Artists group members to revive Bennington arts center | Local News

BENNINGTON — The former Bennington Centre for the Arts building has a new possession group, which hopes for a June reopening of the facility’s gallery place and 315-seat theater for a complete program of occasions.

Unique members of the around the world Society of Animal Artists acquired the 36,000-square-foot center in cooperation with a company entity — Bennington Middle for the Arts Inc., which is related with former homeowners and founders Bruce Laumeister and Elizabeth Small.

Laumeister and Tiny wanted the culture to have the centre, said Renee Bemis, the society’s president. Bemis is serving as a transitional president of BCA Inc. during a search for an executive director.

She said the founders and Small’s daughter, Shirley Hutchins, resigned from the company board right after the acquisition, which went by bankruptcy court from the estate of the previous Southern Vermont School. Quite a few modern society customers had been named to constitute a new Bennington Middle for the Arts board.

“In essence, they are handing in excess of the keys to us and will not be included,” Bemis said.

Smaller “had arrived at out to us,” Bemis reported, adding that the middle founders experienced hosted three reveals of the operates of society users around the several years, the most recent shortly ahead of the facility was donated to the college in late 2017.

SVC subsequently closed in 2019 amid mounting debt and declining university student enrollment.

Smaller and Hutchins, who was the center’s gallery director for numerous several years, claimed Tuesday they are delighted to convert over the facility to the society.

“This is totally wonderful,” Little claimed. “I just can’t imagine of a much better upcoming for the arts center, and the enthusiasm that they are bringing and the new way they’re wanting at it, and it is going continue with what we originally hoped it would be — a fantastic arts centre for the community.”

“We are thrilled to have them having above the facility,” Hutchins mentioned.

The culture presented the to start with clearly show held at the heart in 1994, Small claimed, and customers exhibited as people today during yearly art exhibits.

“We have worked closely with a large amount of the users,” she stated.

“We are thrilled to have discovered a new household for the Bennington Centre for The Arts,” Laumeister said in an email. “The [society] has a superb eyesight for the arts middle to restore it as a vivid place for arts fans, as well as a community center for Bennington and Southern Vermont to host gatherings and gatherings for the nearby local community to take pleasure in.”

Laumeister added, “It was heartbreaking to see the closing of the arts centre immediately after SVC closed down but now we have discovered a new arts group ready to re-open up the heart and grow on what we have carried out so considerably to develop new and impressive encounters for all of the people.”

Bankruptcy Circumstance

The $500,000 transaction was authorized this month in the Vermont division of U.S. Bankruptcy Courtroom as element of dispersal of the serious estate assets of the former college or university.

Laumeister and Smaller oversaw building of the center at 44 Gypsy Lane, off West Street, through the 1990s, adding new wings and functions over a 15-calendar year period of time. Integrated are seven galleries, places of work and other areas. The grounds also incorporate a covered bridge museum and gardens.

Assessment Planned

Bemis said Wes Siegrist, executive director of the culture, and his spouse, Rachelle, will come to Bennington shortly to commence assessing what changes or updates could be necessary at the middle, which has been closed to functions since right before the college or university entered liquidation proceedings in Individual bankruptcy Court in August 2020.

She stated a function celebration at the centre by some of the 500 culture users — all of whom live in other spots, such as other nations — is tentatively planned for Could. The to start with function could be an exhibit of pieces from the founders’ comprehensive artwork selection at the center, which remains on financial loan.


All forms of occasions will be considered for the center, Bemis mentioned, and the hope is that local community associates will provide strategies and assist for the nonprofit team.

There will also be an work to bring citizens with experience in many spots on to the company board, she said.

“This is a blank canvas,” Bemis said. “We can do a large amount of distinct points.”

She stated she’s actively searching for to guide activities for the heart and can be attained in the Chicago spot, exactly where she lives, at 815-762-5016, or through email at [email protected].

The team also ideas fundraising occasions, she reported, and will find grants.


Raymond Obuchowski, the court-appointed trustee symbolizing the university corporation’s estate, submitted a report about the sale final week with the court. He stated the closing took place on March 11 and adhered to an overall settlement to solve all statements, which was labored out previously amongst quite a few get-togethers.

That involved Laumeister and Little, who experienced submitted suit in Outstanding Court in 2019 to have their present to SVC rescinded, and debt-holder Frederic Poses, a donor to the college or university who put up $2 million as security for a personal loan SVC took in 2011 for school enhancement jobs.

Also bundled in the sale agreement have been payment of the true estate, legal and closing prices payments to the city for outstanding utility expenditures involving the centre and cash to go over upkeep of the assets beneath Obuchowski’s purview all through the personal bankruptcy procedure.

The arts middle was the last major piece of authentic estate to be liquidated by way of the courtroom. The 371-acre principal college or university campus was marketed to Southwestern Vermont Wellness Care as a result of a court docket-surpervised auction in December 2020 for $4.65 million. The Gate Household constructing on Monument Avenue, which had served as an admissions developing, bought at the same auction for $320,000 to Kenneth Milman and his wife, Bridget Elder, who prepared to renovate the setting up for a return to residential use.

Kenneth Proto

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