When you drive over the Massachusetts border from Connecticut on the recently repaved Route 8, the sheer size of the Colebrook River Lake can cause you to miss a battered road sign that reads “Welcome to the Berkshires: America’s Premier Cultural Capital.” If you’re on your way to the Berkshires, however, you’ll find it to be true. Beyond the delightful — if staid — lawn concerts at Tanglewood, the Berkshires’ summer season provides a riot of opportunities for peeps of all persuasions to get their culture on. Here’s our can’t-miss lineup of lesser known events taking place this summer:
The Berkshire International Film Festival (BIFFMA): Now a major player in the film festival scene, BIFFMA takes place in the lively town of Great Barrington, with side events in historic Pittsfield. This year’s highlights will include a screening of Marina Arambović: The Artist Is Present, with the performance artist herself, and the screening of the biopic Ethel presented by members of the Kennedy family. With more than 70 films in a myriad of genres in a town with killer restaurants, it’s worth planning a cultural escape during the festival’s run from May 31st to June 3rd.
Yale Art Barn Lecture Series: As a complement to the Yale School of Art summer session in scenic Norfolk, CT, artist and professor Sam Messer organizes a literary lecture series in the multipurpose art barn. Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safran Foer headline on June 4th at 7:30PM.
Jacob’s Pillow: If two bars, a restaurant, public classes and nightly dance performances in a summer camp-like atmosphere of interconnected cabins isn’t enough to make you leap into a Zipcar, their weekly Inside/Out lectures will. Taking place on a stage built over the edge of the mountain, Inside/Out exposes the public to provocative work that hasn’t yet found distribution. Bonus points: You can bring a picnic, and it’s free. Wednesdays through Sundays starting at 6:15PM from June 20th to August 20th.
MASS MoCa: In addition to the fantastic lineup of exhibits, dance parties and lectures at MASS MoCa year-round, their Movie at the Airport nights take place at North Adams’s Harriman-and-West Airport, where a film is projected on the door of a hangar. This summer, the event takes place on July 3rd and August 5th.
The Mount: In addition to garden tours, film screenings, ghost tours and lectures in the great room of beloved writer Edith Wharton’s famed estate, The Mount’s After Hours series invites the public to lounge on the wrap-around terrace for cocktails and free performances of jazz, blues and folk music. On these nights, the gardens stay open for strolling. Splendid — weekends from July 6th to August 31st.
The Berkshire Fringe Festival: Launched in 2005, The Berkshire Fringe Festival has been somersaulting alongside the better known productions at Shakespeare & Company, introducing people to theatre and music deemed too strange or provocative for many a main stage. Last year’s Tangled Yarn performance sums up their aesthetic: Featuring live drawings, projections and live music from the a cappella Armenian folk trio Zulal, Tangled Yarn tells the story of a young girl coming to grips with her grandmothers’ Armenian and Latvian past. This year’s Fringe Festival runs from July 23rd to August 13th.