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Peterborough / Sharon

Two new leaders selected for Sharon Arts Center

Camellia Sousa replaces Keri Wiederspahn as director; Chris Archer steps up to head community education program

  • Email Attachment<br/><br/>C_Sousa.jpg
  • Email Attachment<br/><br/>Chris Archer - Head Shot.jpg
  • Cameilla Sousa was recently promoted to director of the Sharon Arts Center.
  • Cameilla Sousa was recently promoted to director of the Sharon Arts Center.

Since the resignation of Keri Wiederspahn, executive director of N.H. Institute of Art’s Community Education and the Sharon Arts Center campus, the organization has promoted two employees to step into Wiederspahn’s two shoes.

Camellia Sousa is replacing Wiederspahn as the director of the Sharon Art Center, the Peterborough-area community arts organization. And pottery artist and NHIA professor Chris Archer is moving up to lead the fine arts college’s community education program.

Wiederspahn announced in May she was leaving for a new project in southern Vermont. Archer is assuming one of Wiederspahn’s two hats. He will be overseeing the community education programs, on the both Manchester and Sharon campuses.

The pottery artist has taught at NHIA since 1998. He also has taught community art classes since he earned a fine arts degree in 1993. Archer is a faculty member in the Manchester college’s undergraduate Ceramic Arts Department, and teaches classes at the graduate level.

Sousa joined the Sharon Arts Center six years ago. She was first their fine crafts gallery manager. Three years ago, she also became gallery director. She is now responsible for collaborating with program directors for community education as well as the galleries for NHIA’s Master of the Fine Art’s program, and strategizing Sharon Arts Center’s programs. She also oversees their stores in Peterborough.

In separate interviews Tuesday, Archer and Sousa offered their reassurances about preserving the Sharon Arts Center’s vibrant relationship with Peterborough and Sharon.

“I’m from the Manchester campus,” Archer said. “I don’t want to presume to come to the Sharon or Peterborough community, and impose events and policies and that kind of thing for the betterment, under the guise of promotion.”

The Sharon Arts Center merged with the fine arts college in 2012. Archer said he is aware that the students, the faculty and the community are concerned about the Manchester college absorbing the Arts Center. “I would like to find a way to have these voices come forward,” he said.

In the school’s fall 2014 community education catalogue, Archer invites prospective students to email him at or call him at 836-2561. He’s inviting the general public to do the same.

In addition to looking for feedback, Archer said he and Sousa will be working with everyone involved to see how they can strengthen the community education program on the Sharon and Manchester campuses to “create a really vibrant program.”

Sousa said she is very committed to preserving the Arts Center’s character, and its place in Peterborough and Sharon.

Although Archer, who was promoted a week ago, would like to hear input from the community, he said his first priority is to make sure the fall classes on offer are ready for September start dates. Registration for these fall art classes starts next week.

Archer also said that as he gets more acclimated, he would like to create more of a bridge between the Sharon Arts Center and NHIA’s Manchester campus. He would like them to be looked at as one institute with two campuses. “I truly believe that community education will reach its potential if we really work towards a community across the campuses,” Archer said.

Sousa said she “100-percent supports [Archer’s] vision.” When asked about her individual goals for the Sharon Arts Center, she said she would like to involve the community more. She would also like to maintain the Arts Center’s mission of providing promotional opportunities for local artists through their fine craft and exhibition galleries.

Sousa said she is still fleshing out a lot of other ideas about the Art Center’s future. But, she said she sees a “continued dedication for what we do in the community.”

Although Archer couldn’t provide a detailed timeline for his plan to strengthen the community education program, he said he will be contacting the faculty and students of the Sharon Arts Center and those in Manchester very shortly. He plans to provide them with an opportunity to voice their interests, concerns and ideas. He said he and Sousa are also meeting today to plan how to invite the community to bring their concerns and questions to them.

NHIA graduate student and Sharon Art Center employee Kate Lenahan was also promoted to assistant gallery director. Volunteer and former board member, Laura Redmond, will also work part-time as the community outreach coordinator for the Sharon Arts’ campus.

Benji Rosen can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228.

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