Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Southern Alleghenies Museum Has New Director

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Southern Alleghenies Museum Has New Director

Article excerpt

Vanessa Houser, a lifelong Cambria County resident and fundraising professional, has been named director of the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art. She replaces Gary Moyer, who retired last month.

The museum is headquartered in Loretto, Cambria County, and has satellites in Altoona, Bedford, Johnstown and Ligonier Valley. The combined sites draw approximately 85,000 visitors annually. There are nearly 5,000 artworks in the permanent collection, and the annual operating budget is a little more than $1 million.

Ms. Houser plans to build upon accomplishments initiated by the museum in recent years to increase its membership and visibility in the satellite communities.

"Probably the next direction will be to expand our programming with a robust calendar of events in all of our museums. We want to encourage everyone to come in," she said.

That includes enhancing art educational outreach programs in schools in six counties, "a very obvious partnership," and also attracting young working people. "The youngest generation puts a lot of value on what they experience for the dollars they pay. As far as reaching young people it's an exciting place to be," she said.

She also sees the growth of art tourism as an opportunity, citing the successes of towns like Bedford, where the most recent SAMA satellite opened in May. That project was "the right thing at the right time," supported by "an array of volunteers who are willing to take ownership," she said.

"It's so neat and so exciting to see how these tiny communities are taking advantage of these opportunities and are growing them into their individualized brands."

Ms. Houser, 32, is a Bishop Carroll High School graduate and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and public relations from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Loretto with her husband, John Paul, son Sebastian, 7, and daughter Adelaide, 3.

She has long been interested in art and even "dabbles once in a while with watercolor," but career and family have given her little time to visit museums, she said. …

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