By Cherise Madigan
A wealth of wit will grace the Bennington arts landscape this June, when more than 100 New Yorker cartoons from the iconic magazine’s history will be displayed at Southern Vermont College’s new Laumeister Arts Center.
The exhibit will mark the grand opening of the Arts Center, formerly known as the Bennington Center for the Arts. When the facility was gifted to the college in December — the largest gift in its history — Fine Arts and Music Professor Eric Despard was quickly tapped by SVC President David R. Evans to coordinate something “really big” for its debut.
“This [exhibit] helps tie us in with all of the wonderful cultural things going on in the Berkshires, as well as in the Northshire,” Despard explained. “As a liaison for that sort of ‘arts corridor.’”
Despard quickly reached out to friend Jessica Ziegler, the daughter of legendary cartoonist Jack Ziegler. The elder Ziegler worked with The New Yorker for more than 40 years, contributing over 1,500 cartoons to the publication alongside Barron’s, Esquire and Playboy.
Though the artist passed away in 2017, Despard knew that Ziegler’s daughter continued to circulate and celebrate his work. After signing on for the collaboration, Despard says, Jessica Ziegler even sought other New Yorker cartoonists to join in on the fun. Now, not only will 20 artists be sharing their work in Bennington, but some are also slated to attend the exhibit’s debut on June 29.
“We’ll be hosting a gala that night, and the next day there’s going to be a panel discussion with some of the artists,” Despard said, adding that a performance by “legendary cabaret entertainer” Steve Ross will round out the weekend.
“[Ross] fits in nicely with he New Yorker theme,” he added.
The exhibit ushers in a new era for the arts at Southern Vermont College, which hopes to collaborate with other regional institutions like the Bennington Museum,The Bennington Bookshop and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., in the future. The college has already begun to expand its programming, collaborating with New England Newspapers Inc. for two panel discussions thus far, and will add a bachelor’s degree in arts administration to its curriculum this fall — the first arts major offered by the college.
That new era will come in with a bang thanks to Despard, who envisions an exciting future for both Southern Vermont College and its Laumeister Arts Center.
“It’s all about raising our profile in the arts,” he added. “I think that this is really going to put us on the map.”
Cherise Madigan is a native Vermonter and frequent contributor to the Manchester Journal and Bennington Banner.