Art Becomes Marriage
Cultural hotspots are for saying “I do”
Perri Petricca married Michelle Thorpe in MASS MoCA’s LeWitt gallery.
Photo above Scott Barrow // Photos below Eric Limon-maweddingphotographers.com
Last October, Elizabeth and Benjamin Pearce exchanged vows beneath Cosmic Latte, an installation featuring 150 light fixtures and 417 incandescent bulbs arranged in the gently arching shape of the Milky Way. The couple, keen on creating an unparalleled experience for guests while commemorating their special day, were drawn to the unique, edgy, contemporary feel of MASS MoCA in North Adams as the backdrop for their wedding festivities.
“We fell in love with the Spencer Finch Gallery,” recalls the bride who grew up in Ludlow. The ensuing nuptials, deemed out of this world, are part of a growing trend among millennials who, as they search for the ultimate in unique, are increasingly saying “I do” in the presence of both fine art and sweeping panoramas that is distinctly Berkshires.
MASS MoCA is a venue that boasts some of the most dramatic and creative wedding spaces in the Berkshires. “Each room was filled with iconic art, which set a mood that no amount of decoration could match,” says Perri Petricca of his October 2013 marriage to Michelle Thorpe. “The art was part of the ceremony and we felt its powerful presence,” he adds in a nod to Sol LeWitt: A Line Drawing Retrospective, an exhibit featuring 105 of the artist’s large-scale drawings.
“LeWitt has, historically, been the most popular wedding ceremony spot,” says Jodi Joseph, the museum’s director of communications. “When we expanded our campus last year, that changed.” Beyond the stylish yet simple galleries, the 19th-century former factory’s interior is comprised of lofty, industrial spaces that invite personalization; couples are being lulled by the juxtaposition of river views, majestic spaces, and contemporary art that inspires, challenges, and entertains.
At the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in neighboring Williamstown, communications director Vicki Saltzman says: “Couples who want a wedding in a museum have an affinity for art and want the experience of celebrating such a special day in a place that supports their own interests.” Brides gravitate toward the beautiful terrace area overlooking the reflecting pool, which provides an incredible backdrop for a wedding with its breathtaking vistas of the Taconic Range.
“The lovely piece here is the outdoors,” says Dawn Van Ness, General Manager of STARR Catering at the Clark Art Institute, who employs creative planning when it comes to hosting weddings at the museum. Van Ness calls weddings at the Clark “a very different experience,” citing the expansive water features and the sweeping views across the 140-acre campus. The seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces creates a stunning visual connection between natural and manmade features.
Special events in the presence of fine art can get tricky, and Van Ness is quick to acknowledge that planning events in a public space is not without challenges. Peak wedding season in the Berkshires is the peak event season for many venues in the Berkshires. This translates to a dance, of sorts, revolving around respect for the museum and the art while special events unfold. At the Clark, the well-being of the collection is always top priority—which means accommodations are needed to strike a balance between enjoying a stunning venue and protecting the art. Often, special events are scheduled after hours and not permitted in the galleries.
“Weddings and special events generate a significant revenue stream for the museum,” says Joseph, but they never interfere with public access to exhibitions. For the Pearces’s gallery wedding at MASS MoCA, the museum was able to accommodate the couple’s chuppah—the canopy beneath which Jewish marriage ceremonies are performed—but a clear-liquids-only rule meant guests sipped on champagne, not red wine, prior to the exchange of vows.
“Brides are always looking for something unique,” says Kat Lockridge, co-owner of Classical Tents and Party Goods in Pittsfield. “They don’t want to have their friends’ Boston or New York City wedding.” She notes the growing popularity of unique venues, from galleries to gardens, such as the Berkshire Museum, Norman Rockwell Museum, and Chesterwood, home of sculptor Daniel Chester French, whose colossal seated Lincoln was conceived of in the artist’s studio.
The juxtaposition of contemporary sculpture installations at Chesterwood were a natural draw for Caroline and John Stanton, of Boston’s North Shore, who chose French’s historic 150-acre estate in Stockbridge for their September 2017 wedding.
“Not only do you have these beautifully constructed buildings,” says Caroline Stanton, “but also a beautiful snapshot of Monument Mountain, from the piazza of French’s studio.” The gardens, laid out by French, combine English and Italian design and a prominent allay, lined with hydrangea and peonies, creates a natural bridal walk.
For couples who choose to tie the knot in the presence of art, the impact goes beyond the actual wedding event. Some couples gift guests with admission tickets, so they might return at their leisure. Couples choosing to get married at the Clark receive a one-year membership, included in the rental fee, which sends a powerful message: “We hope it will allow us to generate a long-term relationship,” says Saltzman. In addition to offsetting operating costs, the revenue generated by weddings is “a really great opportunity to create one-on-one relationships with people who have an interest in the Clark and will come back often.”
Photo op––Daniel Chester French’s sensual Andromeda sculpture is a popular photo backdrop not only for wedding couples, but for many others visiting Chesterwood.