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
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.
"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.
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: 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
Bob Howe, President
Philip Beekman, Treasurer-Clerk
Matthew Perry, Director, co-founder
Stella Ehrich studied painting and drawing for seven years in Florence with professor Signorina Nerina Simi. She holds a masters degree in painting from Bennington College. She has taught at Bennington College, Williams College, and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.
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.
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.
Ann Kremers is an artist and calligrapher living and working in Bennington and teaching throughout southern Vermont and the Berkshires. Ann's calligraphy and illustration clients include Williams College, the Clark Art Institute, Bennington Potters, the Music Department of Harvard University, Bennington College, among many others. She has taught calligraphy to adults at Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Northern Berkshire Creative Arts and privately. She has also taught drawing and watercolor painting at many venues in the region as well as working with children and young people. It is a pleasure for Ann to teach skills and guide people toward their own expression. She has a BFA from the University of Michigan and continues to learn about art making almost every day. To learn more about Ann and see examples of her work please visit her website, annkremers.com.
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.
Claire Fox is a visual artist and teacher. Her own work is usually paint on wood on a miniature scale. She studied at Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts, where she received The Rhodes Family Award for Outstanding Achievement in the field of Illustration. In 2008 she received a Masters in Fine Arts, also from SVA. In 2010 Claire Fox returned to her roots, moving to North Adams, Massachusetts. She was a winner of the MASS MoCA Berkshire Creative Challenge. Recent artwork can be seen on the Claire Fox Art page on Facebook.
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.
Lindsey Anderson began working for the Vermont Arts Exchange as a work-study employee while still a student at Bennington College in the fall of 2008. Though she dabbled for a few years in sculpture and ceramics, Lindsey eventually graduated with a B.A. in Memory Studies, conducting her final work in Psychology and Latin American Literature. Now the Program Manager for VAE, she spends most of her days as Matthew’s righthand lady. She also has been, and continues to be, a teacher for VAE’s Expressive Arts Partnership with the Vermont Veteran’s Home, working primarily with residents with dementia. This work was the inspiration for her thesis project, “He still remembers me”: The effects of dementia on spousal relationships. This project is available to read online at www.bennington.edu.
Amy Anselmo has been with VAE since 2004 as a jewelry, ceramics and art instructor. Most recently she has incorporated a co-working space into VAE Print Room, where creative independent professionals can work in a shared space that encourages collaboration. She has a BFA from Alfred University in glass blowing, ceramics and sculpture. Amy also works with digital arts including: graphic design, web design and photography. She also teaches art and gardening at Hiland Hall Gardens in North Bennington and can often be found picking up trash along Vermont's roadsides. Her portfolio is online at www.amyanselmo.com.
Renee Bouchard has been teaching at VAE since 2007 working with youth-at-risk, elders and teaching community art classes in drawing and painting. She has shown her work in New England, Montana, Idaho, Florida, Washington D.C., and New York City. In June 2006 she will have a solo exhibition of her abstract representational oil paintings at the Southern Vermont Art Center, in Manchester. She has received honors from Stephan Bennett Phillips of the Phillips Collection, the Boise Museum of Art, the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and at the New York New England New Talent exhibition in Amherst, MA. She is a recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Power of Art Grant, for art teachers working with exceptional learners.
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