By day, Joseph Pensak is a Presbyterian minister and he also serves as the curator and director at the now four-year-old New City Galerie on Church Street in Burlington.
"I was called to start a new parish church in Burlington. My wife is an artist, I'm a musician. Wherever we've been we've done ministry through the arts. We just happened to find this perfect space on Church Street ... that's how it got started."
The ministry and the gallery began as linked entities and though the two are now separate organizations, Pensak said the original mission for the gallery remains the same: Connect emerging artists with emerging patrons in an accessible way.
Pensak spoke recently to VPR about how the gallery offers local artists work-share residencies and, through exhibits and live shows, both artists and patrons have pathways to find each other.
"We started a residency program. There are three residency studios ... it's been an amazing way to get to know artists in the city to really understand their needs ... and how they are looking to grow their work and their career and at the same time networking with artists in the city to put on shows," Pensak said.
Pensak said, "When people ask, 'What in the world is a church doing starting an art gallery?' It's an easy explanation ... that core idea of being a patron to the arts in many ways has been lost and so we're trying to renew that ancient vision and do it in a way that's really holistic and connected with wholeness and doing justice."
"It really is a space for artists in Burlington and in Vermont, and there's not a lot of spaces that are serious but also accessible ... the kind of art that we show is challenging, not safe, not predictable ... from the beginning, it's been about 'let's have the space be a gift to the city and not just for us.'"
The current exhibit up through Jan. 24 is called "Eyes/Vermont" is a series of 57 works by local photographers of pictures all taken with Vermont's borders. You can find out more about New City Galerie's Sunday Folk Night, the upcoming exhibit and the artists-in-residence program.