Last week, readers of Seven Days were treated to a wonderful feature article by co-founder and publisher Paula Routly on her associations, past and present, with the The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts' soon-to-retire, founding director Andrea Rogers. (see article)
In a state like Vermont, where a sneeze in Burlington results in a "Gesundheit!" from Brattleboro, this was (is) really big news.
I knew this was coming, of course. Andrea and I have both served on the board of the New England Foundation for the Arts for quite a few years and during the few times that we carpooled to meetings and shared stories about our lives and careers, we sometimes talked about how an organization with a long-serving director might best prepare for his/her eventual transition. But it was never Andrea we were discussing, ever. She was too engaged, too in love with her work (with all its challenges) to even THINK of retiring!
No, I learned about her retirement plans in typical fashion...from Andrea herself who called me a few weeks ago to let me know as a courtesy. I guess maybe she meant to give me some time to collect my thoughts before headhunters started calling to see if I knew anyone who could replace her.
The truth is, the Flynn without Andrea is going to be like Burlington would be without the Flynn. Or like Vermont would be without Burlington. Unimaginable.
When the news about Andrea went public, however, I didn't notice at first, because my head and heart were elsewhere, absorbed by something much sadder that took place unexpectedly in Dorset, Vt.
James (Jay) Hathaway, sculptor, entrepreneur, director of the Manchester-in-the-Mountains Chamber of Commerce, and Arts Council Trustee (Vice Chair) died suddenly at the end of a bike ride with his young grandson.
One hears about such things and reacts with shock and dismay at first. But they are soon replaced by an awareness of how incomprehensibly brief one's time on earth actually is. Jay lived every day like it was the first present opened on Christmas morning. He was unfailingly positive and imaginative; always willing to roll up his sleeves and get things done. And according to the consensus opinion of the people who attended his service in Dorset last week, every one of them was his best friend, his favorite person, the one who could make his day. All 500 of us.
I'm sure there are many people who could use these two transitions as a means to draw far more deep and meaningful conclusions about how we work and how we live. All I can do is look forward, sure that just as the Flynn will survive and thrive, so too will Jay's family and associates in Dorset. While Jay's life is over, his life's story surely is not. And while Andrea is retiring to a well-deserved "life after the Flynn," I'm sure there will be much more she will add to our lives here in Vermont.
In the meantime, Vermont's cultural life continues on in its frenzied pace, a pace set, in no small part, by Andrea Rogers and Jay Hathaway--two great friends of mine, two great friends of the Vermont Arts Council, and two great friends of the arts in Vermont.