Sunday, September 27, 2020

Person of the Week

Stepping Up for Art: Pavlos Named Lyme Art Association Executive Director



Meet the Lyme Art Association’s new executive director, Laurie Pavlos. With recent renovations at the association’s home at 90 Lyme Street complete, the Old Saybrook resident is now focusing an raising awareness of the association and its exhibits and member artists. Photo By Becky Coffey/Harbor News

Meet the Lyme Art Association’s new executive director, Laurie Pavlos. With recent renovations at the association’s home at 90 Lyme Street complete, the Old Saybrook resident is now focusing an raising awareness of the association and its exhibits and member artists. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)

Observing a painting in a gallery is a different experience from seeing a print or reproduction. A painting’s colors are more vivid, the brush or palette strokes visible, and the paintings, whether grand or small in scale, more engaging.

“Our goal at the Lyme Art Association is to increase the community’s awareness of our distinct identity. We are a gallery showcasing and selling representational work by our member artists,” says Old Saybrook’s Laurie Pavlos, the new executive director of the Lyme Art Association (LAA) in Old Lyme.

Part of that identity awareness is pointing out what LAA is not: “We are not the Lyme Academy College of Art and we are distinct from the Florence Griswold Museum,” Laurie notes.

That’s a particularly important distinction to make these days—in August, the University of New Haven, which affiliated with Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts in 2014, announced that as of May 2019, it would no longer offer bachelor of fine arts degrees or certificates at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts at 84 Lyme Street.

While the future status of the Lyme Academy College facility is currently uncertain, by contrast, LAA, just up the road at 90 Lyme Street, is thriving as a non-profit organization with more than 700 artist and community members; 80 of those members are distinguished as being LAA elected artists.

LAA and its many members also have a unique responsibility as steward of the historic LAA gallery and studio building at 90 Lyme Street in Old Lyme. The building’s main floor consists of a first floor gallery where exhibitions are held. The gallery spaces together are large enough to display 200 or more pieces per exhibition. The lower level of the building includes an art studio space where art classes, workshops, lectures, and special events occur.

“The LAA was founded in 1914 by the Lyme impressionists who lived in Florence [Griswold]’s house next door. They had been showing their art at the library and wanted a better place to show their work. So she sold them the property for $1 and they raised the funds for the building,” Laurie says. “The purpose of the association then is the same as today. Our mission is to keep this historic building functional and in good shape and to support the cause of fine representational art.”

Representational art in this context means that when a viewer looks at a piece, they can recognize it is about a subject from the real world.

“There are a lot of art associations, but we are distinct in being caretakers and users of this building,” Laurie says.

In the past few years, nationally recognized artist-teachers and LAA elected artists have led workshops in the LAA art studio. This year’s artist-instructors have included portrait artist Steven Assael and in the past two weeks, Rachele Hyssen, teaching on still-life painting. In the planning phase for summer 2019, are a series of intensive three or four day workshops, again with nationally recognized artists as the instructors.

The historic building that includes this art studio and gallery was designed by the architect Charles Platt. The gallery was declared a beautiful space for displaying art by a writer in the Aug. 14, 1921 edition of The New York Times: “It is an ideal gallery...Greater appropriateness, beauty of proportions, and refinement of taste hardly could be found...Truly an artist’s gallery, built for and by and with artists.”

But at 90 years of age, about a decade ago, the building had begun to show its age. The most visible problem was the poor condition of the building’s original cedar shingles—some were falling off and others were missing. So the LAA Board of Directors tasked Centerbrook Architects to prepare a conditions assessment plan for the structure. This helped the board identify the scope and cost for the most urgently needed fixes. A capital campaign was started to raise the needed funds.

Five years ago LAA hired Gary Parrington to be LAA’s development director, charged with raising the funds needed to repair and protect the building. Under his leadership, more than $360,000 was raised; this paid for the work to replace the building’s original shingles, gutters, trim, and windows. The work funded by this phase of capital project work was recently completed. Parrington will retire in December after a job well done.

With his departure, Laurie, who had worked part-time at LAA since 2010, most recently as business manager, was asked by the board to take a full-time position as LAA’s new executive director; she agreed. Laurie had enjoyed the many roles she had taken on previously like helping to receive and catalog each exhibition’s arriving art, oversee membership, and maintain the association’s online presence.

“I’m sort of a jack-of-all-trades. I love learning things—I learned how to do our website. One of my volunteers jokes that he will have make me a shelf to hold all of the different hats that I wear,” Laurie says with a smile.

As executive director—and without a development director—Laurie now will add fundraising duties to her portfolio of responsibilities.

“Everyone who works and volunteers here are wonderful—they’re all creative and hard-working,” Laurie says. “It’s a labor of love for everyone.”

For Laurie, her work as business manager and now executive director of an artists’ association is her second career. Her first career was spending 11 years as an environmental consultant working for engineering firms. With training as a geologist, her work with the firm led her to projects like making clean-up plans for contaminated Superfund sites.

When her youngest of her two sons was born, she quit her full-time job to spend more time with her children as they grew and went through the Old Saybrook schools. Once they were more independent, she returned to work part-time, starting with the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. When a friend told her of an opening at LAA with broader responsibilities, she decided to make a move, and started working part-time at LAA in 2010.

“It’s been exciting to see artists flock here to study and to teach,” Laurie says. “They like the location and vibe of the place. It’s a great resource.”

Enjoying that vibe isn’t limited to member artists. The association’s annual fundraiser—Palate to Pallette—will be held at the association on Thursday, Oct. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. Eleven local caterers and restaurants will provide tasting plates and there will be wine and beer, all for a pre-paid reservation price of $45 for members and $50 for non-members.

“It’s a fun, accessible, and light-hearted event out on the lawn under a tent and in the gallery,” Laurie says.

Reservations are available at or by calling 860-434-7802; the event usually sells out each year.

Throughout the year, opening receptions for the association’s juried exhibitions are held and are open to the public. A new exhibition opens about every six or seven weeks. The LAA gallery is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday each week or by appointment. The lower-level studio is filled with artists painting from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day.

“Everyone responds to art. I love to watch people walk through the gallery and exclaim about the art they see,” Laurie says.

Becky Coffey covers news for Old Saybrook and Westbrook for Zip06. Email Becky at

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