Board & Officers

David Mook, President

Erika Lawlor Schmidt, Vice President

Burnham Holmes, Secretary

Rod Bell, Treasurer


DEVIN BALCACER is a native New Yorker and overall artist. He has participated in several Ameri corps programs focusing on conservation before he eventually settled in Vermont. Devin is a junior at Green Mountain College where he is enrolled in the Progressive self design program with a focus on music, storytelling, ceremony and dance.

HOWARD BANOW is a singer-songwriter, teacher of meditation, poet and performer who has loved working with the SVA jazz band, and sharing his poems, songs, and stories at SVA-sponsored events. He is looking forward to more of this and finding ways to share the use of meditation in the arts and personal growth with others at SVA and the wider community.

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.

DAVE BURNS  is a Massachusetts native with a diverse and storied music career. He has taught guitar for over 15 years, and has spent 7 years performing, recording, and touring with various musical outfits. He eventually gravitated away from the exciting yet hectic life of a traveling artist and returned to college to pursue his academic passions. Dave is currently at Castleton University studying psychology, biology, and statistics in preparation for medical school, where he hopes to earn a medical degree in psychiatry. He retains his zest for music and plays classical guitar at local events and art galleries. Dave hopes to see more young Vermonters take up music to start their own musical projects so they can experience the world much as he did.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

PHIL WHITMAN, hails from Glens Falls, NY. He earned an M.F.A. in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and is currently completing a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from Skidmore College focusing on nineteenth-century American art and tourism. Phil has been a Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. In addition to exhibiting his own artwork nationally, he has worked in museums and art galleries in New York City and throughout New England. Since 2011, Phil has taught Art History and Studio Art courses at Castleton University. He lives with his family in Poultney.

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!