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The Mount gears up for ‘liveliest summer yet,’ with expanded lecture lineup among its diverse offerings

“When we booked them, we knew they were special,” says Mount Communications Director Jennifer Beeson of the lineup of authors set to visit The Mount this summer.

Lenox — Tickets for The Mount’s Summer Lecture Series have just recently gone on sale, and according to Mount Communications Director Jennifer Beeson, they are going faster than last year. She thinks this is a good indicator that the stellar lineup of authors visiting the summer home of Gilded Age writer Edith Wharton is generating due excitement. But it is only one reason to visit The Mount during what Beeson calls its “liveliest summer yet.”

“The caliber of writers is pretty extraordinary,” Beeson says, “and they just keep getting accolades.” Two of the writers giving talks this summer were recently honored with Guggenheim fellowships for 2024. Jamaican-born poet Safiya Sinclair, visiting on August 5 and 6, wrote the critically acclaimed 2023 memoir “How to Say Babylon” about overcoming her strict, patriarchal Rastafarian upbringing. It made “top 10” yearly book lists at The Atlantic, TIME Magazine, and The Washington Post.

Jonathan Alter, also a Guggenheim recipient, is a political analyst and author of four political biographies, most recently “His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life.” He joins the Masters Series on August 9.

Jonathan Eig, who will talk at The Mount on July 30, won a Pulitzer Prize for “King: A Life” (2023), which The New York Times called the “definitive” biography of Martin Luther King Jr.

“When we booked them, we knew they were special,” says Beeson of the lineup of authors set to visit The Mount this summer, “but I don’t think the committee quite realized what they were able to put together.”

The Mount has added a couple more authors to its Summer Lecture Series, the signature series that has brought writers of biography and memoir to Lenox for over 30 years. This year’s lineup kicks off July 8 with Natalie Dykstra. Authors featured in the series have written on topics ranging from China and its education system (Peter Hessler) to the Scopes trial (Brenda Wineapple) to a cavalier band of World War II reporters (Deborah Cohen).

In its second year, the expanded Masters Series broadens the scope of these offerings. André Bernard, former vice president of the Guggenheim Foundation and longtime friend of The Mount, will moderate conversations with the famed food and farming advocate Michael Pollan, musician and writer Roseanne Cash, celebrated fiction writer Lauren Groff, New Yorker cartoonist and illustrator Roz Chast, and journalist and New York Times book critic Dwight Garner.

Beeson credits Bernard, who had relationships with these top writers, for facilitating this lineup. “If we just cold-called their agents, I doubt we’d have had the same amount of success.” She describes Bernard as very kind, saying he really enjoyed the conversations last year. “I know they were positive experiences for everybody, so I’m sure authors are jumping on board to talk to him specifically.”

The lectures are held in an outdoor tent with around an approximately 300-person capacity. Beeson says most of last year’s events were “pretty full” and that it is a wonderful “summery experience.”

Although the summer lectures have a “very loyal following,” Beeson, in her third season at The Mount, is trying to diversify their audience too. There are many free children’s and family programs, such as a June 2 storytelling workshop with author Ty Allen Jackson, who Beeson says is “pretty beloved” and writes about literacy through superhero characters. On July 6, Mr. G, a Latin GRAMMY Award-winning kids musician and author, returns with a concert, one of several bilingual offerings at The Mount this summer. People bring picnics and everybody dances, Beeson says.

Mr. G will return to The Mount July 6 with a children’s concert. Photo by Eric Limon.

There is also a Firefly Watch with Mass Audubon, a “STORYWALK” with South Berkshire Kids, “Stories & Stretches for Kids” with Flow on Main yoga studio, and a Latin Dance Celebration. Community partnerships are a staple of The Mount’s programming, such as Tuesday morning yoga outside with Lenox Yoga and Wednesday morning bird walks with Mass Audubon.

With the retiring of SculptureNow Director Ann Jon, the annual outdoor sculpture exhibit staged at The Mount for the last nine years is being recast as The Mount’s own. Starting June 2, Sculpture at The Mount will display works by 24 artists, most of them New England based. “Each tells a different story,” says Beeson. Visitors can walk the grounds and experience the sculptures large and small, some of them interactive, at their own leisure with self-guided audio tours. On certain days, artist mentors will guide visitors. The sculptures capture a “whole range of experience,” says Beeson. “Some of them are pretty wild.”

Participants on a poetry walk, one of many free outdoor events at The Mount, will host a poetry walk with WordXWord on July 21. Photo by Nick Smith Koblitz.

Three free Sounds of Summer concerts will bring jazzy, world music to the terrace, where people can also enjoy an outdoor bar. With plein air painting and poetry readings among numerous other events at The Mount this summer, there “really is something for everybody,” declares Beeson. “There is no shortage of things to do here every week.”

Sounds of Summer jazz concerts will return to the terrace at The Mount, where visitors can also enjoy the outdoor bar. Photo by Nick Smith Koblitz.

In keeping with The Mount’s origins, two additional lecture series new this summer will “put more of the spotlight back onto Edith Wharton,” explains Beeson. The Summer Lecture series originated as “scholars looking at Wharton through a more academic lens,” but has since branched out.

The Wharton Revisited Series will explore recent adaptations of Wharton works, including an opera based on her novel “The Reef” and the world premiere of her only play, “Shadow of a Doubt,” which was rediscovered, says Beeson, after being hidden away in an archive for 122 years. Premiered last year in Canada, scenes from it will be presented at The Mount.

And because Wharton had a lifelong interest in design (she in fact designed The Mount), the new Architecture, Design, and Landscape series will bring in architectural historians. This programming isn’t entirely new, but it is “more organized and formalized,” Beeson shares, as a result of a new team led by Director of Programs Sarah Margolis-Pineo and Assistant Director of Programs Jacqueline Christensen, who “both have a lot of ideas” and are spearheading the rearranging.

Visit The Mount’s website for full information on all events taking place at Edith Wharton’s home this summer.

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