City welcomes new fine arts director
Infusing the arts with a practical business sense, Van Parker, the new executive director at the Milford Fine Arts Council, plans to expand development opportunities to ensure the organization's sustainability.
Parker brings to Milford a professional background that includes executive positions at Xerox Credit, Inc. and the United States Trust Company of New York. Parker also recently served as executive director of development for local non-profit organizations, too. For more than 10 years, he was at the helm of the St. Luke's LifeWorks in Stamford, the Transportation Association of Greenwich and the Greenwich Land Trust.
Although the Arts Council has been around for more than 40 years, the Center for the Arts, at 40 Railroad Avenue, opened in 1991. Praising former executive director William Meddick's development of the arts council, Parker said he plans to continue to grow the organization.
“He built something strong and I'm going to try to move beyond that, on to the next leg of his vision,” Parker explained.
Utilizing his experience in development and fundraising, Parker plans to research opportunities for grant monies. The council's financial base will also be strengthened by appealing to individual donors, he added. “In these economic times, you cannot rely on any one source,” Parker noted.
Parker said he appreciates the generous financial support provided to the Milford Arts Council by the City of Milford.
When he came on board a month ago, Parker was also impressed by the organization's diverse programming. The Center for the Arts is the home of the Eastbound Theatre, coffee houses, classical guitar workshops, Argentine Tango dance classes, a monthly writers' group and fine art. In partnership with the city of Milford, the arts council also developed the former Walnut Fire Company #3 building into a 1,000-square foot Firehouse Art Gallery where visual arts exhibits, classes and an artist-in-residence program take place.
Parker hopes to build upon these offerings. He's already begun to work toward creating a strong jazz series. With an obvious affinity for jazz music — Parker studied jazz piano with John Mehegan in New York City — Parker said he's already had discussions to enhance the Milford Arts Council Jazz series. Parker said, “I'm definitely partial to jazz music. However, based upon the reactions I've heard since I've arrived, people would like that to happen.”
Parker recognizes that visual arts is an important component of the arts center. He also understands the need to balance the amount of art displayed on the walls with the needs of the Eastbound Theatre. “I realize that in this environment, people like to have the opportunity to come and look at art,” Parker said.
One of his goals is to increase the council's overall membership and the number of its volunteers. Parker is pleased with the group of committed volunteers who are responsible for managing the center’s events. However, more people are welcome.
Director of Business and Communications Kristine Kinsella credits the success of the Milford Fine Arts Council to its strong volunteer corps.
“We're very, very fortunate to have such wonderful volunteers,” Kinsella said. “We're always thrilled at the turnout of new volunteers each year as well as the existing volunteers who return.”
Upcoming programs include a special coffeehouse performance on Friday, Sept. 28, featuring Denise Jones and Inner Groove.
The Classical Guitar Society is another popular program housed at the Milford Fine Arts Council. Along with monthly meetings, the Classical Guitar Society hosts a Guest Concert Series. Richard Provost will teach a master class and give a performance on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11.
Parker holds a BA in political science from Colgate University and a Masters of Business Administration from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business, where he studied banking and finance. Parker is also a graduate of the Xerox Advanced Management School. He and his wife, Adrienne, are residents of Wilton.