By Kim Jackson
Special To The Standard
Just over a week into her new post as Pentangle Arts Council’s new executive director and Dr. Sunni Faas already is looking toward the future of the arts in the Woodstock community.
“I’m taking stock of where things are, what’s on the schedule, what the hopes and dreams the board has,” said Faas, a New Jersey native who moved from Arizona to Vermont with her husband so he could pursue graduate school ambitions. “The rest of the season is set. I’m looking ahead to the summer and next season as far as programming goes.”
Faas brings more than a decade of experience in artistic programming, non-profit leadership, educational outreach, and venue management to Pentangle. Prior to her move to Vermont, she was the founding artistic and managing director of the Musical Instruments Museums (MIM) Music Theater in Phoenix. She built MIM Music Theater operations from the ground up and developed their annual signature concert series, which included more than 120 live performances with musical genres ranging from chamber music and jazz to world music and Americana.
The five-member search committee tasked with finding a new executive director included four PAC board members and one advisory member. The committee was asked to at where Pentangle is and where it should be in the future. According to Elizabeth Reaves, PAC board vice president and member of the search committee, the committee concurred on what is valued about Pentangle and why it works, and they wanted an executive director who could improve upon that. The committee received more than 25 applications and narrowed the search down to four highly qualified candidates.
“Sunni just really had it all,” said Reaves. “The education, the experience, and she had the presence and the energy and a really strong desire to be in Vermont, to be involved in a community that already had such a strong commitment to supporting the arts. We hope to really work with her, with that vision and cultivating where Pentangle goes from here.”
As with any small non-profit organization, sustainability always is a concern, said Faas, and her concern about philanthropy and community investment in the arts is all about communication she said.
“The challenge is really communicating how linked everything is,” said Faas. “Arts is not an extra. Arts is linked to quality of life, to tourism to thriving businesses. When the water rises, the boats all rise together.”
While Faas is still getting her feet wet, learning the ins and outs of the organization and getting a sense of what past programming has been like, she does have programming visions for the future. With an MA and a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Indiana University and a BA in English from the College of William and Mary, Faas hopes to eventually offer a line up of programming that connects to what is sometimes called world music. Ethnomusicology is known as the study of social and cultural aspects of music and dance in local and global contexts.
“I would love to start sprinkling it into some of our programming for the coming season, it’s an area I’m particularly passionate about,” said Faas of making connections between music and dance from other parts of the world.
That passion also may stem from her world travels and her time spent in the Peace Corp, as well as her love for the outdoors. Both her husband and her are skiers and rock climbers and enjoy connecting to the natural world.
“One of the things she said in her interview—and which was really important and why we hired her—was ‘I am an active listener,’” said Reaves. “Pentangle does so well that it is involved in all different aspects in our community; teenagers go to the movies on the weekend in a safe way and parents are comfortable dropping them off and leaving them; working with young kids and giving them arts experiences that they’re not getting from their family or the school system; or a place where the community can have an evening out and experience art in their backyard but it’s still world-class. Anyone coming in to this position with this little organization that does so much and tries to meet so many different artistic tastes in the community really requires someone who is going to spend some time listening and figuring out how to lead.”
The 2011-12 main stage and arts and education programs are set for the season, with upcoming performances from the Vienna Boys Choir and the Air Force wind ensemble. Reaves hopes that the community and Pentangle patrons will stop by the PAC office to welcome Faas to town.
A welcome reception will be held on Sunday, Nov. 20 from 4-6 p.m. at the Blue Horse Inn and is open to the public.
This article first appeared in the November 10th edition of the Vermont Standard.