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Erin Jenkins

Sarah Freeman

The Arts

For museum, a ‘new model of artistic leadership’

Mara Williams, BMAC’s chief curator, will retire after 32 years, with Sarah Freeman taking on new duties as director of exhibitions

BRATTLEBORO—Sarah Freeman has been appointed director of exhibitions of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC).

In her new role, Freeman will oversee the artistic and curatorial facets of the museum’s contemporary art exhibitions. She will also continue to manage the production of those exhibitions, which she has done as BMAC’s exhibitions manager since 2015.

Freeman’s appointment coincides with the impending retirement of longtime BMAC Chief Curator Mara Williams.

“Sarah will bring the perfect combination of expertise, experience, empathy, curiosity, and humility to her new role,” BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld said in a news release, anticipating that Freeman will elevate “the robust exhibition program developed by Mara Williams over the past 32 years.”

For her part, Williams believes the time is right for BMAC to operate under a new model of artistic leadership — that of director of exhibitions as opposed to chief curator.

“It is clear that a single curatorial voice is no longer best practice for an institution specializing in rotating exhibits of contemporary art,” Williams said. “This is a transition that Danny, Sarah, and I have been working on for two years.”

Freeman grew up in Newfane and has known Williams for many years.

“Mara was one of the first people I met with when I graduated college and was looking to go into the arts,” Freeman said. “She’s been a nurturing and supportive presence in my life for a long time. I got to be a fly on the wall as she was working, and she helped me figure out what was the right fit for me in the arts world.”

After earning a B.A. in studio art from Oberlin College, Freeman worked at prominent art museums in the United States and abroad. She was the public education manager at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, and she held roles at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, the Lighthouse Centre for Architecture and Design in Glasgow, and the Center for Arts Education in New York.

In 2015, Freeman returned to Vermont and took the position of exhibitions manager at BMAC. Initially focused on the administrative and logistical aspects of exhibit production, in recent years, Freeman’s role expanded to include supervision of guest curators and occasionally curating exhibits herself.

“As director of exhibitions, I’ll be seeking out a diversity of curatorial and artistic voices, tapping into local, regional, national, and international talent to help realize BMAC’s mission of illuminating art and ideas in ways that inspire, inform, and connect people from all walks of life,” she said.

Curators, gallery owners, and artists who have collaborated with Freeman expressed strong support for her appointment.

In addition to a focus on curatorial and artistic diversity, Freeman’s mandate includes continuing to strengthen BMAC’s connections to the community.

“One way we’ve done that in the past,” Freeman said, “is through partnerships with organizations like Groundworks Collaborative, Turning Point of Windham County, Brattleboro Retreat, Out in the Open, the AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, The Root Social Justice Center, and Retreat Farm. We plan to continue to grow those partnerships and others like them.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #628 (Wednesday, September 1, 2021). This story appeared on page B1.

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