University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Creating space for art

Taft School
Photograph by Sally McCay


Creating space for art

UVM art students and faculty will soon have expansive new creative and gallery space on the strength of significant financial support from alumna Michele Resnick Cohen ’72 and her husband, Martin. The Cohens’ $2 million gift will be used to transform Burlington’s Elihu B. Taft School into studio and exhibit space for students and faculty in the university’s Department of Art & Art History.

The Taft School has long been on the “radar screen” of the university’s campus planners as a potential academic space for the Art & Art History Department. That was a big part of the appeal of the project to the Cohens. “It’s very strategic on the part of the university,” Michele says. “They found something they knew would really interest us.”

The university is committed to an eighty-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 campus, was built in 1938 with funds bequeathed to the city upon Taft’s death in 1929. It served as an elementary school from 1938 until 1980.

Renovation work to create the new studio and exhibition space within the 24,500-square-foot building is expected to begin this summer.

“As an art collector and the parent of an artist, this project speaks to me,” Michele Cohen says. An early childhood education major at UVM, she says she put her degree into practice by raising four children of her own. Collecting the work of emerging artists is an area of particular interest and one that meshes with her philanthropic commitment. “This space,” she says, “is going to be a great gallery and creative working space and a great opportunity for the kids who want to be in the art world to learn about shows and how things are curated and installed.”

Michele and Martin are both stalwart in their support of education. “We believe in supporting the institutions that helped us get our start,” Michele says. “For me, that’s UVM.”

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