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AVA Gallery launches fundraising effort

  • With spectators invited to watch for free from the Bank Street sidewalk, Sofía Forero performs Bound, a piece choreographed and danced with Nicolas Fiery, not pictured, at AVA Gallery in Lebanon, N.H., Saturday, April 17, 2021. The dancers are on a three-week residency and will present the piece again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/28/2021 3:05:30 PM
Modified: 8/28/2021 9:38:15 PM

LEBANON — AVA Gallery and Art Center is embarking on a capital campaign to celebrate its upcoming 50th birthday.

Founded in Norwich in 1973, the nonprofit visual arts center plans to raise $2.7 million with its “From Seed to Bloom” campaign to pay for improving its buildings and its financial sustainability, and adjusting its staffing and programs.

Where previous fundraising efforts have renovated AVA’s home at 11 Bank St., the former H.W. Carter & Sons clothing factory, and paid for construction of a sculptural studies building, the needs of the new campaign are more prosaic.

“Some things are very unsexy,” said Hilde Ojibway, AVA’s interim executive director.

About $830,000 of the campaign would pay for repainting what’s now known as the Carter-Kelsey building and improving wiring on the second and third floors. Better insulation in part of the building and making some of the spaces more welcoming and functional are also part of the plan.

AVA also has about $370,000 to pay off on a bridge loan a year from now, Ojibway said. Retiring that debt will free up $18,000 a year in operating funds. The campaign also calls for raising a reserve fund, which would help with routine maintenance and with future shortfalls. The planned improvements to financial stability add up to $860,000.

The rest of the goal, around $1 million, would involve staffing and programs. AVA has struggled to replace Bente Torjusen, who led the organization from 1986 to 2016 and built it into the powerhouse of visual art education, exhibition and inspiration that it is today. Ojibway is in her second stint as interim leader after two previous directors stepped down.

“It’s very difficult to be visible and outward-facing when you have eight to 10 people that you’re supervising,” Ojibway said.

That restructuring is already beginning. As of Sept. 1, Ojibway will no longer be supervising three people who currently report to her, a step toward freeing the executive director to focus on building links with other organizations and raising money.

AVA’s connections with other groups, notably the Special Needs Support Center and the Grafton County Senior Center, mean that support for AVA constitutes support for the community, Ojibway said.

The campaign was due to be announced Friday evening at the opening of new art exhibitions. Ojibway invited community members to stop in. AVA is free to visit and open Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 to 4.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

Valley News

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