Mad River Valley Arts executive director Kira Bacon and director of exhibitions Gary Eckhart put the finishing touches on the new sign at the gallery in the Village Square Shopping Center. Photo: June Anderson.

Valley Arts has changed its name to Mad River Valley Arts to begin the year with a new name, a identity and a renewed commitment to serving as a voice for the arts in The Valley. The updated logo is based on an original watercolor by Warren artist Gary Eckhart.

“Although 2020 was a tough year for all of us, the cancellation of so many of our signature annual events provided a stark reminder of the important role the arts play in a thriving and vibrant community,” noted Mad River Valley Arts (MRVA) board president Karen McPhillips. “Thankfully, support from state COVID-19 recovery programs allowed us to get through the year without staff layoffs. We also had a bit of breathing space to reassess the programs that are central to our mission.”

MRVA has planned a full schedule of events and exhibits for 2021. “We all long to get together to enjoy the arts with our friends, neighbors and visitors to The Valley,” said Eckhart, past president and director of exhibitions. “My fellow artists have missed the joy of seeing the public response to their creative endeavors. In the coming year, we look forward to reconnecting as an arts community.”

Executive director Kira Bacon has been exploring ways to expand the visibility of the many artists, arts organizations and arts businesses that dot the landscape. “The focus of our programs is visual arts, but our goal is to serve as a communications platform for all arts in The Valley -- visual, performing, literary, craft, digital, etc. To that end, we are working to make the Mad River Valley Arts website a hub for news and information about the arts in The Valley.”

“The arts are an essential element of the culture, the economy and the authentic Vermont experience The Valley offers to both residents and visitors,” remarked Mad River Valley Chamber executive director Eric Friedman. 

According to Eckhart, the schedule of events for 2021 includes an expanded Vermont Plein Air Festival in July with three days of activities for artists, arts enthusiasts and families. “Our Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibit, which opens in June, attracts award-winning artists from across the country and has received international recognition,” said Eckhart. “In August, we look forward to opening the long-awaited Retrospective exhibit of works by nationally recognized artist William (Billy) Brauer. We want to spread the word that the Mad River Valley exhibits world-class art and is home to talented artists creating beautiful work in all mediums.”

One of the 2021 goals of MRVA is to expand its membership base and involve new residents and visitors alike in its programs. “Community involvement is central to our mission,” said McPhillips.