MONTPELIER — A change of leadership at the Capital City’s premiere art gallery also marks a period of growth and outreach to expand access to the arts in central Vermont.
Margaret Coleman started last week as the new executive director of the T.W. Wood Gallery on Barre Street. She succeeds Ginny Callan, who has been in the position four years. Coleman’s start overlaps with Callan, who’s last day was Friday, to ensure a smooth transition.
Coleman enters the position at a time of growth and new development for the gallery and its adjacent partners — Montiverdi Music School and River Rock School — at The Center for Arts and Learning, which all share space in the former St. Michael’s Catholic School and convent. Founded in 2012, the arts center is now home to over 25 artists, writers and other artisans.
The T.W. Wood Gallery was founded by acclaimed artist Thomas Waterman Wood, a native of Montpelier who headed both the National Academy of Design and the American Watercolor Society. The gallery is also home to a collection of artworks under the Works Progress Administration that are featured in revolving exhibitions that were part of The Federal Art Project (1935-1943), a New Deal Program to fund American art projects that sustained some 10,000 artists during the Great Depression.
Today, the gallery also features changing exhibitions of contemporary Vermont artists’ work and runs summer art camps, an after-school program, art classes, art talks and opening art exhibition receptions.
Coleman brings her own diverse immersion in the arts, having worked in a variety of roles at art organizations in New York City and Vermont. She has a bachelor’s art degree from the University of Minnesota, a master’s art degree from the Pratt Institute in New York City, and is a doctoral candidate at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts in Portland, Maine.
Before coming to Montpelier, Coleman spent five years with and was a founding member of Art Shape Mammoth in Burlington, a national arts nonprofit that connects artists with social justice and environmental movements.
Previously, Coleman was also a co-director of the ONE Arts Center in Burlington for five years.
“ONE Arts Center has very similar programming to different parts of the T.W. Wood Gallery, with an after-school art program, summer camps, and focus on families and creative education,” Coleman said.
Also in Burlington, Coleman worked for two years at Flynndog Exhibits, a gallery of contemporary art exhibits. She has been a member of the Burlington City Arts board of directors for five years.
Coleman’s first arts position in Vermont, for two years, was program coordinator at Cold Hollow Sculpture Park in Enosburg Falls, dedicated to the life and work of sculptor David Stromeyer, which features artwork of epic scale in a variety of mediums.
Before coming to Vermont, Coleman worked in the arts in New York City. She spent two years at Hunter College, where she was curator for ceramics exhibition space and an assistant teacher for casting, mold-making and sculpture classes. Coleman also worked as curator for Loft 594, a warehouse gallery space for contemporary arts in Bushwick, and she worked as a sculptor at New York Art Foundry.
“So, there’s a lot of jobs,” Coleman said.
Coleman was first attracted to the state during a 2013 vacation.
“My husband and I came here on a vacation from Brooklyn, and when we saw the beauty and the culture, and the quality of life, we started trying to figure out how to move here,” Coleman said. “We didn’t have kids at the time — we weren’t even married yet — but thought if we wanted to have children, this would be a good place to live.”
The couple now has two children — Ben aged 2, and Pippa, 4 months old — and lives in Burlington. Coleman’s husband, Nicholas, is a paralegal who works for a Stowe law firm.
Coleman said she was attracted to the T.W. Wood Gallery position because it was such a good fit, based on her previous work and experience in the arts.
“When I looked at this job description, the thing that really drew me was that it fulfills all the different aspects of the things that I’m interested in,” Coleman said. “It’s got historical work, then it’s got contemporary art and then it also has education programs and outreach to the community.
”So, when I saw what it really was, I got really excited,” she added. “It’s not just going to put me in one box; there are so many different ways to engage, which is why I put in an application. It keeps the interest going to have different projects at the same time, with all the different spaces, the different exhibition places and the programs and classes. It feels like it will keep me going.”
Callan said the transition with Coleman has gone well.
“It’s going great,” Callan said. “She comes in with a lot of great tools and experience that I think will help make the transition easy.”
One of several candidates for the gallery position, Callan said Coleman stood out when the gallery’s board of trustees interviewed her for the position.
“She’s done curating and run galleries and run camps and after-school programs, which we focus on a lot with children and art, so she’s got all that experience,” Callan said.
Coincidentally, Callan said she would also discontinue the work she has performed for the past eight years as a member of the Act 250 District 5 Environmental Commission that considers development under Vermont’s land use law. She was not reappointed for the position.
“This is actually interesting timing because my time with Act 250 is ending at about the same time I chose to stop working, professionally, at the gallery,” Callan said. “So, for me, it’s kind of like I’m coming into a very clean slate of new opportunities and also time for me to take a break and just kayak, and garden, and take the summer off and think about what I want to do.”
For more information about the T.W. Wood Gallery, visit www.twwoodgallery.org.