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SHARON / Peterborough

NH Art Institute to manage Sharon Arts

Master of Fine Art degree program key feature of new merger

  • Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Keri Wiederspahn, Roger Williams, Sharon Arts Center<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

PETERBOROUGH — The Sharon Arts Center announced Tuesday that it will formally merge with the Manchester-based New Hampshire Institute of Art, which will assume management responsibility for the Sharon Arts Center’s operations in Sharon and Peterborough. The merger comes seven months after the two arts organizations launched a creative partnership.

In a joint interview Tuesday in Peterborough, Institute President Roger Williams and Sharon Arts Center Executive Director Keri Wiederspahn said the merger will not impact existing staffing or programs.

“Everyone who is working at Sharon will be still be at Sharon,” Williams said. “All activities will be continued and we hope strengthened. We don’t have a retail shop and Sharon doesn’t have a degree-granting program.”

The Institute offers a variety of bachelors-degree programs in the arts, and a key element of the merger, according to Williams and Wiederspahn, will be the establishment of a Master of Fine Arts degree program using the facilities in Sharon and Peterborough. The MFA classes will be intended for students who have started their careers. During a two-year period, they will spend five 10-day sessions concentrated on study in Peterborough and Sharon, alternating with four six-month periods working in studios where they live while maintaining contact with mentors in the program.

“It’s designed for people who had discipline and the focus to work independently,” Wiederspahn said. “It will be great for them to be able to keep a job and still get a higher level degree, which people need in the workforce.”

The Institute plans to offer MFA degrees in visual art, photography, creative writing and writing for the stage and screen. Wiederspahn said the cost of the program is expected to be about $20,000 annually and they expect about 32 students in the initial class.

“It will be quite an interesting master’s program,” she said. “There aren’t that many that exist in our state. It’s pretty meager out there.”

Williams said the assets of the two nonprofit organizations will be merged, with a single Board of Directors, which will include four people from the Sharon Arts Center board.

Wiederspahn said the merger will enable Sharon Arts Center to take advantage of internship opportunities with undergraduate students from the Institute.

“It will be great to have that younger demographic,” she said.

According to a press release about the merger, the Institute “will preserve the Sharon Arts Center name under its administrative umbrella. Sharon Arts Center administrative functions will be combined where possible and join similar Institute functions in Manchester.”

George Foote, treasurer of the Sharon Arts board, said in the press release that the merger “brings to fruition a vision the Board has held for many years, while preserving the character of the Monadnock community-based arts organization we have maintained since our inception 66 years ago. Our purpose, as stated in the original incorporation, ‘To stimulate, encourage and provide education in the theory and practice of the arts and crafts through instruction, exhibitions and marketing assistance,’ continues, but at a higher level.”  

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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