About Us
Photo History of Mill

VAE's Mission since 1994...

To strengthen communities and neighborhoods through the arts and to bring art, art education, exhibition and performance opportunities to people of all ages, abilities and income.

History of the Sage Street Mill and VAE

EZ Waist Mill

The old mill at the end of Sage Street in North Bennington has been home to several industries since the late 1800s including the EZ Waist Cuff & Collar Factory. It also manufactured buttons, mirrors, wooden toy carts and furniture. After the days of wooden furniture it became a machine shop producing stainless steel ball valves and even parts for the Patriot Missle.

Since 1993 it has been home to Vermont Arts Exchange), a non profit arts and community development organization. Co- founded by Matthew Perry and Patricia Pedreira in 1994, VAE began the transformation of the run-down old factory into a creative oasis and an energetic force that contributes to the commercial, social and cultural life of the village. VAE's mission is to strengthen neighborhoods and communities through the arts.

EZ Waist Mill

"The arts served as a catalyst to convert a derelict property into a working community asset. The arts are also an exceptional tool in reaching special-need populations such youth-at-risk and elders who are struggling with dementia," said Artistic Director Matthew Perry.

VAE's studio-based programs include paper making, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, painting, writing, music and dance. A quarterly brochure promotes art classes and workshops for teens and adults as well as after-school sessions and vacation art camps for children. Free programs for teens are also offered, as well as exhibition opportunities here at the Mill Gallery and at Stark Hose Firehouse Gallery (in downtown Bennington). These 2 VAE sites also act as performance venues with the Sage Street Mill being home to the popular Basement Music Series.

VAE front door

Through outreach and private contract work, VAE staff and artists work in the studios with mainstream youth as well as youth-at-risk in residential homes or special school programs. VAE provides art programs offsite to reach local elders, children and their families in housing communities, private schools and Head Start children. Artist residencies in local private and public schools are supported through its ongoing Arts in Education partnerships.

In 1998 VAE responded to the need for affordable living and working space for artists by creating the Vermont Arts Housing & Preservation Partnership Project.

Most everyone agrees that art is good for the community, but community art goes beyond art exhibits or classes. It's about bringing art to those who can't afford an art lesson or even get out of their homes. Integrating and weaving the arts into our lives and neighborhoods creates a strong, vibrant, healthy community and economy.


The Vermont Arts Exchange (VAE), was founded in 1992.

Matthew Perry Photo

Matthew Perry: Director: After graduating from Swain School of Design with a BFA in Graphic Design, Matthew established his own graphic design and illustration studio. His artwork has appeared in several regional and national publications. In 1989, Matthew created the cartoon strip "Cyrus & Ida", which appears weekly in the Vermont News Guide. His paintings and sculptures are inspired by his surroundings whether in Vermont or through his travels in Europe, Brazil and Central America where he also has exhibited in group and solo shows.

In 1992, Matthew co-founded the Vermont Arts Exchange and began teaching art to individuals in his Sage Street Mill studio. While leading art workshops with youth at risk and elders during the same period, all of the work eventually formed under its new umbrella, VAE. Matthew has also taken part in numerous school and community arts residencies throughout the Northeast and in England working with troubled teens, the elderly, local schools and the general community. As VAE Artistic Director, Matthew oversees VAE's year-round arts outreach programs, exhibitions at the Stark Hose Firehouse Gallery and the Mill Gallery and performances such as the Basement Music Series. He has facilitated several mentoring and training programs for artists and presented at many conferences on community arts and integrating arts into health care settings. His work through VAE has been recognized with awards from the Better Bennington Corporation, The Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Sunrise Family Resource Center.

VAE Board of Directors

View of the Mill in Fall

Bob Howe, President

Philip Beekman, Advisor to the Board

David Monks, Joe Madeira, and Tom Martin

Sandra Magsamen, Advisor to the Board

VAE Support Staff

Rachel Payne, Office Manager

Heather Bullock, Arts Education Coordinator

Tish Russel, Business Manager

VAE Artist/Instructors
(a sampling)

Drawing Class

Arline Mayer has a bachelor's degree in visual arts from Bennington College. She has taught and exhibited ceramics throughout New England.

