Bennington Center for the Arts Donated to Southern Vermont College
BENNINGTON, Vt. — Bruce Laumeister said Monday that his family's gift to Southern Vermont College allows for the preservation of his legacy.
SVC President David Rees Evans said it will allow SVC to build for the college's future.
Laumeister and his wife Elizabeth Small, who founded the Bennington Center for the Arts in 1994, have donated the Route 9 facility to the college, which will name it the Laumeister Art Center at Southern Vermont College in honor of the donor.
"It's been a great ride," Laumeister said at a ceremony announcing the gift on Monday afternoon. "But [the BCA] is only ending physically, not mentally. We'll be around.
"When you get into your 80s, you start to wonder what's going to happen to things you built and how they're going to stay. I built it for the community, and it will stay in the community. Southern Vermont College couldn't be a better source."
Small, who was unable to attend Monday's ceremony, echoed Laumeister's sentiment in a news release from the college.
"I am delighted to see the transfer of BCA to SVC for I feel with Dr. Evans at the helm they will be able to continue the mission that we set forth for the center, which was to bring world-class art to the residents and visitors of Southern Vermont," Small said. "With his youth, enthusiasm, commitment to the community, and his love for the arts, including theatrical and the Southwest, I have complete confidence that the center will continue to grow and serve the arts community everywhere."
"We have not been all that much engaged in the arts," Evans said. "In this community, having a foothold in the arts is, of course, immensely important. This creates a giant, instantaneous opportunity to be a player in the arts in Bennington, which is terrific for us."
Evans, who sits on the board of the Dorset Theatre Festival, noted that his wife is the costumer at Bennington's Old Castle Theatre, and the college foresees cooperating with a number of the area's cultural entities for programming at the Laumeister Center, starting as early as this summer.
"We've got one thing we're looking at for March, which depends on the technological capacity of the theater," he said. "Once we get in there, we'll have a better sense of what we can do. But for sure, there will be as much as we can possibly do during the summer."
The new Laumeister Art Center adds 36,000 square feet of performance and programming space. That represents an increase of about 70 percent, if not more, to SVC's academic footprint, Evans said.
The center includes a 315-seat theater as well as offices, workshop spaces and a gallery dedicated to the history and culture of covered bridges in Vermont.
SVC is no stranger to the BCA. Evans himself was installed in the theater at the center, and the college has used the site for admissions events and student orientations.
In the not-too-distant future, those orientations may include information about expanded arts offerings at the school, which offers degree programs in 14 areas ranging from business administration to nursing to liberal arts.
"This enables us to think seriously about expanding our academic programs into some more arts areas," Evans said. "We have no interest in competing with Bennington College, so we're looking at things that dovetail with their work, rather than competing with their work, and add vibrancy to the arts in this area.
"This morning, we formed a small committee that has a faculty member and administrator and a couple of people from the community to do a quick plan for the summer because we'd like to get it very active in the summer time. In the longer run, we will develop a strategy for academic programming. … We're strong already in non-profit management, so we're looking at options in that realm. We're also thinking: Are their applied arts programs we can do.
"I think by the end of the spring semester, we'll have a pretty good idea where we're going."
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