WSA, CPW will get new leadership

Chris Seubert, new WSA director. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Chris Seubert, new WSA director. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Big changes are again underway in the Woodstock cultural scene.

First came Nancy Campbell’s announcement that she was stepping down from the directorship of the Woodstock School of Art next week after five years in the position.

Chris Seubert, a former WSA student and current school of art instructor, as well as an adjunct professor at SUNY Ulster, will be stepping in to fill the position.


Then, on Monday, May 18, Center for Photography at Woodstock executive director Ariel Shanberg announced his departure, effective at year’s end.

At the 47-year-old Woodstock School of Art, which took over the former home of the Arts Students League in the late 1970s, Campbell said  she was moving on to concentrate on her painting, which was what first brought her to WSA to take classes in the early 1980s.

“It has been a colorful journey full of learning and inspiration,” she said in a press release last week. “Thanks to some pretty incredible people, it’s been a great five and a half years for me at the WSA. I work with a Board of Directors who are united in their love of the school, who make thoughtful decisions, who have been wonderfully supportive, and whom I now count as friends…The staff members of the Woodstock School of Art are my heroes. Starting with Pam, then Mimi, Eric, Mandara and Kim our bookkeeper, each knows his or her job inside and out. They’re like the little engine that can and does keep the school functioning and in good condition! They’re motivated, independent, dependable, and never say no.”

Campbell, who will still serve on the organization’s board, noted that, “the WSA will remain in very good hands when Chris Seubert takes the helm as ED. Chris was instrumental in getting our cooperative program with SUNY Ulster off to a great start in 2012; he was named one of the Adjunct Professors of the Year for the entire SUNY system. Chris is smart, funny, easy to talk to and has some great ideas for the WSA.  You’ll like him!”

The leaving of Shanberg, who has been in his position for a dozen years since the sudden stepping down of Colleen and Kathleen Kenyon, came only weeks after most of the CPW staff left their positions for a variety of reasons, and just as new staff was being hired and starting work running the 39-year old institution’s various programs, which kick into high gear next month.

“CPW is doing well and poised for significant progress in the coming years,” Shanberg said in a press release this week. “I took CPW’s mission to heart during my 12 years as Executive Director, while also responding to tremendous changes in the field of photography. I’m proud to have led such a responsive arts organization, and I’m grateful to the thousands of artists, volunteers, and supporters that have helped enable CPW to grow. We have begun feasibility planning to enhance this building, fully aware of its place in Woodstock history. CPW also has a strategic plan, energetic new staff members, and a strong Board in place to ensure its future.”

Privately, Shanberg said that he was planning to get married in November and looking to move from Woodstock to his fiancee’s home in Sullivan County before then.

“I’m moving on to new adventures,” he said. “I see this as a healthy opportunity.”

Speaking as head of the board at CPW, Center founder Howard Greenberg, a New York gallerist now, wrote that “over the past twelve years Ariel has overseen CPW through dramatic changes in the field and has done an extraordinary job. His curating has helped set trends and championed important voices in photography, and I’m excited to see what’s next for him.”

The press release announcing Shanberg’s resignation noted that, “The new director will have at least a full year to prepare for CPW’s 40th anniversary in 2017.” It went on to note Shanberg’s accomplishments as having included the initiation of CPW’s Digital Kitchen, a digital learning, processing and printing space, the expansion of its Woodstock Artist-in-Residency program, increased visibility doing portfolio reviews around the world, and the Center winning a recent Ulster County Executive Arts Award for “best arts organization.”

As for recent staff resignations, Shanberg said that, “The truth is we’ve had a lot of people come on in crunch times, and leaving for a number of personal reasons.” He went on to note the difficulties of hiring at low wages below the area’s cost of living thresholds.

“We started discussion about [Shanberg’s] departure some time ago, but then it all came to a decision point in the last few weeks,” said CPW board treasurer Jed Root, a noted photo industry agent in the city. “I think overall we are facing challenges regarding fundraising and budgeting. We’ve seen the staff that we have get younger and younger. We need to raise more funds to avoid that.”

Shanberg called the decision “bittersweet.” He added that he’s leaving this week for a long planned motorcycle trip across the country. But then he’ll be back at work through the coming months.