Stephen Tagliatela steps down as chair of Lyme arts academy board of trustees
Old Lyme — Lyme Academy of Fine Arts board of trustees Chairman Stephen Tagliatela, credited with helping the institution transition to an independent academy and recreate itself after its disaffiliation from the University of New Haven, has stepped down after five years, the academy announced.
The board elected Michael Duffy, an Old Lyme resident and the president of the Great Oaks Foundation, as the new chairman.
Tagliatela this month was presented with the Elisabeth Gordon Chandler medal for his service as chairman from 2015 to 2020, and Rick Lacey, an artist and instructor, has created a portrait of him, according to a news release from the Lyme Academy.
“Steve has made a great contribution and enabled a successful transition to ensure that the Lyme Academy would operate as an independent entity going forward,” Laura Lee Miller, the newly elected vice chairperson, said in a phone interview. “For that, we thank him and applaud his efforts.”
She credited him with helping introduce the then Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts to the University of New Haven, where Tagliatela is a board member, a move that she said ultimately saved Lyme Academy during a very tenuous and difficult financial time. When that affiliation later ended, he then helped the academy transition “to ultimately and effectively being able to stand on its own again and to recreate the 50-year legacy that the Lyme Academy enjoys for fine arts education.”
The academy, founded by Elisabeth Gordon Chandler in 1976, started granting degrees in 1996, said Kimberly Monson, programming director and instructor.
When Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts was facing difficulties and losing its accreditation, the University of New Haven affiliated with Lyme Academy in 2014, Tagliatela said in a phone interview. UNH had the resources to put the college back on steady ground and invested in infrastructure and maintenance.
Tagliatela said the academy realized that if UNH was not able to make the college successful with all its resources toward attracting students, there really was not a market for a four-year degree program in Old Lyme with college students flocking to cities.
Tagliatela said that after the separation with UNH, the goal was to keep Lyme Academy open and reenergize and recreate the academy, so he’s pleased he was able to accomplish that efficiently and effectively. The board focused on transitioning the institution from a four-year degree program to its roots and Chandler’s vision of the institution as an arts academy.
It provides art education in sculpture, painting, drawing, illustration and printmaking, as well as offering children and youth programs, Miller said.
Even with the pandemic, Lyme Academy of Fine Arts was still able to offer a successful summer program with restrictions in place and has offerings, such as an instructed studio class that ran through the fall and a printmaking studio, Monson said in a phone interview.
Tagliatela said he’s always been a supporter of the academy, but serves on multiple boards including chairing the Connecticut Tourism Coalition, and has a lot to do. Tagliatela, the managing partner of Saybrook Point Resort and Marina, said he has to refocus on his business during the pandemic, and he's pleased that Duffy has stepped up to become the next chairman.
“Stephen has shown outstanding leadership during Lyme Academy’s most uncertain times,” Duffy said in a statement. “We are so fortunate to be able to move forward based on the solid footing he provided.”
State Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Lyme, presented Tagliatela with a citation from the General Assembly. Carney said Tagliatela has done a lot for the shoreline and the area, so he wanted to thank him for his service on the board and his chairmanship. He said the academy needed a strong leader during this transitional period, and Tagliatela did a good job guiding the academy and he wishes the next chairman the best of luck, as well.
Lee Bowes was voted in as treasurer, while Lyme-Old Lyme Superintendent Ian Neviaser will remain as secretary of the board, according to the news release.
Duffy said in a phone interview that he crafted a comprehensive plan over the summer for the academy to move forward, with the first point being that its future is as an academy, where people can go to learn skills toward the mastery of a goal, rather than as a college.
The second point is that the academy’s mission, to use traditional methods of teaching art that date back to the Renaissance as a foundation, remains critically important in this day and age, he said.
Another major goal is to find ways to activate the campus in partnership with the community, he said. For example, how can the academy transform a student cafeteria into a place where the community can gather for a cup of coffee and a sandwich? How can the academy invite an outside art supply store or another retailer to locate to the student bookstore?
The academy is searching for an artistic director, who will focus on programming and curriculum, along with teaching and mentoring students, and voted earlier this month to proceed with the search for a new executive director, who will be charged with financial, fundraising, operational and administrative aspects of the academy, Duffy said.
He said the hope is to have both positions filled by Feb. 1.
He said the goal is for the academy to engage four different types of students: people who want to study full-time to obtain the foundational skills to become artists; youths who are pre-college and want to develop their skills to potentially prepare to enter a program focused on becoming an artist; adult learners, who may not want to study full-time but would like to develop their skills in a serious way; and art educators who want to improve their pedagogy.
Miller said that after spending time in strategic planning and assessing a direction for the academy, the board is tasked with now executing its plan and relaunching the academy with a rich and robust art curriculum that goes back to its original vision but in a modern expression.
“I have great confidence in the future success and relaunch of the academy under Michael’s direction,” Miller said.
“I fell in love with the mission of the Lyme Academy and its history,” Duffy added. “It’s a magical place. Walking though the studios, you can feel the energy from the people who’ve gone there in the past and the possibility of what could be created in the future.”