In 1989, sociologist Ray Oldenburg introduced us to the concept of the third place—those institutions in society that provide connective tissue between the home (our first place) and work (the second). Third places tend to be accessible, democratic, and, above all, organizations that encourage engaged conversation. You may see where this is leading—Shelburne Museum is the perfect third place.
We take our role in the community seriously here at the Museum. Indeed, providing a place to gather—for a purpose—is the highest and best use of our campus. Vermont may be small, but we are uniquely rich in third places—our schools, libraries, theaters, churches, galleries, and museums have long served to create community. Recently, however, the stakes have risen for all of us. In November, an FBI report documented that hate crimes in Vermont are at their highest point since 1995. We in the arts community united, issued a statement, and affirmed our stand against this trend by committing to focus our collective energy on programs that engender critical thinking and foster dialogue in civic culture.
A case in point, here and now at the Museum, is the modernist painter Harold Weston, whose work is featured in our Colgate Gallery this spring. Weston is known for his Adirondack landscapes. We could have left his story at that. A more accurate measure of the man, however, comes from a full understanding of his contributions to society. Weston served abroad with the YMCA in World War I, founded Food for Freedom in 1943 to address the needs of displaced persons during and after World War II, and lobbied successfully for the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1965. The lesson? Harold Weston lived an engaged life nurturing organizations that make the world a better place.
We could not organize exhibitions and programs like Harold Weston: Freedom in the Wilds or the enthralling Johnny Swing: Design Sense—indeed we could not serve as a third place—without the support of a dedicated group of donors and volunteers. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to Shelburne Museum in 2018. You are listed in this issue in our honor roll, but please know that our appreciation far exceeds these pages.
I would also like to take a moment to remember Shelburne Museum trustee Craig Sim, who passed away this fall. Craig personified leadership curiosity, and we will miss his collegiality, intellect, and style.
I hope to see you all in the coming months, as we gather in our favorite third place, for engaged conversation and the opportunity to create community with compassion, respect, and understanding.