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Culture in Central MA: Clinton’s “Windows into Heaven”

Friday, December 27, 2013


A photo from the exhibit of Festival Row Icons, which is on display at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA.

Tucked away in the town of Clinton is one of Central Massachusetts’ hidden gems. Founded in 2006 by a local art collector and industrialist, Gordon B. Lankton, this remarkable museum was created to display his fascinating world-class collection of Russian Icons. Aptly named, Museum of Russian Icons, this fabulous gem is housed in a 150-year-old former mill building, which has been perfectly restored for showcasing over 500 Russian icons and other singular artifacts.

Spanning six centuries, from the 15th to the 21st, the collection is one of the largest outside of Russia and the largest in North America. Lankton began his extensive collection of the beautifully hand painted art at a flea market in 1989. An icon is a painting of a sacred person or event that bears religious meaning. Icons are often called “windows into heaven” because they are said to give the viewer a glimpse of the eternal realm.

Few customs and traditions have endured for longer than a millennium, but the use of icons in Russia is one of them. One of the great traditions of Eastern Christianity, icons are considerably less well known here. Rich in symbolism, they are still used extensively in Orthodox churches and monasteries, and many Russian homes have icons hanging on the wall in a prayer corner. Over 200 icons are lovingly displayed at one time.

The 16,000 square foot Museum of Russian Icons houses galleries, a research library, performance facilities, terrace and a green roof. A sweeping metal and glass stairway connects three floors. A small cafe in the basement serves up Russian teas and chocolate and a gift shop offers a varied stock of Russian items for every budget.

The museum is a wonderfully adult winter getaway and offers a number of special exhibitions and events. Current exhibits include:

  • Secret Symbolism: Decoding Color in Russian Icons will be on display from January 4 through March 1, 2014. The exhibit helps visitors to understand the connotation of the palette of colors typically used in icon “writing” and cultivates a deeper understanding of the legends the painting portrays.
  • The Tsar’s Cabinet: Two hundred Years of Russian Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs highlights 200 years of decorative arts and will be on view from March 29 to May 25.
  • Festival Row Icons is a display of a recent acquisition of 12 Festival Row Icons.The Festival Row is from an iconostasis (wall of icons separating the nave from the sanctuary in a church) and is the only one of its kind in the United States. The 12 Festival icons are believed to be from the Pskov region, a city south-southwest of St. Petersburg. According to Artist-in-residence Alexander Gassel, the icons are most likely from outside the main city and appear to be 16th century.


A concert will be held on February 1st at 3 pm titled “Favorite Music of the Romanov Dynasty” on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Russian Empire Family. The concert features clarinetist Georges Devdariani and soprano Maria Lyudko.

Museum of Russian Icons is closed Sunday and Monday and open 11-3 Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 11-7 on Thursday and 9-3 on Saturday. Admission is only $7 for adults and $5 for seniors (59 and over). Docent tours are available during museum hours.

The museum is located at 203 Union Street in Clinton, MA. For more information, call 978.598.5000 or log on to their website.


Central MA. Culture is the portal for arts and cultural events in the region. The heart of Massachusetts, rich in arts and culture, provides a wide array of events in venues that range from refurbished architectural gems to full stadiums. Central Ma. Culture will shine a weekly spotlight highlighting one of the many diverse cultural opportunities.

Susan Wagner is the president of Susan Wagner PR. In this challenging economy, she has begun a new division to offer affordable start-up packages to new and emerging small businesses and non-profit organizations that include professional writing services, websites, collateral, marketing, social media, grassroots outreach and PR campaigns.

If you have suggestions for a cultural event, please email susanwagnerpr@gmail.com.


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