On August 8, 1895, the Wood Gallery of Art was created by a deed of gift in trust by Montpelier artist Thomas Waterman Wood. Forty-two paintings, watercolors and etchings were given to the city of Montpelier.
This gift of art to the residents of Montpelier began to grow almost immediately. T.W Wood soon donated more of his work including copies of paintings that he did of many of the Great European Masters. These copies of works by Rembrandt, Turner and more were created by Wood with the intention of sharing this classic art with local Vermonters who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see the work of European artists.
Wood’s friendships with his contemporaries are reflected in gifts to the Gallery from Frederick S. Church, Asher B. Durand, William Beard, J. G. Brown and many others. Upon Wood's death in 1903, the bulk of his estate was left to the Gallery.
The Gallery was originally located in the Montpelier YMCA and Vermont Mutual Insurance Company on State Street. In 1896, Wood's friend Professor John W. Burgess felt that the Gallery deserved its own building. Professor Burgess taught at Columbia College, was a summer resident of Montpelier living at Redstone, and was married to Montpelier native Ruth Payne who was a student of Wood. Burgess financed the purchase of a property on State Street (a part of today’s Capitol Plaza), renovated the building, and added a fireproof addition. The Gallery had its opening reception for its new building on July 27, 1897.
The T.W. Wood Art Gallery was one of the first museums in Vermont, and following the Great Depression, the Gallery was chosen as the official Vermont repository for the artwork from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The date of this acquisition is uncertain, but it was likely sometime after the end of the Second World War.
The works in the WPA collection includes notable American artists such as post-painterly abstraction artist Frank Stella, and Vermont artist Ron Slayton who taught at the University of Vermont. Many of the works bear the Federal Art Project – WPA stamp that shows that the government collected the work and the artists paid.
In 1948, the Kellogg-Hubbard Library approached the Gallery with the desire to join the two cultural enterprises of the city into one building. In 1953 the Gallery moved into its location on the upper story of the library and changed its name to the T. W. Wood Art Gallery. This time is fondly remembered by many in the community. Several generations enjoyed having both art and literary creations under one roof for the esthetics and convenience the arrangement provided.
Friezes ran along the top ceilings of the gallery and was composed in three parts. The east and west walls were ivory copies from the Parthenon, the north wall frieze was copied from the façade of the organ gallery in the Cathedrale at Florence and was sculpted by Donatello Bardi, and the south wall frieze was copied from the same cathedral’s singer’s gallery and sculpted between 1431 and 1440 by Luca Della Robbia. Some of the friezes are currently on view at the Kellogg-Hubbard library. The partnership of theb two community organizations was a successful one for years until needs of both institutions to expand indicated a need for change.
In 1985, Vermont College/Norwich University invited the gallery to move into College Hall where the Gallery was named the T.W. Wood Gallery & Vermont College Arts Center. The Gallery stayed at that location until 2012. The T.W. Wood Gallery has found its permanent home at 46 Barre St. in Montpelier, VT. The building was originally a convent with an attached elementary school. The front building now houses Center for Arts and Learning and Montiverde Music School. The rear building houses The Wood Gallery and River Rock school. The gallery and is one of the founding members of the Center for Arts and Learning and is called the T.W. Wood Gallery, A Museum of American Art.
The T.W. Wood Collection includes over seven hundred works of Wood’s art including diaries, sketches, prints, and paintings. While many of Woods paintings are on exhibit at the Gallery some of the art is on loan to the Vermont State House, Montpelier City Hall.
The permanent Wood and WPA collections are exhibited at the gallery and presented along with changing exhibitions of contemporary art. The Gallery provides a venue for concerts, lectures, and a variety of events while continuing to maintain Vermont's artistic heritage and presenting the finest in the visual arts today.
The Wood Gallery shows work by local Vermont artists. Artists who have shown at the Gallery include: Ray Brown, August Burns, Elizabeth Nelson, Warren Kimble, Mary McKay Lower, Ronald Slayton, Adelaide Tyrol and many more. Artist member groups have include: the Art Resource Association, Heart of Vermont Quilt Guild, Twinfield Union High School Students, the Northern Vermont Artist Assn, and the Vermont Pastel Society.
The gallery shows paintings, drawings, photography, prints, sculpture, and fiber arts. Solo or two person shows in the Contemporary Gallery and artist member group shows reside in the Contemporary Hallway.
Ginny Callan – Executive Director
Joyce Mandeville, Past Executive Director
Thomas Waterman Wood, Self Portrait
Location CENTER FOR ARTS AND LEARNING 46 Barre Street, Montpelier, VT 05602
The T.W. Wood Gallery mission is to preserve our artistic heritage and to bring the best of today's art to Central Vermont.