Sage Tucker-Ketcham: Carrying on a Shelburne tradition

Courtesy photo
Sage Tucker-Ketcham

Sage Tucker-Ketcham’s rise to become executive director of the Shelburne Craft School was a bit of a whirlwind.

In the summer of 2010, she volunteered to paint a fiberglass cow for the Cows Come Home fundraiser and became fascinated by the history of the school.

When she learned the school was in the market for a part-time office manager, she applied for the job. A few weeks later, the executive director resigned. She was offered that position in December of 2010.

“It’s never dull,” Tucker-Ketcham said of her job. “Every day throws new challenges and new excitement.”

The 39-year-old South Burlington resident has been painting since high school. After receiving her BFA from Maine College of Art, the 14th-generation Vermonter returned to the Green Mountain State and taught at Burlington-area afterschool programs, Burlington City Arts and the YMCA.

Tucker-Ketcham also has an entrepreneurial side, having started a handbag-making business while she was still in high school.

In 2005 she had a small gallery/studio on North Street with summer camps, classes and shows for emerging artists but she closed it when the demands of graduate school became too much. She received her MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Tucker-Ketcham believes her background in arts education and running small businesses helps with her executive director duties. “I’ve always liked the bookkeeping side of things and the challenges that small businesses face,” she said.

Tucker-Ketcham is a painting instructor at the school and her work is currently represented by the Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury. She structures her time so she can paint at home in the evening after making dinner. This summer, she will do an art residency in Provincetown, Mass.

The Shelburne Craft School has seven staff members, about a dozen teachers and several studio assistants. Roughly 30 percent of its programming is for children, the rest is for adults.

Founded in 1938 and a nonprofit since 1945, the school’s most popular programs are woodworking and pottery.

“We know who we are and what we do best,” Tucker-Ketcham said. “We’ve tried other things but if it isn’t a good fit, there are other places that offer that kind of programming.”

Although most students come from Burlington, Charlotte, Hinesburg and Shelburne, others take the ferry from New York or travel from the Mad River Valley.

Eighth-grade students from the Shelburne Community School have been coming for annual projects for 80 years. “People are connecting back to making things with their hands,” Tucker-Ketcham said. “We’re still here and serving our mission and that’s really neat.”

Recently, Tucker-Ketcham was reminded of why she enjoys her work. Students from Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro visited and a staff member opened a Raku kiln to show some bright red, hot pots.

“I heard them all say ‘wow,’” she recalled. “It’s great to hear that enthusiasm. We’re opening a door for kids and adults. It is fulfilling to be a part of that excitement and happiness.”

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