MANCHESTER - The paintings are set, level and evenly spaced. The gallery lights are oriented to display the works of art to maximum effect. Up on the hill, it's showtime again.

The Southern Vermont Arts Center will unveil its opening round of new exhibits this weekend, highlighted by an opening reception from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Three of the exhibits, featuring works by longtime Burr and Burton Academy art teacher Betsy Hubner, abstract artist Amy DuBow and a group show of work by several art instructors of the faculty of the art center's Hay Madeira Education Center, is already open to the public at the Yester House galleries.

Four more will join the lineup this Saturday.

From left, arts center trustees Barbara Melhado and Georgine MacGarvey Holman discuss a new exhibit of portraits culled from the center’s permanent
From left, arts center trustees Barbara Melhado and Georgine MacGarvey Holman discuss a new exhibit of portraits culled from the center's permanent collection planned for an opening on Saturday, May 18. (Andrew McKeever Photo)
"Printemps: Visions of Spring" features works by regional artists and will also be on view at the Yester House. Over at the Elizabeth de C. Wilson Museum, two more exhibits will be opening. In the Hunter Gallery is a series of portraits, some paintings, some sculptures, some featuring people closely affiliated with the center either as an artist, board member or supporter, culled from the arts center's permanent collection. Next door in the Lucioni Gallery, local artists Pat Musick and Jerry Carr are installing a show titled "Our Fragile Home," inspired by accounts of astronauts and cosmonauts who were asked at an Earth Day ceremony at the United Nations to describe their reactions to seeing Earth from outer space. Remarkably, they all said the same thing, if in different languages, and the similarity of their comments prompted an artistic idea by Pat Musick, assisted by her former astronaut husband and collaborator, Jerry Carr.

Another exhibit will highlight the work of four women who were major figures in the arts center's history; Elfriede Abbe, Jane Armstrong, Katherine McCabe and Virginia Webb.

The opening round of exhibits are also the first to be overseen by the arts center's new interim executive director, Seline Skoug.

A portrait of Arlington artist Carl Ruggles, by John Atherton, that will be part of the portrait exhibit opening Saturday, May 18.
A portrait of Arlington artist Carl Ruggles, by John Atherton, that will be part of the portrait exhibit opening Saturday, May 18. (Andrew McKeever Photo)
She was appointed to the post only two months ago, in March, brought in by the arts center's board of trustees to provide leadership while a new permanent director is found.

So far, so good, Skoug said.

"The key is to do the day-to-day things to build the organization and hand it off to an executive director who can hit the ground running," she said.

"We're taking it in phases and it's going very well."

Skoug comes to the post from a more than 20 year-long background in the non-profit world, and is a principal in and a founder of her own consulting group - known as Skoug Group - which assists nonprofit organizations with fund-raising, marketing and strategic planning.

Edward Callahan, by Orland Campbell
Edward Callahan, by Orland Campbell (Andrew McKeever Photo)
She was also the executive director of Casting for Recovery, a breast cancer support group that uses fly fishing as a way help survivors and those struggling with the disease. Skoug led the organization for about nine years, from 2000 until April 2009.

The year is shaping up to be a busy one, with art exhibits, concerts, private events and art classes filling up the calendar for the summer and into the fall.

The Manchester Music Festival will host the opening night of its summer concert series on July 11. That will be followed closely by "101 Years of Broadway," a review of classic Broadway showtunes that will be the art center's contribution to the summer "Hills Alive" series.

On July 23, the Northshire Performing Arts will be staging its annual major concert. Tap dancer Tommy Tune, a nine-time Tony Award winner will sing, dance and tell tales of 50 years of showtime entertainment.

On Aug. 16, Bob Milne will bring his ragtime piano act to the Arkell Pavilion, followed by five-time Tony Award singer Audra McDonald, on Aug. 23. The visual arts will also offer much for summer visitors. The annual summer member's exhibit follows the opening round of shows at the Yester House from July 8 until Aug. 14. That will show concurrently with an exhibit of photographs - "Lifetime of Vermont People" by former Life Magazine photographer Peter Miller. The book Miller has assembled of his photographs has been getting much attention and acclaim, and this will be one that any serious photographer, amateur or professional, will want to see. 

That will be followed in turn by another unusual exhibit of life-size paintings of 17 young Vermonters by Middlebury artist Kate Gridley. The exhibit examines the emergence of youngsters from adolescence to adulthood.

Skoug hopes the exhibit will not only stroke the interest of those who have been coming to the art center for years, but also a younger demographic audience, she said.

"We're building communications around different age groups, and that includes the X, Y and millennial generations," she said. "It's important for them to be involved, and for the whole community. We need to build to get everybody up on the hill, because I think there's something here for everybody." Meanwhile, a wide variety of art classes for adults and youngsters is also on tap. The dates and descriptions of those classes and summer camps can be found on the arts center's website at svac.org, along with a full calendar of the other shows, concert and exhibits.

Skoug has artistic roots - many members of her family are artists, including a cousin who had an earlier exhibit at SVAC. She herself is a photographer. Another relative works at the National Gallery of Norway, she said.

Reaching out to the community is a big part of her role, she said.

"I think it's important to hear from the community," she said. "Organizations go through change. It's about helping the community build this arts center."

The arts center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call the center at 802-362-1405