Board & Officers

ERIKA LAWLOR SCHMIDT, Executive/Artistic Director

DAVID MOOK, Past President

ROD BELL, Treasurer


ROD BELL has over 30 years’ experience in developing and implementing business-building insights at the local, regional, national and global levels. He has led insights departments at Frito-Lay, Pepsi-Cola North America, and Coors Brewing. Rod also has significant supplier experience, with stints at IRI and Lieberman Research. Rod has an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern.

DONNA CIOBANU is a European native with an MS in Human Genetics. Besides her work, she is a painter favoring landscape and abstract art. Reinterpreting the landscape through vibrant color and intensity and capturing the essence of a mood and memory is of utmost importance to Donna. Her work has been shown at the California Cancer Research Symposium, the Fontana Arts Festival, Las Lagunas Gallery, the Daily Planet in Burlington, in the Pomona Valley Review magazine and is in private collections in the US and Europe. Donna is excited to be a part of SVA and looking forward to giving back to this great community.

CHRISTINA FRISKEY DAVIES has her BA in Archaeology and a MAT in History from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. She grew up in the historically rich city of Schenectady, NY, then spent nearly a decade in Boston, MA after graduate school. While in Boston, she stumbled into a career in operations for a small technology company. 11 years later, she now works remotely for that very same company with her husband Steve (a graphic designer, illustrator, and animator), from their East Poultney home. A computer geek by day and would-be farmer by night, she enjoys nothing more than spending time out among the natural beauty of Vermont and tending to her cats, dog, ducks, and chickens. She also enjoys helping others whenever possible and volunteering in its many forms; in the past, she has tutored ESL students, archived historical records, managed donor relations for a food pantry, worked with hospice and volunteered at several animal rescue organizations. Her creative pursuits include writing, knitting, crafting and sculpture/pottery; she looks forward to cultivating more of her creative side and connecting with her community via her work with the Stone Valley Arts.

BURNHAM HOLMES has written seventeen books. His most recent published writing is a HarperCollins original paperback, One Shining Moment: Sports Heroes for a Day and the final chapter (“Thee We Praise”: 1990-2012) in Big Heart: The Journey to Castleton’s Two Hundred and Twenty-fifth Birthday. Beginning as Toni Morrison’s assistant at Random House in 1968, Burnham worked in publishing at several publishing houses, was a free-lance writer, and also taught writing and literature for fifteen years at the School of the Visual Arts in New York City.   For the past nineteen years, he has taught writing and speech at Castleton State College. In 2006 he led the Castleton London Semester and in 2009 he won the Castleton Endowed Part-time Faculty Award. In 2011 Burnham’s The Palm Leaf Dialogues was the winner of the Nor’ Eastern Playwriting Contest. In Addition, Burnham has acted in twenty plays (his favorite roles: Sir Toby Belch, Doc Gibbs, Falstaff, Mr.Peachum) and for ten years toured in a poetry performance group (Vibes, then Quatrain). He has had several small parts and one lead in independent films. He was a founder and the first president of Stone Valley Arts.

DENISE LETENDRE has a BFA from the University of Hartford, majoring in illustration with a focus in literature. She moved to Vermont from Connecticut 20 years ago to raise her 3 kids in the country. Denise works at Poultney Public Library and Fair Haven Grade School. Her creative background has been mainly painting but she has been concentrating on photography for the past few years, inspired by the rural environment, and has been showing in central/southern Vermont and in Connecticut.

SUSAN MACLEOD is happy to be back in Vermont, living on land originally farmed by her grandparents, in East Poultney. She is a freelance graphic designer and adjunct graphic design instructor. Susan earned her BA and MA in School Psychology from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and worked as a school psychologist and neuropsychological examiner for several years before shifting her career toward the arts. For over 10 years, she taught graphic design full time for a community college in North Carolina. Susan is enjoying being part of Stone Valley Arts where she hopes to put her enthusiasm and experience to use for this remarkable community resource.

PATTY MCWILLIAMS, a native of Williamstown, Massachusetts, is the owner/proprietor of Hermit Hill Books on Main Street in Poultney. She started her life in the publishing business at The New Yorker Magazine and then moved to Geo Magazine as an associate editor. Tiring of the city life, Patty relocated to Vermont to work at Country Journal. She spent several years at the Northshire Bookstore, learning the bookselling trade before starting her own used and antiquarian bookstore 20 years ago. Her store has received recognition in The Washington PostYankee MagazineWAG Magazine of Westchester County, NY, and Vermont Magazine. Patty is excited to be a part of the growing arts community in Poultney.

DAVID MOOK retired early from a business career to pursue a path of learning and creativity, earning a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Writing (Vermont College) after age 50. David organizes poetry events such as “Poets for Peace” and community “Favorite Poem” readings. His poems and essays are widely published, including Birchsong – Poetry Centered in Vermont, Friends Journal, Paterson Literary Review, and several anthologies. Book-length collections include EACH LEAF (Poems on Grief and Loss) and Corn-Pone ‘Pinions (Political Poems, Essays, Cartoons). David teaches at Castleton University and sponsors the annual Sarah Mook Poetry Contest open to students in grades K-12 (

KRISTA RUPE is excited to be a part of the Stone Valley Arts and participate in a vibrant arts community. Rupe is currently the Executive Director of the Slate Valley Museum where she educates visitors about the local slate industry and the history of immigration into the area. Rupe served as the Special Projects Manager for the Gilder Lehrman Collection at the New York-Historical Society where she started her career in museums. Her volunteer experience includes working in family programs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Rupe holds a graduate degree from the highly regarded Bank Street College of Education and she received her undergraduate degree in Communication & Media Studies from Fordham University.

GARY SCHMIDT is a classical/jazz pianist/composer and has performed throughout the U.S. during the last four decades. His compositions have been performed at festivals in Europe as well. He has produced two solo piano cd’s, continues to perform locally in Vermont and is currently composing an opera based on the life of Saint Paul of Tarsus. Gary is also an executive chef. He has been involved in the hospitality business for over thirty years and has published a cookbook titled Recipes to Cook and Live By.

ERIKA LAWLOR SCHMIDT, visual and performing artist currently lives in Pawlet, Vermont. She earned her M.F.A. in Printmaking and Performance from the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. where she founded Vital Spark Performance Art Group, a collaborative ensemble that has produced interdisciplinary performance projects at art museums, dance festivals and academic and art institutions in the U.S. and Europe.  Erika has been an artist- in- residence at Green Mountain College, The Vermont Studio Center and in Guanghan, China. Erika’s prints and collages are collected and exhibited nationally. She served as executive director for Arts on the Park Gallery in Lakeland, Fl. and is a co-founder of Platform Florida. Currently, she is the founder and artistic director of Vital Spark North and DanceFest Vermont! and happy to be a part of SVA.

BIANCA AMIRA ZANELLA fell in love with Vermont while receiving her B.A. in English education and B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Green Mountain College in Poultney. During her undergraduate career, she served as the editor-in-chief of the arts journal, The Reverie, publishing several poems and a short story within its pages; her most recent publication includes “Mr. Tucker’s Gift,” in the 2016 Mountain Troubadour. She is also the recipient of the 2014 Robert T. Marsh Memorial Prize for Excellence in Writing and volunteers with the National Poetry Slam. In her capstone project, she explored how poetry can affect social change, working on movement-making through storytelling with the AMP Experience. In addition to giving back to the place she now calls home as the Sustainable Community Development & Outreach Coordinator, she is thrilled with SVA’s potential to give something extraordinary to such a remarkable community like Poultney.


Thank you to these past board members!















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