University of Vermont

Gift Will Add Classrooms and Studios for the Visual Arts at UVM

(Photo: Sally McCay)

A gift from alumna Michele Resnick Cohen, UVM Class of 1972, and her husband, Martin Cohen, of New York, N.Y., will create new studio and exhibit space for students and faculty in the university’s Department of Art & Art History.

The $2 million donation will be used to transform the interior at Burlington’s Elihu B. Taft School, significantly expanding the classrooms dedicated to the visual arts at UVM. Michele Cohen joined University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan to announce the gift at a reception for trustees and UVM Foundation leadership Thursday evening in Billings Library.

“This addition to the space devoted to the visual arts at UVM will benefit the entire community as a showcase for painting, photography, sculpture, digital art — the whole range of artistic expression that our students and faculty devote themselves to through their creative academic pursuits,” said UVM president Tom Sullivan. “We are tremendously grateful to the Cohens for this generous gift.”

The university is committed to an 80-year lease on the Taft School facility from the Burlington School District, as approved by the Burlington City Council in early 2014. The school, on the corner of South Williams and Pearl streets at the edge of the UVM campus, was built in 1938 with funds bequeathed to the city upon Taft’s death in 1929. The 24,500-square-foot building served as an elementary school from 1938 until 1980.

“Art & Art History is tremendously grateful for this generous gift from the Cohens,” said Thomas Brennan, a professor of photography and the art department chair. “It will enable us to improve our instructional facilities, provide studio space for faculty and student artists and create significant exhibition opportunities.”

Michele Cohen, who serves on the UVM Foundation Board of Directors and Foundation Leadership Council, said she and her husband decided to make the gift “first of all, because Marty and I believe in supporting education. And we also believe in supporting the institutions that helped us get our start. For me, that’s UVM.

“As an art collector and the parent of an artist, this project speaks to me,” she said. “It’s a very strategic investment for the university.”