Institution using School of Art pause to focus on director search, improve Art Quad

Arts Marketing Specialist Makayla Santiago-Froebel, left, and Schools of Peforming and Visual Arts and Arts Education Coordinator Samantha Minardi cart away old furniture while cleaning up the Arts Quad with employees and volunteers June 7 at the School of Art. Dave Munch/Photo Editor

Julia Weber
Staff writer

While Chautauqua’s School of Art is taking a pause this season, its leaders are looking to the future to imagine an even better version of the school.

After the departure of the Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director of Chautauqua Visual Arts Sharon Louden last year,  the Institution announced it would conduct a national search for a new artistic director, pausing CVA’s School of Art in the meantime.

The search began with 60 candidates and has been narrowed down to two finalists, who will be interviewing on the grounds in August. The hiring committee expects to make a final decision in the fall. Laura Savia, vice president of performing and visual arts, said this search for a candidate has been very rewarding. 

“Having this generational opportunity to rethink the model of CVA and doing that in tandem with a national search has supercharged our imaginations,” she said.

Though students are absent from the Art Quad this year, CVA’s galleries, housed in Strohl Art Center and Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, are still actively showing nine exhibitions throughout the summer.

In lieu of the traditional student-art exhibition, Judy Barie, the Susan and John Turben Director of CVA Galleries, curated an alumni exhibition to highlight the work of former students and interns in the visual arts program. 

She sees it as a way of not only uplifting their work, but also connecting the past, present and future of visual arts at the Institution. 

“We’re honoring the past by changing the future in a better direction,” Barie said.

Savia said whoever is chosen as the new CVA leader will work with Barie and Associate Director of Galleries Erika Diamond closely “so that the galleries can continue to do the best in-class work that they do.”

CVA and the Institution are taking the opportunity this summer to make some much-needed structural improvements to the Art Quad. So far, portions of the roof have been fixed, the flooring in the ceramics studio is being replaced and plans to make studio facilities more accessible are in place. A massive clean-out and clean-up of the studios took place early in June, and the Friends of CVA are using the space for its annual fundraiser for the School of Art, set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

For Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer, the visual arts play an integral part in the broader programming of Chautauqua, and she hopes to increase that presence.

“We want to make sure that our visual arts have the future of having as prominent a place in the life of Chautauqua as the performing arts do, and I think we’re on our way,” she said.

Moore said she believes the arts should move forward with society, and that these updates and reimaginings of the program are integral to the success of CVA.

“The whole role of the arts in humanity is showing who we are, reflecting society, and if we don’t evolve to reflect society and be thoughtful, then we’re stuck,” Moore said. “The last thing we want in our arts platform, or any pillar, here is to be stuck.”

She said by taking this season to pause, the CVA team will be able to fully dedicate themselves to developing a sustainable long-term strategy that will bolster the visual arts program and equip it for the future.

“We are in this for the long run,” Moore said. “We are in this for this commitment to the art form, to what it means in community in Chautauqua, and to excellence.”

Savia said she is looking forward to what’s to come.

“The future is very, very bright for Chautauqua Visual Arts,” she said.


The author Julia Weber

Julia Weber is a rising junior in Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College where she is majoring in journalism and minoring in art history. Originally from Athens, Ohio, this is her first summer in Chautauqua and she is thrilled to cover the theater and dance performances. She serves as the features editor for Ohio University’s All-Campus Radio Network, a student-run radio station and media hub, and she is a former intern for Pittsburgh Magazine. Outside of her professional life, Julia has a newly adopted cat, Griffin, and she is an avid fan of live music and a dedicated ceramicist.