SVAC executive director steps down

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MANCHESTER >> The executive director of the Southern Vermont Arts Center has stepped down, citing a lack of support from the center's governing board of trustees.

Jennifer Weinstein, who took over the executive director position in June, 2014, tendered her resignation on Friday, Nov. 13.

"If the board president is going to openly not support me, then I felt that it would be doing harm for me staying on," she said.

The chairman of the arts center's board of trustees, Robert McCafferty, said that Weinstein had contributed a lot and had several good ideas for the arts center going forward.

"Her vision for the future and how it was going to be implemented was never made clear to the board," he said. "That led to some frustration, and she stepped down."

The board of trustees has enlisted a New Hampshire-based consulting group, Executive Services Corp., to help them analyze the arts center's present situation and review its component parts. There are no plans to name an interim director or to form a search committee to seek a new executive director in the immediate future, pending a strategic review, he said.

"We're going to tighten down the hatches and work with the people who are currently there and doing a good job," he said. "What we hope to do over the winter is to do a total reevaluation of what it is that we're doing, with the idea of coming out sometime in 2016 with a new strategy and a new strategic plan."

In the meantime, trustees and the existing staff will run the arts center while the new strategic plan is hammered out, he said.

Weinstein's departure follows that of two other executive directors since Christopher Madkour, who resigned from the post effective Sept. 1, 2010, after serving there for 22 years. During his tenure, the arts center had hosted a series of high profile exhibits by internationally known artists such as Andy Warhol and Gloria Vanderbilt, and had opened the Elizabeth DeC. Wilson Museum in 2000.

Weinstein, who had been serving on the arts center's board of trustees since 2012, assumed the reins as executive director in June, 2014.

Weinstein is an attorney who has been admitted to practice in Vermont, New York, New Jersey and Florida, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

In separate conversations, both Weinstein and McCafferty said operating the Wilson Museum has proven to be a financial strain on the arts center, which also includes exhibit space at the Yester House galleries and the Arkell Pavilion, where musical and performing arts events are staged. Educational classes and programs are run from the center's Hay Madeira Education Center, and the center also maintains an outdoor sculpture park. The Yester House has been the permanent home of the arts center since 1950, which has its origins in a group of local artists, some of whom went on to achieve wide prominence, and who were originally known as the Dorset Painters.

Weinstein said she thought that the arts center was heading in the right direction and with the right combination of leadership, it had a promising future.

"My biggest regret is I don't want to be seen as giving up, but I truly don't feel it's giving up," she said, adding that she had invested a great deal of time in the job and foregone part of her salary, in addition to wringing out significant cost savings from the center's expenditures.

McCafferty said the board will be taking a look at the job description associated with the executive director slot.

"We're never happy with the changes," he said, referring to the number of times the position has been filled by different people over the past five years, and that the arts center was looking to do events and collaborations with other arts organizations around the area.


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