Welcome Hildegard Ojibway

February 25, 2019

The AVA community and Board of Directors are pleased to welcome Hildegard Ojibway as interim Executive Director to AVA Gallery and Art Center beginning February 25, 2019. Hilde is a long-time Upper Valley resident and has been Executive Director of LISTEN Community Services and the Good Neighbor Health Clinic & Red Logan Dental Clinic.

More recently, she identified a need for interim administrative services in the area and has specialized in this capacity, serving as interim Executive Director at Headrest, Good Neighbor Health Clinic, Vital Communities, and Hannah House.

Hilde also served as a State Representative in the Vermont House of Representatives from 2006-2008. She is a singer/songwriter and has appeared in AVA’s Mudroom as part of the band, “Never Too Late,” and most recently as a storyteller.

AVA is also pleased to welcome Bente Torjusen, who served for 30 years as AVA’s Executive Director until 2016, as Strategic Advisor in this interim period.

The search for a permanent Executive Director will begin immediately.

AVA is buzzing with activity! Hilde Ojibway notes, “I love the way AVA engages people of all ages and abilities. The current exhibit of art by area high school students is a great example of how AVA encourages creative development and provides ways to showcase that art throughout the community.”

We hope you will attend the High School Show now on display in the galleries through March 8, 2019. There are exciting educational opportunities for artists of all ages and levels of experience in our new spring and summer classes and camps brochure which can be found here. Finally, please join us for our Annual Silent Auction Party on Saturday, April 6 to celebrate art in our lives and enjoy the company of other members of the AVA community.

Find the ‘Best of NH’ Crowded Around Lebanon’s Colburn Park

May 9, 2018
By Tom Haushalter

It isn’t for the recognition that AVA makes art happen for the Upper Valley community. But when the honor comes from the community itself, we’re especially humbled.

New Hampshire Magazine recently announced its annual “Best of NH 2018” list, including everything from the state’s best antiques shop to its best martini, as voted on by its readers.

And the readers have spoken, choosing AVA Gallery & Art Center as New Hampshire’s Best Art Gallery.

The acknowledgment highlights how much it means to the community that AVA continue to foster creative expression. From featured exhibits in our gallery space to metalworking classes in the new Sculptural Studies building, from the popular Mudroom storytelling series to the annual High School Exhibition—AVA’s mission to provide everyone with opportunities to connect with art has earned an important vote of confidence.

Those same New Hampshire Magazine readers had even more love to spread to Lebanon mainstays. The coffee artists at Lucky’s Coffee Garage were recognized as “Best Coffee in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region.” And on the other end of Colburn Park, Salt hill Pub may now bask in the honor of having the “Best Burger in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region.”
Great art, great coffee and burgers—the stuff that happiness is made of. And yet we know these only scratch the surface of the amazing art and music and food and drink to discover and explore in the Upper Valley.

AVA Featured in Business Vermont Article


Longtime AVA exec to retire

LEBANON, N.H. – Bente Torjusen recently announced she will retire in December, after 30 years as the executive director of AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H.

She said it’s a good time for this change, with the organization about to break ground on a new building for three-dimensional art and add related programs.

“AVA is currently at a wonderful crossroad,” Torjusen said. “This is a wonderful time for fresh new leadership.”

Torjusen’s art career began in her native country of Norway, where she worked as the education director of Oslo Municipal Art Collections, a division of the Munch Museum. There, her talent for connecting art with community grew, and that’s been pivotal to her work at AVA, the Alliance for the Visual Arts.

 “AVA is a meaningful gift to the community and artists at large; we welcome all,” Torjusen said.

She may be retiring from AVA, but she will remain involved with the arts. She plans to delve into art projects of her own, mainly focusing on revitalizing her late husband’s career as an artist. Clifford West was a painter and muralist, photographer and filmmaker.

“My husband was a fabulous teacher here at AVA. He had a demanding eye for talent,” Torjusen said.
Well before her retirement from AVA, Torjusen will be a part of the unveiling of the new Three-Dimensional Studies Center. The groundbreaking for the new building is planned for April 4 and it is set for completion in the fall.

“I believe leaving at a time of expansion will be an exciting time for my successor, the organization and for myself,” Torjusen said.

AVA, founded in 1973 by a group of Upper Valley craftsmen and artists, began as a community gallery which occupied a small space on the second floor of the Dartmouth Bookstore building in Hanover. AVA currently occupies the 41,500-square-foot former H.W. Carter-Kelsey Building, once an overall factory.

“From our first small building, our current building of three floors offers 3,000 square feet of gallery space on the first floor, year-round courses in seven teaching studios, and we currently have 20 studios occupied by individual artists,” Torjusen said.

Over the past 30 years, Torjusen and AVA’s board of directors have built the organization into the art and education institution it is today, for people of all ages and abilities.

“We saw the tremendous potential within this community,” she said. “When we began offering educational programs we saw there was both an interest and a need for these classes. Today the schedule for classes is only growing, and with our new building underway, we will be implementing programs that address the design that mirrors the structure. The classes will address art and environmental issues, such as the Sustainable Architecture Workshop.”

In 2013, a new capital campaign called “Branching Out, Deepening Roots” was implemented under Torjusen’s leadership. The focal point of this $3.5 million campaign is the construction of the new building, which will include solar panels on the roof.

“Bente’s undertaking for green building is as astounding as her devotion to art, artists, and the community. She has put AVA on the path to becoming a net-zero-energy organization,” said Stuart White, Jr., AVA board member.

“The solar array will be woven into the design of the new 3-D Studies Center,” he added. “With Bente’s wonderful blend of art and science the green building will not only make for wonderful architecture, but to house the educational classes addressing environmental issues.”
White is also the architect for the 3-D Studies Center and upcoming changes to the Carter-Kelsey building.

During the 3-D Studies Center project, the Carter-Kelsey building will undergo improvements as well, including creating a Member Artist Gallery and some structural improvements that will allow for the installation of solar panels on the roof of that building.

Torjusen explained that AVA certainly has a vision – a road map for the future.

“Through new programming opportunities AVA will move forward and continue to build on the already solid foundation,” she said. “It will take a key player to add and expand on this vision. With the new building set for completion this fall, it will open several doors for just that.”
An additional goal of the campaign was to payoff the mortgage on the H.W. Carter-Kelsey Building come this fall. The fulfillment of goals this year only adds to the tremendous legacy that will be handed over to the next pair of creative hands.

“I am leaving a ship that is strong and proud and is moving forward,” Torjusen said. “There will always be some waves ahead, but those waves will just add to the sail of exploration guided by the next executive director. I look forward to seeing what change will bring to AVA in the future and what will unfold during my own exploration next year.”