Stoddard will be missed

In their search to find a new Executive Director, I hope Second Street's Board of Directors remember and appreciate Leah Stoddard's contribution to the gallery and to Charlottesville ["Arts attack: 2nd St. director abruptly resigns," May 15].

Without Leah, Second Street would still be a one-room gallery in the McGuffey Art Center. Leah was responsible for the Gallery's move to the City Center for Contemporary Arts and worked tirelessly to raise funds for the building's completion. 

Unlike any before her, Leah introduced Charlottesville to the work of internationally recognized artists like Sally Mann, Gary Baseman, or next month's exhibitor, Joel-Peter Witkin. Yet she never neglected Charlottesville artists. Leah encouraged local artists with kind words and generous actions, often exhibiting them side-by-side with the "big" names. Leah acted utterly without art-world pretension, being as likely to give a major show to a little-known artist as to a famous one. She helped advance the careers of many Charlottesville artists, myself included. 

No doubt many would disagree with a few of her curatorial choices. But opening that kind of discussion is the hallmark of a successful curator. Leah procured art that offered a challenge to the viewer rather than merely fulfilling banal expectations. 

In addition to being curator, Leah was responsible for raising Second Street Gallery's operating budget every year, a job she approached with innovative fundraising efforts like the Art Auction, the Y'Art Sale and the legendary Artini parties. But to her it was equally important for Second Street to reach out to the community with free events like Family Art Day. 

Leah made Second Street the thriving art gallery it is today. Its board will be hard-pressed to find someone as capable and dedicated as Leah Stoddard, one of the true pioneers of the Charlottesville art scene. 

Russell U. Richards