AVA Gallery director steps down unexpectedly

Paul “Trip” Anderson was named executive director of AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H., in August 2016, succeeding longtime director Bente Torjusen. (Courtesy photograph)

February 12, 2019
By Tim Camerato
Valley News Staff Writer

The head of AVA Gallery and Art Center has stepped down, a little more than two years after accepting the job leading the downtown arts organization.

Paul N. “Trip” Anderson III, executive director of the gallery, resigned on Friday, according to Andrew Garthwaite, chairman of AVA’s board of directors.

Anderson confirmed in an email on Tuesday that he resigned, and said details of the separation still are being worked out.

“I am very proud of the significant transformations that have occurred at AVA under my tenure,” he said. “There were very high expectations when I came on board, and I believe we all underestimated the magnitude of what needed to be done in this transition. Nonetheless, I also firmly believe AVA is now well-positioned to carry its mission forward deep into the 21st century.”

Garthwaite said on Tuesday morning that Anderson’s departure was a “personnel matter” and that he didn’t want to go into details, but said Anderson is leaving the gallery on “good terms.”

“We’ve been very appreciative of what he’s been able to do for our campus,” Garthwaite said, praising Anderson’s efforts to grow AVA’s offerings and expand public art in Lebanon.

Anderson took the executive director job in November 2016, succeeding Bente Torjusen, who retired after a 30-year tenure that saw the gallery expand into a cultural institution located in the former H.W. Carter & Sons building, a former clothing factory on Bank Street.

“He came on at a time when there was a lot of expansion,” former AVA board Chairwoman Sloane Mayor said.

One of Anderson’s first accomplishments was the June 2017 opening of the 4,000-square-foot Bente Torjusen West Sculptural Studies Building, which nearly doubled the gallery’s capacity for classes and outreach efforts.

“He also brought an incredible strength to the organization in terms of (implementing) structure and systems to support everything that we were doing,” Mayor said.

“I think the executive directorship is never easy. You have to put your heart and soul and time into the organization,” she said. “AVA is well-known in its own right, and it takes skills that are multifaceted to bring it into the next future it may have.”

City leaders also complimented Anderson’s efforts to collaborate to improve Lebanon’s arts scene.

Anderson held meetings with leaders of the nearby Lebanon Opera House and the Upper Valley Music Center, which ultimately led to the creation of a city task force that studied ways to expand the public’s access to art.

While Anderson didn’t sit on the task force, he did regularly attend meetings to share expertise learned from his past work creating the Salisbury Cultural District in Worcester, Mass., according to City Councilor Karen Zook.

Anderson recently had applied to join a permanent arts commission in Lebanon, as well, she said.

“He has valuable experience, and it would have been great to have his experience on the commission going forward,” Zook said.

Paul Coats, Lebanon’s director of recreation and parks, said Anderson also was instrumental in projects that added art to the Mascoma River Greenway and partnered with the city to install exhibits at Colburn Park.

“We wouldn’t have had the success we had with (those efforts) had it not been for Trip,” he said.

Garthwaite, AVA’s board chairman, said the gallery hopes to soon announce an interim director before beginning the search for Anderson’s permanent successor. Until then, operations at the gallery are proceeding normally, he said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.