SVAC hires new head, plans to expand programming

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MANCHESTER — The Southern Vermont Arts Center has named a new executive director following half a year's search.

Anne Corso, who hails from the Philadelphia suburbs, assumed the position Jan. 2 and her plans include expanding the Art Center's programming.

"I think there's opportunity for new and more," Corso said in an interview Tuesday, a day after the SVAC announced her hiring.

The center, Corso said, is developing a new children and family gallery at Yester House that would allow little ones to work on art projects.

The center also will be renovating its cafe and introducing a new vendor in the hopes of attracting more guests and events to the 100-acre property off West Road.

"I think she's got a really nice running start," Bob Van Degna, president of the SVAC's board of trustees, who ran the Arts Center after the previous executive director left in July, said of Corso.

Programming is key to drawing visitors to the Arts Center, Van Degna said, but it was a crucial component the place had been missing. "We'd done some things, but it was always last minute."

Now, the Arts Center has already laid out its plans for 2019 and hopes to soon begin working on the following year's.

Among the new exhibitions lined up for this spring season is "Unusual Threads: Stitching Together the Future of Fashion." The show, which opens May 11 at the Wilson Galleries, will explore the future of high fashion and regional historic fashion alongside sustainable practices, such as the use of recycled and organic materials.

Corso, who was most recently director of education at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, said she was attracted to the SVAC position because of the Center's varied reach and relevance to the community. The job also aligned with her career goals.

"It was a moment for me to take the next step into a directorial position with an educational and community focus, and for me that was very exciting," said Corso, who had also served as director of education at both the Reading Public Museum in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington.

Van Degna said the Arts Center hasn't had a leader in about a decade with Corso's background in museums and the arts, as well as her

managerial experience.

There had been a high turnover in the position in recent years. According to Journal files, SVAC had four executive directors between March 2013 and July 2018.

"We've been going on and picking people local that happened to be here, rather than someone who actually had the background and experience to run something as complicated as the Arts Center," Van Degna said. "Many times, we found ourselves in a situation where we had to find someone quickly to keep the thing going."

The SVAC, a nonprofit organization established in 1952, hired a headhunting firm to help it launch a nationwide search for a new executive director last year.

The first time Van Degna spoke to Corso, he immediately thought "this is the right person," he said. The board president said he found her not only knowledgeable but also had good listening and interpersonal skills.

"An extremely important part of this job is development," Van Degna said. "No nonprofit survives without the financial support of the community, and we're no different."

Corso, who moved here with her husband, said she plans to grow her career at the SVAC, "sticking around and being able to develop a multiyear plan."

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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