Clocktower Awards presented at 10th Anniversary Ball


Recipients of the Clocktower Society awards are chosen for their contribution to the nation’s cultural life through their extraordinary comitment to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.  At MASS MoCA’s 10th Anniversary Ball on May 23, 2009, MASS MoCA inducted three new members into its Clocktower Society:  Michael Dukakis (former governor of Massachusetts), Allan Fulkerson (former Chairman of the Board, MASS MoCA), and Susy Wadsworth (MASS MoCA trustee).  In 2004, at MASS MoCA’s 5th anniversary celebration, the following were inducted into the Clocktower Society:  John Barrett (Chairman of the MASS MoCA Commission and Mayor of North Adams), John DeRosa (MASS MoCA legal counsel and trustee), Foster Devereux (MASS MoCA trustee emeritus), Tom Krens (founding member of the MASS MoCA Commission and former director of the Guggenheim Museum), and Francis Oakley (MASS MoCA trustee emeritus and former president of Williams College).

Frank Oakley presented the award to Dukakis, Joseph Thompson presented the award to Fulkerson, and Duncan Brown presented the award to Wadsworth.  The remarks of the presenters about each of the recipients follows:


Michael Dukakis

You are widely admired across the Commonwealth for your three terms as Governor, during which you led the state through one of its strongest and most sustained periods of economic growth.  Nationally, you have become one of our country’s most articulate and outspoken proponents for infrastructure re-investment, holding what one reporter called “a black belt” in public transportation policy.

But here in the Berkshires you will forever be remembered for your extraordinary role in the birth of MASS MoCA.

In 1985, when North Adams was reeling from Sprague Electric Company’s departure, you immediately commissioned a Governor’s task force to re-consider the socioeconomic foundation for this small city.  You insisted on deep community participation, including a full spectrum of business and political leadership, but also clergy, social workers, doctors, and the region’s educational institutions, including, I well remember, my own Williams College.

The Governor’s Task Force recommended that, to prosper, North Adams needed to radically re-imagine itself, looking beyond its 120-year history as a “one-company town”, to open new ports of access to the nexus of cultural, educational, recreational and small business activity that was the strength of the Berkshires.

Shortly thereafter, when local leaders approached you with a visionary plan consistent with your Task Force’s recommendation, you joined forces with the Mayor and local representatives to create and enact headline-grabbing, precedent-setting legislation for MASS MoCA . . . a full decade and a half before the term “creative economy” was even conceived.

Then, in the face of tough economic headwinds – not dissimilar to today’s – when most newspapers in the Commonwealth were demanding you drop plans for a museum of contemporary art – in North Adams, no less! – you stayed the course, arguing that the arts could re-position the identity of the entire region, create good jobs, and make our lives richer and more interesting.

Michael Dukakis, for your leadership, steadfastness, and friendship to the region, you are hereby admitted into the MASS MoCA Clocktower Society, with all the rights, privileges and honor appertaining thereto.

Allan Fulkerson

You are the “cool hand Luke” of board chairs, and something of a mystery.  Just beneath that impeccably proper, conservative-seeming, New England façade, there is a person of great warmth willing to assume enormous personal responsibility for extraordinarily risky ventures for the public good.

Though you love architecture, design, and art, and come from a family with a musical heritage, your first love – at least when you began your trusteeship at MASS MoCA – was probably not contemporary art.  And although your devotion to Williams also meant you cherished the Berkshires, it’s probably fair to say that North Adams was on the periphery of your interests at the time you somewhat surprisingly joined MASS MoCA’s board, 12 years ago.

‘Fragile’ was the term of art we used to describe ourselves when you assumed the chairmanship in 2002.  A putt to the moon might have been another way to describe it.

You brought to the job a daunting set of personal and professional standards, ranging from the inspiring (you actually talked out loud, and forcefully, about bringing financial stability, plus solid governance to shore up the museum’s art programs), to terrifying (it did not take staff long to discover your disdain for contractions and other grammatical frivolities).

Rigor, style, and grace under pressure marked your term.  You were unrelenting in your pursuit of strong institutional ties  . . . to the Clark, Williams, Yale, and others.  Your generosity, and adept organizational hand, changed this institution.  Personally, I’ll never forget your delicate tact during many long telephone calls, the first 50 minutes of which would be devoted to a “what next” list, with the last 10 minutes devoted to excruciating “what if” scenario planning.  You made those sometimes tough conversations both constructive and human.

Allan, for your steely nerved leadership, your unique combination of discipline and tolerance (which, I should say, is precisely the zone in which art gets made), and for your extraordinary personal generosity, you are hereby admitted into the Clocktower Society, with all the rights, privileges and honor appertaining thereto.

Susy Wadsworth

There is a special phrase, “an artist’s artist” to describe those whose work is deeply admired by other practitioners, but whose art is often (and sometimes purposefully) just below the radar screen of the general public.

It is a category of the very highest regard.

Susy Wadsworth, you are a Trustee’s Trustee.

A long-time board member at the iconic artist retreat, Skowhegan, and a supporter of myriad cultural and educational ventures worldwide (with your family, through the initiatives of the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation), you have been a transformative presence since joining the board five years ago.

A woman of relatively few words, yours are always well-chosen, and almost always in the form of a concise question.  An example: at your third meeting as a trustee, you asked whether it might be time for MASS MoCA to begin looking further ahead, precisely because it was often so hard for us to see past the next two months.  That question put in motion a five-year strategic plan, envisioning such things as an endowment (imagine that!), the Sol LeWitt wing, and a deeper commitment to educational programming.

Shortly after our 5th anniversary, you, with your husband, Jack, challenged our staff and board to strengthen our financial underpinnings with an astoundingly inventive array of ideas, incentives, and generosity that literally ensured we would be here today.  Indeed, this celebration was far from inevitable then.

Your commitment to global culture — your gentle reminders that MASS MoCA should embrace the entire world of art — has granted our curatorial staff both the confidence and support to tackle important themes and shows we might otherwise have missed; looking back on these ten years, imagine how poorer we would all have been absent Cai Guo-Qiang, Huang Yong Ping, Eastern Standard, and indeed the very exhibition in whose midst we now celebrate — a work about global trade and Chinese industriousness — by British artist Simon Starling.

And we so appreciate your down-to-earth style; the fact that you wear sneakers on our art expeditions makes it possible for all of us to travel in comfort!  Thank you!

Susy Wadsworth, for your insightful, game-changing guidance, your global point of view, and your unstinting engagement in MASS MoCA’s educational programs, you are hereby admitted into the Clocktower Society, with all the rights, privileges and honor appertaining thereto.

Posted June 26, 2009 by MASS MoCA
Filed under 10th Anniversary, BLOG, Clocktower Awards, Support MASS MoCA
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