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Meet The New AVA Gallery and Art Center Executive Director Heidi Reynolds

Dec 17, 2019 09:57PM ● By Virginia Dean
The AVA Gallery and Art Center has appointed Heidi Reynolds as its new Executive Director due to her leadership qualities, dedication to the Upper Valley community arts and her commitment to the future of the Gallery, according to Board Chair Andrew Garthwaite. Reynolds has been serving as Interim Exhibition Manager at the Gallery since June 2019. She replaces former longtime Executive Director Bente Torjusen who stepped in as interim director after Paul N. Anderson resigned suddenly in February. Reynolds is a lifelong photographer who studied at Columbia College in Chicago. In 2004, she and her family moved from San Francisco to the Hanover area where she continued her commitment as a volunteer and board member in various nonprofits along with her work in development at Northern Stage, managing the corporate sponsorship and exhibiting artist programs. She also became involved with the Montshire Museum of Science where she coordinated development events and managed volunteers.


1.  What are your feelings about being recently appointed the Executive Director of the Ava Gallery?  And what does this mean for the Gallery?

I am ecstatic about being asked to lead AVA Gallery and Art Center. I wake up every day thankful and eager to go to work. Following in the footsteps of someone like Bente Torjusen is never easy. I am fortunate to step into this role as a known and hopefully respected member of this community. That means AVA’s constituents can give me the benefit of the doubt as we ease through the strain of transition. I think everyone knows I work hard, really enjoy the people I work with, and am dedicated to respecting the traditions that make AVA great while we determine where our future will take us. The vibe at AVA is much more relaxed, as a result. The atmosphere that fosters optimism, collaboration and progress is palpable.


2.  What is your personal motto and how would it apply to your mission as Director?

My personal motto: people are most important. Period. Above things, above goals, above money, the people in our lives are to be accepted for who they are, treasured, and respected. As Executive Director of AVA, I put that motto to use every day, whether it’s with staff, donors, artists, instructors, students, board members, or someone who walks in to ask where the post office is. Bente taught me to greet everyone that walks through the door, and that can be awfully time consuming. But the result is a deep connection with the people who make AVA a very special place. AVA is not a building. It’s the people within the building who bring their joys, sorrows, talents, accomplishments, ideas and opinions to share with the whole. We must never lose sight of that very important fact.


3.  You have worked or volunteered at many Upper Valley organizations. What are some of those profits or nonprofits and how do you think this experience will help you as the Gallery's new director?

I am compelled to make sure everyone is given the opportunity to express their greatest self. That means exposing people, particularly children and youth, to lots and lots of possibilities for self-discovery in a safe and accepting environment regardless of financial resources. As a result, I’ve started a Sunday School program at St. Thomas in Hanover; coached Hanover soccer, alpine skiing, volleyball, knitting, and First Lego League; worked in Hanover’s after school program, served on The Prouty Executive Committee and fundraised for Hanover schools, Howe Library, The Prouty, Montshire Museum of Science, and Northern Stage. In every one of those instances, I’ve learned something new about how I can best help people see themselves in a different light. I think that’s key in spurring people to achieve their highest potential: mirroring their best qualities back to them and encouraging them to explore further. I’ve already seen the positive effects at AVA, and I’m learning more every day.


4. What are you most proud of in your professional life and why?

When I went back to work after 22 years as a stay-at-home wife and mother, first in part-time positions that paved the way toward full-time positions, I built upon my volunteer resume to find jobs that fulfilled my financial my needs as well as my personal convictions. I could never take a job that was simply about profit. That’s not who I am. Finding a career that married my love of community service with my artistic sensibilities and allowed me to work with creative people in a supportive role is my greatest achievement. I had to have faith that my refusal to settle for just any job would eventually pay off and, boy, did it ever!


5. How would you define yourself? who are you and where do you see yourself in ten years?
I am a nurturer. I like to take care of people, so I would say I am defined by my actions and how I treat the people around me. I never want to be the person who squashed someone’s dreams or steered someone in the wrong direction. I want to be the person who gives serious thought to lofty goals and gives wings to those goals. In ten years, I hope to be able to say I’ve helped AVA maintain stability and growth to the point where we are able to regularly launch our artists and students into the national arena for careers in the visual arts. I also want to make AVA a home for innovation and a cross-pollinator for organizations in the Upper Valley to work together for the benefit of all; to seek collaboration so we can concentrate resources on the most effective answers to our community’s needs.

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