BRATTLEBORO — Sarah Freeman has been appointed director of exhibitions of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.
In her new role, Freeman will oversee the artistic and curatorial facets of the museum’s contemporary art exhibitions. She will also continue to manage the production of those exhibitions, which she has done as the museum’s exhibitions manager since 2015. Freeman’s appointment coincides with the impending retirement of longtime museum chief curator Mara Williams.
“I am excited for Sarah and for the museum, as well as for the artists and curators with whom we work and the audiences we serve,” museum director Danny Lichtenfeld said. “Sarah will bring the perfect combination of expertise, experience, empathy, curiosity and humility to her new role. I am confident that she will take the robust exhibition program developed by Mara Williams over the past 32 years and elevate it to new heights.”
For her part, Williams believes the time is right for the museum to operate under a new model of artistic leadership—that of director of exhibitions as opposed to chief curator. “It is clear that a single curatorial voice is no longer best practice for an institution specializing in rotating exhibits of contemporary art,” Williams said. “This is a transition that Danny, Sarah and I have been working on for two years. I am thrilled that Sarah, a native of Southern Vermont, has returned home with the breadth of experience required to fill this position.”
Freeman grew up in Newfane and has known Williams for many years. “Mara was one of the first people I met with when I graduated college and was looking to go into the arts,” Freeman said. “She’s been a nurturing and supportive presence in my life for a long time. I got to be a fly on the wall as she was working, and she helped me figure out what was the right fit for me in the arts world.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Oberlin College, Freeman worked at prominent art museums in the United States and abroad. She was the Public Education Manager at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York and held roles at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, The Lighthouse Centre for Architecture and Design in Glasgow, and the Center for Arts Education in New York.
In 2015, Freeman returned to Vermont and took the position of exhibitions manager at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. Initially focused on the administrative and logistical aspects of exhibit production, in recent years Freeman’s role expanded to include supervision of guest curators and occasionally curating exhibits herself.
“As director of exhibitions, I’ll be seeking out a diversity of curatorial and artistic voices, tapping into local, regional, national, and international talent to help realize BMAC’s mission of illuminating art and ideas in ways that inspire, inform, and connect people from all walks of life.”
Curators, gallery owners and artists who have collaborated with Freeman expressed strong support for her appointment.
“Sarah is an amazing colleague to work alongside and an amazing supporter of the arts,” said David Rios Ferreira, who curated the 2021 exhibit “Jennifer Mack-Watkins: Children of the Sun” and whose own work was featured in the 2018 exhibit “And I Hear Your Words That I Made Up,” which Freeman curated. “Second only to Sarah’s thoughtful and generous demeanor are the care, patience, and intentionality by which she approaches working with artists.”
Charles Moffett, director of Charles Moffett Gallery, which represents artist Kenny Rivero, worked with Freeman on the 2021 exhibit “Kenny Rivero: Palm Oil, Rum, Honey, Yellow Flowers.”
“I could not have been more impressed with Sarah’s attention to detail when it came to Kenny Rivero’s practice and his vision for this show,” Moffett said. “When I walked into the gallery, I was blown away by the creativity that went into ensuring every picture had a chance to shine on its own while being part of a larger body of work.”
Katherine Gass Stowe, founder and chief curator of James Company Contemporary Art Projects, curated the current exhibit “Sequences: Ode to Minor White” and the 2020 exhibits “Alison Wright: Grit and Grace, Women at Work” and “Steven Kinder: 552,830.”
“Each of these exhibits was made better by Sarah’s deceptively light management style and intelligent, sensitive input,” Gass Stowe said. “She’s also got a great sense of humor and can see the larger picture, always. And she genuinely loves artists.”
In addition to a focus on curatorial and artistic diversity, Freeman’s mandate includes continuing to strengthen the museum’s connections to the community.
“One way we’ve done that in the past,” Freeman said, “is through partnerships with organizations like Groundworks Collaborative, Turning Point of Windham County, Brattleboro Retreat, Out in the Open, the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, The Root Social Justice Center, and Retreat Farm. We plan to continue to grow those partnerships and others like them.”
Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis. The museum is in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro at the intersection of Main Street and routes 119 and 142,and is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.
The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Allen Bros. Oil, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Four Columns Inn, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery.