Adapt, move, or die
The race is on for two downtown institutions to make fundamental changes to their operations in order to stay competitive in the Berkshire business climate. In a two-week span we have now seen the Berkshire Museum and the Beacon Cinema commence large-scale overhauls that will hopefully keep them competitive, profitable, and, well, in business. The Beacon, which turns eight years old this year, has begun the process of a half-million dollar renovation to install the trendy reclining seats that have been sweeping through movie theaters for the past several years. A block away, the Berkshire Museum has announced its new vision for museum programming, which includes an interior overhaul and a higher emphasis on science and natural history exhibits. The total cash flow estimated for this project is around 40 million dollars.
Many have been debating the merits and impacts of these projects from a personal to a societal scale. Is reserving your theater seat in advance a make-or-break deal? Is it wrong to sell original artworks to fund museum operations? Opinion ahead: Obviously the museum plan has drawn out the lion's share of debate between the two projects. I have heard the viewpoints from both the art curation community and from those familiar with the museum operations. A changed museum is better than no museum, and I trust the due diligence of the Board of Directors and their consultants, whose only directive is to ensure a sustainable institution for the public to enjoy.
On my end, I would like to ask, what would Pittsfield be like without these institutions? A city is an aggregator of cultural artifacts and a living museum of anthropology. Both a cinema and a museum are important channels for these things, and without them, I feel a hole would be torn in the city's cultural fabric. With the decline of retail around the United States, cultural institutions still provide an important place for people to gather, share ideas, and socialize. Experience-based businesses, as opposed to consumption-based ones, cannot be put online.
From what I have heard in interviews and articles in print and on the radio, businesses facing an unsustainable future must choose to adapt to the changing environment, move to a more hospitable environment, or lay down and die out. It would seem that the Beacon and the Berkshire Museum have chosen to keep faith in their downtown, and take the plunge on some massive "adaptations" in order to meet the needs of the future. I look forward to supporting them, and encourage Pittsfielders to do the same.