It isn't too often that two, major arts-presenting organizations have their chief executive officers retire-both after long and very successful tenures. I am talking about Andrea Rogers, who steered the Flynn Center for the Arts, and Jane Ambrose of the UVM Lane Series.
I know that all of us, actively aligned with various Vermont arts organizations, realize that these two women didn't just appear in white gloves to comment and leave the dirty work for others. They used a good deal of gentle persuasion to raise the funds for everything ranging from total renovation of a building to making certain that local audiences had the opportunity to see the best that the world had to offer in the arts.
Both women built multi-faceted reflections of the arts communities in Vermont into their respective support bases. I use the plural, communities, advisedly: all one has to do is to attend local or traveling companies (where there are presenters in various aspects of the arts) to see how there are many different facets that make up financial support by buying tickets to events. This is also true of the support that comes from private and corporate funding.
I moved here from Los Angeles in 1982; at that time, Los Angeles had only the L.A. Philharmonic. Los Angeles imported San Francisco Opera every fall, later to be followed by the New York City Opera. Nothing of any consequence happened in Los Angeles-it shipped on the smallest of scales. Why mention this fact? Because when I began to attend performances at the Flynn or the Redstone Recital Hall, I felt I had died and gone to heaven; that's because Los Angeles compared so unfavorably with what the Lane Series and the Flynn Center were doing here in Vermont.
I made one observation that drew the attention of both Rogers and Ambrose: I said some discouraging words about the practice of publically thanking the public and private benefactors that help make Vermont a hub for the arts. Each of these women spoke quietly, but passionately to me, earnestly trying to convince me that these benefactors could really never get enough thanks for what they did for the arts community in Vermont.
I learned my lesson. I now consider both women to be my friends as well as fellow lovers of the arts.
We have shared singing together; we have shared earnest conversations as well as lighthearted ones together as well. They have extended many kindnesses to me over the years, for which I take this opportunity, once again, to render heartfelt thanks to each of them individually for all they have done for me personally and for the arts community in Vermont.
Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for The Eagle. His column appears weekly.