Celebrating Vermont College of Fine Arts


Sale marks the beginning of Vermont College of Fine Arts;
Union Institute & University continues to serve students from the campus

Cincinnati, Ohio and Montpelier, Vt. – June 24, 2008 – Union Institute & University (UI&U) and Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) today announced they have completed the purchase agreement for the historic Vermont College campus and the three Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs located in Montpelier, Vermont. VCFA now owns and will operate the campus and three MFA programs as an independent institution. UI&U will continue to operate its bachelor’s and master’s programs, leasing offices and classrooms from VCFA.

Vermont College of Fine Arts and Union Institute & University have been working for two years to position VCFA to purchase the 33-acre campus and the MFA programs from UI&U. The $12.75 million project was made possible with funding from Community National Bank and National Bank of Middlebury, with a guarantee from USDA Rural Development, assistance by the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), and $3.36 million in financing from Union Institute & University.

Vermont College of Fine Arts represents a new era for Vermont College, which has a history of more than 174 years of education in Vermont. VCFA has three low-residency MFA programs offering degree tracks in Writing, Writing for Children & Young Adults, and Visual Art. The college was recently granted affiliation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, as well as degree-granting authority from the Vermont State Board of Education. Vermont College of Fine Arts is the first new independent college formed in Vermont in 23 years, and the only institution of its kind—a low-residency graduate school devoted exclusively to fine arts education.

“We are thrilled to revive the Vermont College identity with a new graduate institution dedicated exclusively to the fine arts,” said VCFA president Thomas Christopher Greene, an alumnus of the MFA in Writing program. “This campus has been an integral part of education in Vermont for almost two centuries, and we want to honor that tradition as we build on its vibrant history. We look forward to expanding Vermont College of Fine Arts to become a true national center for the fine arts.” The Vermont College of Fine Arts negotiations were completed by President Greene and VCFA vice president Bill Kaplan, a community member and real estate/financial management professional.

“This is a great day for Montpelier,” said Bill Kaplan. “This campus has been an important part of the community for a long time, and we are all pleased that it will continue to be an educational center for Montpelier. This campus brings tremendous vitality and enrichment opportunities to central Vermont. The years ahead will be exciting as we work to make our dynamic vision of VCFA a reality.”

Union Institute & University acquired the Vermont College campus and programs from Norwich University of Northfield, Vermont, in 2001. UI&U enrolls more than 1700 students from across the nation in low-residency undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs in a variety of fields, from education and criminal justice to interdisciplinary doctoral programs in low-residency programs and from centers in Ohio, Florida, and California. More than 450 students are served through UI&U’s centers in Montpelier and Brattleboro.

“It is gratifying to have played a role in creating a new college of fine arts headed by Vermonters, surrounded by prestigious institutions offering multiple educational opportunities, and located in the heart of picturesque Montpelier,” said UI&U president, Dr. Roger H. Sublett. “Both VCFA and Union, in a spirit of determination and collaboration, have worked diligently to bring this ideal arrangement to fruition.”

Union Institute & University’s Board of Trustees, chaired by Vermont entrepreneur Lisa Lorimer, announced two years ago that it would sell the campus and programs in a strategic move to focus the university’s resources on programs and people rather than bricks and mortar. From the onset, UI&U’s Board of Trustees was insistent that the historic Montpelier campus continue to operate with an educational focus. Rather than sell to an outside entity, they elected to work toward selling it to Vermont College of Fine Arts.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with VCFA, and we wish them well as they take on the responsibility of operating a new college,” said Sublett. “This is something that has not occurred in Vermont for many years, and it is an exciting time for all of us who have the privilege of serving the citizens of Vermont.”

Speaking on behalf of Community National Bank, Regional Vice President Steve Gurin said, “This project is a collaboration among community members who recognize the important role ‘the college on the hill’ has played in Montpelier’s history. With a little creativity and a lot of cooperation, VEDA, USDA Rural Development and the National Bank of Middlebury joined with CNB to pull the financing together. Tom Greene and his staff at VCFA have spent nearly two years on this project, and I’m proud to be part of the team that finally got it done.”

VCFA currently has 250 students enrolled in three MFA programs, with 40 full-time employees and 60 part-time faculty. It has a national, 16-member Board of Trustees, including graduates of the MFA programs as well as community and business leaders from across the country. The Board includes seven Vermont residents: Peter Richardson of Burlington (Chair), Kathleen Dolan of Barnard, Con Hogan of Plainfield, Mary Hooper, Mayor of Montpelier, Syd Lea of Newbury, Katherine Paterson of Barre, and Richard Saudek of Montpelier. Kaplan and Greene both credit the staff, trustees, faculty, and alumni of the MFA programs for helping sustain this effort over the past two years.

In the past 18 months, VCFA has raised $725,000 from alumni and friends to support its transition to independence. This summer, Vermont College of Fine Arts will begin a strategic planning process to focus on several areas, including new academic programs, building upgrades, staffing, and new community programs. The institution plans to launch a larger capital campaign in 2009. “We now turn our sights to the future,” said Greene, “to building something enduring, meaningful and vital for the next generation of artists, writers and scholars to pass through our doors.”

The historic Vermont College campus, founded in 1868, is located at the intersection of East State and College Streets. In addition to Union Institute & University, which will continue to offer its Bachelor of Arts, Online Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Psychology & Counseling, and Master of Education programs, several other educational organizations will lease space from VCFA and maintain locations on the Vermont College campus, including New England Culinary Institute, Community College of Vermont, the Family Center of Washington County, T.W. Wood Gallery & Arts Center, Vermont Institutes, the New School of Montpelier, and the Pacem Learning Community. A separate non-profit organization, the Vermont College Campus Foundation, has been established to support the stewardship of the historic Vermont College campus.

Vermont College of Fine Arts is planning a Celebration Weekend to mark this transition on Oct. 4 and Oct. 5, 2008. This community celebration will be open to all–students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as alumni/ae of past Vermont College programs, and members of the Montpelier community.