Thank You and Farewell

June 29, 2018

As I depart as Executive Director for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, I feel confident that we can be proud of the work we have done together. We know that we stand on the shoulders of many arts leaders and artists, volunteers, and advocates who have paved the way for the vibrant and diverse cultural amenities and programs we enjoy in every corner of the Commonwealth.

Our 50 th Anniversary program in January gave us the opportunity to honor some of the finest artists and arts leaders who have provided inspiration to us and to fellow Virginians for decades – in some instances well before Governor Mills Godwin signed the legislation creating our commission on April 4, 1968. Their collective stories are a testament to the ingenuity, creativity and original ideas that have been a hallmark of Virginia for 400 years. The Renaissance that launched the first Virginia colony is resurgent today with our own New Virginia Renaissance.

Our contemporary artists and their advocates and leaders know what our first Renaissance counterparts understood in the 17 th century - that the arts:
  • can contribute to dynamic, thriving communities,
  • nurture a more creative and prepared workforce through comprehensive arts education programs
  • promote wellness and healing, not just for the healthy among us but more significantly for those with physical and emotional challenges that cannot be addressed by technology alone
  • are a unifying force that transcends communication models and traditional language barriers.

Working together over the past four years, we have significantly strengthened our Artists in Education program, and met with our counterparts on the Virginia Board of Education. We have transitioned to an online grant management system. The suggestions and feedback we have received from our applicants and panelists will provide the improvements we will offer in the next round of applications. We thank everyone for your patience as we worked together to get the new system launched! We have challenged our arts partners and organizations to seek networks and collaborations to increase the cultural presence and profiles in our communities and workplaces.

As a state, we have taken the lead on arts and military wellness and healing programs, becoming the only state to have two NEA Creative Forces sites. We have worked with our technology leaders to bridge the creative sectors of the arts and the sciences and launched The Da Vinci Lecture to explore and celebrate the roots of innovation. We have reached out to our legislators to connect them with Virginia artists and leaders and the reasons to fund them. For the first time in 8 years we will have an increase in state funding for our VCA. Our thanks to our Governor and our legislators who recognize that if we want an “innovation economy” we are going to need creative people!
Within our commission we have undertaken an effort to foster a more diverse and inclusive arts and cultural sector for the benefit of all Virginians. We have organized Round Tables to provide networking and information-sharing sessions across Virginia and to learn what our own arts organizations are thinking.

We are Virginia leaders, conveners, creators, advocates, cheerleaders, and critical thinkers, and we are alert to the possibility of the next new thing or original idea. As we begin our 51 st year on July 1, 2018, we can be sure that the work we have done together will inspire the next creative generation.

For 50 years, the Virginia Commission for the Arts has served as a collective voice on the power of the arts to transform our society. We are the Muses to arts organizations that are urban and rural, big and small, rich and poor, and serving the variously abled and challenged, all of whom are inspired to tell a new story each new day. The freedom to express our originality and imagination is a hallmark of a democratic society, and I know from the thousands of imaginative people I have met across Virginia and beyond that they have many more stories to tell.

As the Executive Director of the VCA since March of 2014, it has been my honor and privilege to help tell these stories. For my dedicated, professional staff and team, there are no words to adequately express my gratitude for your tireless public service to our beloved commission and to Virginia. To our talented and energetic commission Board representing all parts of Virginia, I offer my thanks for your engagement, creativity, and leadership. To all the arts organizations who have worked with me and supported me, thank you for your insights – and your patience!

Creative People of Virginia: As we begin our 51 st year, consider that we are just getting started on a new adventure. The Virginia Renaissance continues. And art is long.

Thank you all.

Margaret Vanderhye