection of pieces I particularly liked, shot with my cell phone. Click on each for more details.

Art museum collections always remind me what life was like in centuries past. I’m drawn particularly to life in the late nineteenth century when my grandparents grew up. The abundance of works of that period by Impressionist painters drew me into the intimate galleries––46 by Renoir, 92 by Degas, 32 by Manet, for example, plus noted American artists Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, George Inness, and John Singer Sargent. The Clark was a sumptuous visual indulgence. 

The museum sits a mere stone’s throw from the attractive and historic Williams College campus, and the small town has charm and good places to eat and shop.


Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

Eureka! As stimulating and exciting discovery as Storm King was, Mass MoCA’s large scale––its physical complex, display spaces, and works of art––aroused my senses.  Just a few miles east of Williamstown, the city of North Adams hosts Mass MoCA. 

A former 16-acre site of nineteenth-century mill buildings at the confluence of two branches of the Hoosic River houses the innovative institution. Twenty-eight buildings comprise the complex that now serves as a world-famous venue for hosting installations that need spaces big enough to accommodate them and to be viewed sometimes at a distance –– “music, sculpture, dance, film, painting, photography, theater, and new boundary-crossing works of art that defy easy classification.” (From Mass MoCA’s website)

Often huge, immersive, monumental, and unable to fit into exhibit halls of many art venues, the works often made me smile, or sometimes I didn’t like them at all. No matter. Where else can you see huge walk-in colored light rooms by James Turrell or multi-talented Laurie Anderson’s virtual reality show?  I opened one door to a cavernous former factory room. A staff member told me the exhibit was “under construction” ––a roller coaster that guests will be able to ride once it’s finished next year! 

Go to the museum’s website and feast your eyes on the range of indoor and outdoor installations in their permanent collection. Mass MoCA also features many temporarily staged works; those interactive exhibits with limited capacity often need advanced reservations. 


Images of a few exhibits easier to photograph follow. Click on each or more details. 

This post is one of a series from our Hudson Valley and Berkshires trip.  

Get the Monthly Newsletter

That's right, just one email per month.
The latest travel stories, photos, and destination inspiration, straight to your inbox.