Arts Center gets new director in time for holiday show

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Tue., Dec. 11, 2012
Artist and former art teacher Joan Sonnanburg is the new director of the Vernon Community Arts Center. Photos by Steve Smith.
Artist and former art teacher Joan Sonnanburg is the new director of the Vernon Community Arts Center. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Vernon Community Arts Center's new director takes the word “community” most seriously. Joan Sonnanburg – an artist, former art teacher and Vernon resident for decades – has been named the VCAC's director, and says she wants to create activities at the center for all segments of the population, including “those who don't know they are interested in art yet.”

“When I heard about the arts center, I was excited that Vernon would have something like this,” she said. She then began volunteering with the center and looking for ways to do more. “I hope to make it more of a community center for the people in Vernon, but also for the wider community, for people in South Windsor, Ellington and other [surrounding] towns.”

Sonnanburg has a bachelor's degree in English and two master’s degrees – in education and fine arts – and said she's already been talking to people about having youth groups tour the center and working with other groups in the community, including seniors, 20-somethings, and everyone in between.

“We've got a couple of [volunteer] young men and women in their 20s, and I've been asking them what would get people in their age group more involved at the center,” she said. “Of course they say, 'music.'”

Sonnanburg said she hopes the center continues to show works that appeal to a broad range of people, but also wants to add some things that people are less familiar with. One idea is to have actors playing different scenes in the center's different rooms.

Sonnanburg taught elementary school art in New York City, as well as classes at the University of Wisconsin. She more recently has taught continuing education classes at Rockville High School.

As an artist herself, she said the works she's created are of a wide range of media. “I'm a very eclectic artist,” she said. “Most of the stuff I've done is oil, but I did one large installation. Imagine a typical living room scene, with a couch and a painting. The painting becomes part of the furniture and you never really look at it.” She said her painting in the piece was of a traditional mill scene, but it took over everything – was on the wall, the couch, etc.

The center is currently hosting its Winter Holiday Craft Festival, concurrently with the Members' show. Unique, hand-crafted works from more than 70 area artists are on sale through Dec. 23. Items include soaps, stationery, woodcrafts, paintings and pottery. The paintings in the Members' show are also for sale.

Sonnanburg said the holiday was started years ago by former director Mellissa Ralston-Jones, but for this year's show, Sonnanburg went to other craft shows and invited artisans whose work she thought would be a good fit. Decorated wreaths will also be sold, with proceeds going to Tri-County ARC, a local organization benefiting people with disabilities.

Special events are taking place Dec. 15 and 16. Children are invited to create their own crafts, including ornaments and cards, and hot cocoa and holiday treats will be available. The activities are free, and the center is also collecting food items for the Hockanum Valley Community Council Food Pantry.

On Dec. 15, at 2 p.m., the Rockville High School Choir will be performing, and the Vernon Chorale will perform on Dec. 16, at 3 p.m.

In January, the VCAC will be holding an open, juried Photography Show called “Through a Shutterbug's Eyes.” Submission information can be found at

March will bring the Vernon schools' system-wide student art show, which is moving from the Rockville Public Library to the more-spacious center.

For more information, visit


Very Best Wishes

It all looks very nice !

May Ms. Sonnanburg's tenure be a fine one.
I hope I can participate later this year.

elle fagan

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