P eople often know Norman Rockwell as an artist painting kids playing baseball and catching frogs. As an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post for almost 50 years, he drew cover images for more than 3 million readers, from Queensland Australia to North Africa, and his name is familiar around the world today.

But how about the Norman Rockwell who painted a woman wearing a too-large army jacket about her shoulders and rags bound around her feet in World War II, not long after she escaped the death camps? Or the Rockwell who painted Murder in Mississippi in protest during the Freedom movements of the 1960s?

In his hometown, a museum in his name celebrates his work and his tradition. Year-round exhibits honor illustration as an artform. Jamie Wyeth surrounds his wife with pollen on the wind … Jerry Pinkney invokes Harriet Tubman and her father looking up at the night sky.

The museum rediscovers artists Rockwell knew and reaches out to contemporary artists — and expands on their ideas in community forums, family days, artist talks and music. It has become a center for illustration as an artform, in the past, present and future.

Norman Rockwell's historic studio basks in the sun at the Norman Rockwell Museum.
Norman Rockwell Museum

Artwork in recent shows at the Norman Rockwell Museum ...

At the Norman Rockwell Museum recently — a Black woman listens to music, her eyes closed and her head back in bliss, in Noa Denmon’s illustration Acclaimed artist and illustrator Rudy Gutierrez creates new work for the Unity Project. And Maurice ‘Pops’ Peterson imagines a joyful scene in a 21st-century vision of Norman Rockwell … Press photos courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum.

BTW Berkshires