Ann Webster-Lang is an artist, educator and mother. She holds both a BFA and a MFA in graphic design from Rhode Island school of Design and is currently designs mixed-media art jewelry. Ann has taught all age groups & populations from toddler to adult.

Kristen Blaker M.Ed has taught art to people of all ages over the past ten years, ranging from preschool art to adults in community art classes. She graduated from Skidmore College in 2001 with a degree in psychology and a minor in art. Afterwards, she attained her art education licensure along with her Masters Degree in Education from Colorado State University. Kristen taught art at the junior high level for four years and another year at the elementary level before taking time off to stay home and raise her young children.  Kristen is passionate about fostering creativity and encouraging expression in people of all ages. In her personal artwork, Kristen combines sculptural ceramics with found object art. She also explores mixed media to create altered book arts and paintings. She has exhibited her artwork in Colorado, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont.

Betsy Kane is a visual artist and educator. She graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston in 2003 with a BFA in Photography, and received her Master of Arts in Teaching/Art Education from the School of Visual Arts in NYC in 2006. She taught studio and digital arts at an alternative public high school in Manhattan for four years before moving to Vermont. Since then, Betsy has worked in local schools, started an online business, spent time as an education docent at Mass MoCA, and worked in the Education Department at the Bennington Museum. Betsy loves to facilitate and awaken a desire to create, discover, and explore the world through art. Her personal work is created mostly with photography, drawing, and found objects.

Rosemary F. Moser is from Middletown Springs, Vermont, and has been an Early Childhood Educator for nearly 30 years. She is committed to offering professional, developmentally appropriate programs which foster the physical, intellectual, and emotional growth and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. She has coordinated the Kids Corner at SolarFest from1999 – 2011 and since 2006 is a "Start with the Arts" instructor through Very Special Arts. Rosemary has worked with numerous schools and camps throughout Vermont and on the West coast and also is Certified Vermont Master Gardener & Master Composter. "After almost three decades in the field, I find the greatest pleasure in sharing the activities with children which I most love in my personal life—the arts, natural sciences, cooking, gardening, and creative movement", states Rosemary.

Michael Wingfield is an accomplished performer and teacher with more than 25 years of experience in Afro-Caribbean percussive arts and culture. In addition to his solo work he directs the Afro-Caribbean percussion ensemble Cabildo that performs widely across New England. His performance credits include such notables as Flora Purim and Airto, Sun ra, Richie Havens and Herman Johnson.

Jessica Putnam-Phillips is a ceramic artist and owner of Battenkill River Pottery in Arlington, Vermont. She received her B. A. in Studio Arts from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in 2006 and her M.F.A. in Visual Arts from Lesley University in 2013. Upon completing her graduate degree Jessica spent six months as an artist-in-residence at the Saratoga Clay Art Center. Jessica's work has been included in numerous exhibitions nationwide including the Boston Young Contemporaries 2013 Exhibition and in the New England Collective at Galatea Gallery, Boston. Most recently three of her ceramic platters have been selected to be part of Transformation 9; the Raphael Founders Prize Exhibition at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh. Currently Jessica is the director of the Canfield Gallery and teaches ceramics at the Vermont Art Exchange in North Bennington..


How YOU Can Support VAE!


Some of VAE funding comes through grants & fees but we rely greatly upon your monetary donations. If you would like to support the work of VAE, donations are gladly accepted. We accept of checks, credit cards, gifts of stock and grants from individuals, foundations, businesses and corporations.

Each year many children cannot attend our Vacation Art Camps due to income restrictions in their family. If you'd like to send a child to one of our half-day or full day (week long) camps, please consider buying a "Campership" . For more information, please contact Matthew Perry, Director at VAE.

VAE also welcomes donations in the form of supplies, equipment or furniture. We strongly believe that "one man's trash is another man's treasure". Please contact Matthew Perry, if you'd like to donate something you think we'd find useful. Your gift(s) are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Volunteering at VAE


Volunteers are the best!
Join our volunteer team in one of many capacities.

  • Artist/Instructor in a class
  • Assist an Artist/Instructor in a class
  • Gallery sitter
  • Office help
  • Studio help
  • Phone Reception
  • Distribution of poster, brochures, etc.
  • Basement Music Series set-up, ticket takers
  • Events & Exhibitions
  • Facility work, grounds, painting
  • Archives