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Heather Moore, new executive director of Shelburne Craft School, learns on the job | Education | Seven days

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Heather Moore’s pace of the year has been set on an academic calendar for more than three decades, from pre-kindergarten at Rutland to graduate school at the University of Vermont. This fall, she will defend her doctoral thesis in education.

Although Moore’s graduate studies are almost complete, her schedule is still aligned with the school year: she is the new executive director of the Shelburne Craft School. A month into her job, she noted a key difference between this institution and others where she studied and worked.

“I love learning new things and I love being around curious people,” she said. “This place really embodies that. Without the bureaucracy.”

The Shelburne Craft School has been offering craft classes in Shelburne since 1945, with hands-on instruction for children and adults. Moore described it as a school full of people who want to be there: teachers, students – and the new administrator.

“I’m in love with this place,” she said. “And when you’re in love with something, it doesn’t seem to work.”

Moore, 36, is a 10th generation Vermonter from Proctor. After kindergarten in Rutland, she attended public school in her hometown until grade 12. She earned an undergraduate degree in history from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, and a master’s degree in that field from UVM. In nine years at Vermont Commons School in South Burlington, she taught history and served as dean of students. Moore continued her graduate studies at UVM with her doctorate in education, which focuses on gardening for metabolic health.

Now she is excited to take classes in a different field: oil painting in the fall, followed by weaving.

“Making art is kind of part of my job,” she said. “I am delighted with this professional development.”

Moore hung out in the high school art room, drawing and painting, and took studio art classes at Skidmore. “I’m a chronic doodler,” she said. When she travels, she visits art museums.

In her new position, her long-standing secondary interest in the arts comes to the fore. “It was a heartbeat in my life,” she said. “Now it has become clear.”

Visit museums and use their collections featured in Moore’s seventh-grade Vermont history course at Vermont Commons School. She began each unit by introducing students to an object from the era they were studying, giving them time to guess what it was before explaining and contextualizing the piece.

One of his favorite objects for this purpose was a – not exactly ordinary – squirrel cage at the Shelburne Museum. The beautiful piece painted around 1900 is equipped with an exercise wheel; the spinning squirrel powers small wooden figures that operate tiny saws.

Moore observed a connection between this object (and others in the collection) and the work of the Shelburne Craft School.

“That kind of creativity lives here,” she said. “You can see it at the Shelburne Museum. We’re doing it here: creating interesting new beauty.”

In addition to her work in education, Moore ran a nonprofit organization as executive director of Camp Thorpe at Goshen, a camp for people with developmental disabilities. She left that position last spring to focus on writing her thesis. As this venture drew to a close, Moore began looking for a new job. She wanted to work in a small non-profit organization in Vermont, with a preference for places that brought together a “community of learners”.

When Moore, a Shelburne resident, saw the job posting for the craft school, “the artistic part [put it] above,” she said.

She remembers telling her husband, artist Ben Patrick, and her parents that she didn’t expect to get an interview. But she had to apply, because the job had huge appeal. She was hired by the council in early July and started work two weeks later.

His small office, in a former 1840s dormitory for railroad workers, is decorated with a painting by Sage Tucker-Ketcham, a former executive director.

“It’s so dreamy here,” Moore said. “It’s like a fairy tale. I’m always on cloud nine.”

Sometimes Moore wanders around the school and stops in the weaving shed just to look at the colorful spools of thread stacked on a shelf.

“It’s such a magical little place,” she said.

The Shelburne Craft School teaches craft classes and workshops to around 1,000 students a year, offering courses in weaving, pottery, woodworking, stained glass and painting. Its programs include weekend workshops and a summer camp.

Moore succeeds Claire Gear, an architect who served as director for nearly four years. In an email to Seven days of his new position, Gear wrote, “Absolutely loved my time at Craft School.” She left because”[a]An opportunity arose to work with a local philanthropic family, as chief of staff.”

Andrew Everett, chairman of the board, said Gear “has guided the institution well through the pandemic, finding sources of revenue when tuition fees – which typically cover 85% of costs – were in decrease.

“We are sad to see her go but happy that she left us in a very strong position,” he said.

Moore’s fundraising ability and nonprofit management experience were clear on his resume and important to the board, Everett said. But he also cited “the intangibles” — her sense of humor, her curiosity, her interest in education — as reasons for hiring Moore after board members met and talked to her.

“Heather seems to have the ability to connect with anyone from a 5, 6 and 7 year old to an octogenarian,” he said.

Everett was introduced to the Shelburne Craft School through his daughter, Tess, a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg. As a child, Tess took classes at school and developed a particular interest in woodworking.

“I fell in love with the place as the third best place for her,” he said, outside of home and school. Craft projects teach creative problem solving and resilience, Everett said.

“You have a plan to create something, and at some point something goes wrong,” he continued. “You might cry. You might throw your thing. You might pout.” Or you could find a way to make it work.

Moore’s own daughter, Rosie Patrick, who starts kindergarten this week, will take a clay class at craft school in the fall. It’s a time when making art has special value, Moore suggested.

“We just lost a lot during the pandemic,” Moore said. “I think something we’ve earned is an intense desire to be human again. And this place provides a pathway to that.”

Moore is excited to start her own artistic creation and thrilled that taking classes at school is part of her job. She said she is good at managing spreadsheets.

As for being an artist, Moore said, “I will be soon.”

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