The new leader of Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield is someone who has been involved in the region’s cultural realm for quite some time.
Jennifer Trainer Thompson is leaving MASS MoCA in North Adams to become the CEO and president of Hancock Shaker Village about 20 miles south in Pittsfield. Currently senior vice president of partnerships and external affairs at the contemporary art museum,
“I’ve learned in the last few weeks that Hancock Shaker Village means so many different things to people,” Thompson said. “To some it’s an architectural wonder with 20 historical buildings that show how the Shakers were so innovative in design, thinking and living. To others it’s an important archive with a collection that includes 1,200 textiles, 1,300 graphic objects and 10,000 photographs.”
Home to a working farm and 22,000 items, most of which were left by the 300 Shakers who lived, worked and worshipped there from the late 1700s through the 1950s, Hancock Shaker Village attracts 50,000 visitors each year. Slated to begin her tenure at the end of this year, Thompson says she wants to expand the types of programming on the 750-acre site.
“There’s opportunity for diversity of programming,” Thompson said. “More music, more food, dance, design, exhibitions and classes…a village.”
Thompson will take over for Linda Steigleder, who in March announced she was stepping down after leading Hancock Shaker Village for five years. Richard Seltzer is the acting chair of the Village’s board.
“Most conspicuously, Linda has restored the physical beauty of our entire plant to the extraordinary condition that you see it in today,” Seltzer said. “She’s also restored our finances with the discipline for a balanced budget.”
Thompson says she believes Hancock Shaker Village is well-positioned to continue and expand exhibit and ticketing partnerships with other Shaker sites in New York and various other Berkshire cultural attractions.
“Collaboration makes all the sense in the world,” Thompson said. “I think that Hancock Shaker Village is also just perfectly poised in the center of the county. It’s less than 10 miles from Tanglewood. So there’s a lot of opportunity to explore.”
Thompson says she’s been interested in Hancock Shaker Village for a while, even considering the leadership role five or six years ago. Since then she’s become even more impressed as she’s learned about the scholarship and collection at the Village.
“I love MASS MoCA and there was a time when I never would have left,” Thompson said. “When it was so vulnerable and fledgling. But, MASS MoCA has reached a new maturity. I love Hancock Shaker Village so much and the time is right.”