NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I.—Visitors to the Wickford Art Association over the past month have probably seen a new face at the 36 Beach St. gallery, as Kingston resident Catherine Gagnon has taken over as gallery director, replacing the outgoing Judy Salvadore, who had held the position since 2016.
Gagnon started the position on Jan. 13 and comes from a background in arts administration, specifically music, with 20 years of experience. She previously was the executive director of the Ocean State Music Collaborative and currently serves as director of the Warwick Symphony Orchestra in addition to a career as a full-time music teacher. She is also a professional musician, playing both French horn and piano and performing with orchestras across southern New England and as far away as France and Belize.
She says she was first drawn to the position of gallery director while looking for a new challenge.
“I’d been looking around for quite some time trying to feel my way back into more of an administrative position,” Gagnon said. “Believe it or not I actually saw an ad on Facebook for the job. I’ve been familiar with the gallery and the (WAA) for quite some time. I’ve lived in Rhode Island since the ‘90s, but I actually hadn’t really been an active participant, so for me it was kind of something new to explore.”
Since taking over, Gagnon has hit the ground running, overseeing two exhibits, “Anything Goes,” which premiered three days before she began her position and oversaw her first opening night with “Seeing Red,” which premiered Feb. 7 and runs through March 1.
“So far, it’s going really well,” Gagnon said. “It’s a very, very supportive community of volunteers, staff and faculty. They have been very welcoming to me thus far. It’s been a couple of very busy weeks coming up to speed with all aspects of the organization because it’s quite vast, between educational programs, the gallery, the arts festival, etc., there’s a lot to learn and so it’s been a very, very busy couple of weeks.”
She says that while she’s new to working in visual arts, her experience in music has a lot of lessons to carry over.
“I’m coming newly into a visual art organization, however the work itself is very similar to what I’ve done for musical organizations in the past,” Gagnon said.
Now as gallery director, Gagnon looks forward to continuing on the WAA’s legacy of being one of Rhode Island’s top local art associations and overseeing their 58th Annual Wickford Art Festival, taking place July 11 and 12 in Wickford Village.
“It’s one of the biggest initiatives that we put forward every year,” Gagnon said of the festival, which was ranked the best in New England and seventh best festival of its kind in the nation by Sunshine Artist Magazine and draws in artists from across the country.
The Wickford Art Association is located at 36 Beach St., and its gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. For more information on them, visit their website wickfordart.org or call (401) 294-6840.