Jul 15, 2013
08:39 AM
Arts & Entertainment

New Director Brings New Verve to Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon

New Director Brings New Verve to Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon

Courtesy of Farmington Valley Arts Center

Michele Colletti.

 Since Michele Colletti was named the executive director of the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon in April, she has begun an “aggressive” overhaul of the creative programming and educational offerings. It’s a shift that she said has caused some upset while everyone involved gets used to the adjustment. Now, just over two months on the job, Colletti said she’s finally finding a rhythm.

“When I first got in here and started piecing things together it was quite overwhelming,” Colletti said of getting the job. “I feel like I’ve finally got a momentum going.”

Colletti opened her first show in The Fisher Gallery, one of two at FVAC, at the end of June. “Connections” features selected works from the center’s studio artists.

“When I first arrived I met with the studio artists and found that they had sort of fallen by the wayside in the last few years, and I think they felt a little bit neglected because they are such a pivotal part of the art center,” Colletti explained. “A whole half of the center is our studio artists who are here creating on a daily basis. I decided to bump the show that was scheduled in this gallery and ask them to be part of this show named, “Connections,” for a reason. I really wanted to connect the galleries back to the studio artists.”

There was an opening reception for, “Connections” on June 28. Simultaneously, “A Sketch Book Project,” opened in the Esther B. Drezner Visitor’s Gallery. Nearly 150 people visited FVAC that day to wander through the two galleries.

An arts market jewelry sale took place on the same day and a musician performed on the grounds.

It was Colletti’s idea to unify the center for the opening. Having multiple things happening at the same time inspired more people to come to the opening reception and gave them the opportunity to discover everything there is to do.

“I thought it was an extraordinary event,” said Jennifer DeGraaf, a member of the FVAC board of directors. “I thought it went above and beyond other things that we’ve had - multiple galleries doing multiple things. That was a nice way to drive someone who might come only for Fisher but then they went to visit the other galleries. It pulled everything together really nicely.”

Colletti said, “Connections,” has been very successful, and the center has sold three pieces since the opening. “Connections,” will run through July 22.

This show is the benchmark for the kind of exhibits and events Colletti hopes to bring into FVAC, and it is only the beginning.

The Fisher Gallery’s next show will feature the work of the center’s art instructors. A show featuring the work of the art students will open in the Drezner Gallery at the same time on August 3. Colletti explained that the opening of the two shows will include many activities including a chalk block, Zumba demonstrations, a drum circle, circus acts, food vendors and the classroom will be open to the public for people to get creative.

In September, FVAC will welcome the photographs of Torrington native Josh Quinn. His show titled, “Enduring Freedom Comes Home,” will coincide with a larger show, “Freedom,” opening in Fisher. FVAC will select photos from the near 5,000 Quinn took while serving in Afghanistan. For that opening, Colletti hopes to have a military band on sight and invite Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham to attend.

Multi-dimensional openings, “allows us to offer more to the community and make these a not-to-be-missed event,” said Colletti. It’s all part of her plan to reintroduce the center to the community.

FVAC was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1974 and is located on 25 Arts Center Ln., just a minute off of Route 44. Despite that, people are constantly saying that they don’t know the center was there.

That is even true of Colletti and her family.

“I have a pretty cultural background. My mom used to bring me all over the state to every nook and cranny of cultural offerings that Connecticut has. When I was interviewed I actually called her in Florida to say, ‘How come you never brought me to the Farmington Valley Arts Center?’ She said, ‘Is that still there?’ That immediately was like OK, something’s wrong here,” said Colletti. Bringing FVAC back into the community sight line is at the top of Colletti’s list of things to do.

Getting the job of executive director was no easy task. The process began back in early February when she applied and had a phone interview. An in-person interview followed in late February, one meeting in March, a meeting with the board of directors in early April and finally she was given the job in late April.

She said she stuck with the process because, “The first time I came here, I immediately thought it was an amazing place with a great energy and a lot to offer.”

The new executive director is following four years of leadership under transitional executive director Roy David, who was tasked with bringing FVAC out of financial crisis.  

“He was here for four years and really focused on finances. He got it back to a very healthy place, which we needed, but in that time there wasn’t really anybody focusing on programming or protocol,” said Colletti. “The creative aspect of the center was here but not to its full potential, so when I came in I really presented to the board a way to bring in more foot traffic to the center and kind of shape things up with more educational offerings, different exhibits that we haven’t had yet.”

In addition to opening her first show in Fisher, Colletti has organized the reshuffling of consignment artists in Drezner.

Colletti calls herself a, “non-profit girl,” and said she isn’t afraid of publicity and working with the media. It’s a tool that she is willing to employ in her effort to reintroduce FVAC to the community.

She first became involved with non-profits through Everybody Wins! in Hartford, a literacy mentoring program that brought together inner city kids with business professionals who would read to them. Before that, she began her career as a performance artist working the cabaret and dinner theater circuit. She went on to teach arts programing to parks and recreation departments and then began working with Everybody Wins! After that, she decided to start her own non-profit, Footlights Center for Performing Arts, which provided dance, drama and music programs to at-risk teens aged 12 to 17 in inner city Hartford. After seven and a half years with Footlights, Colletti merged it with the local YMCA and decided to go back to school to get her masters in arts and humanities. Currently she has two classes left in her degree at Wesleyan University.

It was at the tail end of those years where she was focusing on school that Colletti decided she wanted to go back to work. She managed to record an album and write a book during that time, but she said she was bored and was looking for a job that she could sink her teeth into.

“I’m a dabbler,” Colletti admitted with a laugh. “Whatever strikes my interest at the time.”

Right now, she is completely focused on revamping FVAC and bringing new visitors into the center. The center will also be relaunching their website within the next 30 days, said Colletti. Currently they are accepting applications for artists looking to rent a studio and be part of the FVAC community. There are three studios available and there’s an application and review process. 

FVAC is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 12 to 4 p.m. The artist studios are open to the public the first Saturday of each month. 

For more information visit artsfvac.org.

Editor's note: This story is from The Farmington Valley Times.

New Director Brings New Verve to Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon

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