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VCFA, Having Sold Most Buildings, Seeks Partner; Gary Library Could Become Performing Arts Center

At a meeting with neighbors Jan. 31, Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) Interim President Andrew Ramsammy said VCFA is actively seeking an educational partner who can help provide support services and meet the college’s infrastructure needs, such as with IT.

Where the pursuit of a partner will lead is unknown, Ramsammy said, but it could involve the eventual sale of College Hall, the tall building on campus that faces the green and that is the only building VCFA has not put up for sale.

However, Ramsammy said VCFA would ideally like to keep a connection to Montpelier, even if it means renting space in College Hall from another owner. The building has empty offices now, he said, although Sen. Peter Welch will be opening an office there soon.

Ramsammy noted that a recent headline in Seven Days suggesting VCFA was seeking a buyer was not accurate.

 “We want a partner,” he said. If a partnership requires layoffs at VCFA, he said the college would plan to offer severance payments to employees. Ramsammy, who lives in Arizona, has been a member of the VCFA board since 2021 and became interim president in December.

The college green is still owned by VCFA, but VCFA CFO Katie Gustafson told the group that a condominium that was formed to cover the recently sold buildings on the east side of College Street has a recreation easement on the green, meaning its use would likely not change unless the condominium group gave up the easement and the green’s owner wanted to do something different.

Historically, VCFA has kept the green open to the public and made it available to children, dog walkers, frisbee players, and soccer players, among others. Ramsammy said the college recognized the importance of the park-like space to the community and said “part of our due diligence with a buyer would be to talk about the green.”

He said the college is talking about partnerships with two colleges where its students currently reside when taking classes — Colorado College and Susquehanna College of Pennsylvania — although he indicated VCFA is open to talking with others. 

The college has managed to find buyers or potential buyers for all of the buildings it put on the market, which has allowed the college to pay off its debt. That status, along with its accreditation, makes VCFA an attractive candidate for a partnership, he said. “I am confident we will be affiliated with another educational institution going forward,” he said.

Gustafson recapped for the neighbors which buildings have been sold. The Greenway Institute has purchased two dormitories, Noble and Glover-Hadley, and two classroom buildings that currently have some tenants — Schulmaier Hall and Stone Science. Greenway is scheduled to close on the Dewey dorm at the end of March. 

Asked by a neighbor what might be in store for Dewey Hall, Gustafson said she could not speak for Greenway, but understood they are researching whether the dorm could be converted into efficiency residential units that could be used by Greenway students and graduates or others. 

The New School has purchased the Bishop-Hatch dorm and Alumnx Hall, formerly the gym, Gustafson said. A physical therapist has purchased the relatively small Martin House, and Crowley — the newest and glass-covered building on campus — has been sold to a corporation owned by Casey Ellison, who plans to operate a spa and health center. Ellison previously purchased from VCFA some open land behind the college property.

The only building that has not sold or gone under contract is the Gary Library, but Gustafson said she was pleased to announce that the college is in talks with a new group called the Montpelier Performing Arts Hub that would like to buy the library and turn it into a performing arts center.

Kianna Bromley, founder and president of the Hub, told the gathering that the plan is still at an early stage, but that the Hub already has a nine-person board and is working with an architect. She is a theater arts teacher and program director at Montpelier High School.

Bromley, who is also on the board of Lost Nation Theater, said the Hub would not have a performing company like Lost Nation, but would rent its space, which would have moveable seats, to others for theatrical events, musical concerts, or movies.

She said the interior of the library is a beautiful space with high ceilings, but as an educator, she was particularly excited about the possibility of turning the library basement into a studio and rehearsal space where classes could be held.