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November 4 @ 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Community Mourns Visionary Chaffee President
The charismatic President of the Chaffee Art Center who lead the recent drive to re-invent one of Vermont’s most iconic art centers into a world-class art, culture and education center, has died.
Ricky (“Rick”) Lee Twigg, 56, passed away September 20, 2017 in his home following complications from a brain tumor. He leaves behind his best friend and life-partner, Dimitri Ampatiellos , sister, Sue Twigg Wilson, and brother, Jesse “Mike” Twigg, his dear friends in Rutland, Weston, and across the country…and Willie, the “best” dog ever!
A southern boy, Rick grew up in the small town of Smithfield, North Carolina, the middle-child of three raised in a poor working-class family. Subject to intense abuse from an alcoholic father, at a very young age Rick would leave home and become self-reliant by working hard on southern tobacco fields and odd jobs to pay his way, eventually becoming the first Twigg ever to attend and graduate college.
A big believer in forgiveness and recognizing the good in others, in later years Rick would come to accept his father’s weaknesses, acknowledge his strengths, and draw on these experiences to help meet his own life challenges.
An attractive geek, he used his book-smarts, southern charm and willingness to work hard, to prove his way and achieve great personal and professional success. Upon graduating from his hometown high school, Smithfield-Selma Senior High (SSS), he would first test the waters of higher education by attending NC State College, and then move on to concurrently join the navy and enroll in Old Dominion University, rising to the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class with distinction and graduating top of his class with a B.S. in electrical engineering.
His navy, formal education, and subsequent training would lead to several fulfilling career experiences as an on-site inspector of nuclear power plants, IT consultant, and ultimately a cyber security and regulatory consultant to the power industry. In Rutland, his long-term working relationships with the Rutland Regional Medical Center and VELCO would serve to forge some of his deepest friendships and most memorable experiences.
While in college, he would take on a job as a youth counselor at the Wake Juvenile Detention center that would serve to shape his life-long views about society, social disparity and the formidable struggles of abused and neglected children. Relating these experiences to his own life, Rick would develop an inextinguishable passion to champion causes and support organizations that promoted, as he would call it, “nurturance in the community,” something he had felt lacking in his own youth.
Rick would come out to family and friends as openly gay in his early 20’s and would struggle with the repercussions of isolation and rejection from those most close to him for many years after. Confident in his own identify, however, he would be uninhibited in advocating for social equality and diversity in both his personal and professional life. He went on to have several long-term nurturing relationships that would ultimately have a transformative impact on those that once rejected him—garnering the respect, admiration and friendship of others, and demonstrating the rich humanity found in the LBGTQ community.
His greatest passion was building collaborations that supported community, especially when it came to children. He gave countless volunteer hours, physical energy and financial resources to many local and regional organizations, and could see no greater good than one supporting the community they lived and worked in.
Reinventing the Chaffee Art Center was to be Rick’s ultimate collaborative project and greatest personal contribution to the community he loved. He saw great potential in the Chaffee when many others viewed the center as a relic rather than an enduring and dynamic place for social and cultural change, wanting to create not just a world-class center for the community, but a destination for others to visit and experience the unique charm and history of Rutland, Vermont.
From the perspective of his own life struggles, Rick envisioned an art, culture and education “community center” that, as he would often put it…“was accessible to all, not just the well-to-do in our community,” with children and family-oriented programming to play a dominate role. Believing in an expansive definition of “Art,” he envisioned a center that embraced the many art forms equally—visual, literary, musical, culinary, sculpture, theatre, etc., and hoped to bring them to the Chaffee for all to enjoy.
To bring back community members to the Chaffee, he would present many visionary ideas that included the ADA restoration of the Mansion and Carriage Barn, multicultural café, artisan co-op, and many new interactive technologies and programming.
He worked hard and took pride in his efforts at bringing together two of Vermont’s leading educational institutions, The University of Vermont (UVM) and Green Mountain College (GMC) to collaborate in creating the State’s first large-scale, urban permaculture/arboretum project at the Chaffee to exhibit innovative and sustainable urban agriculture, landscape, and gardening concepts for the benefit of the entire community.
Rick’s final two personally meaningful projects would become the Chaffee Mobile Art Therapy Program that would take art into the community to support those challenged with home-bound medical issues, and a children’s “Imagination/Innovation” center in the Chaffee Carriage Barn that would use tactile, visual and auditory art to stimulate natural learning and early childhood development. He was excited about the center’s prospects of being the first of its kind in Vermont to be linked to an on-site permaculture program that could introduce children from an early age to the concepts of sustainability, interconnectedness to their environment, and to each other.
If Rick had any last thoughts, they would probably be those most familiar to him: muster the courage to forgive others, love unconditionally, make empathy and compassion a daily practice, support community…passionately…and have a piece of extra dark chocolate at the end of each day.
Some interesting and funny facts about Rick:
He had an eclectic appreciation of music. Having a deep and rich voice, he loved to sing in the car, as well as the shower to the vibes of southern gospel music, or the lyrics of old favorites from the Eagles, Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor and others. He enjoyed jazz and classical music, in that order, and would be caught on occasion listening and tapping to the tunes of some blue grass or local-grown musician whose CD he had picked up along the way.
When needed, he could easily dish out southern back-handed compliments like, “Bless your little heart…and Isn’t that wonderful,” with the best southern intonation that would make you cry from laughter.
He was a committed vegetarian when dining with his partner at home, but could never pass up steak medallions and mashed potatoes…or even Big Lenny’s Sausage stand…when dining with others. Not much into sweets, but loved extremely dark chocolate (organic, of course) after almost any meal. Considered the Speakeasy Café downtown, his “must do” morning stop, if not for the almond milk latte, then to exchange greetings with so many of his friends in the community.
Enjoyed being one of the first to the dance floor and dragging others, often reluctantly, to dance along with him…and he could dance for hours.
Loved science fiction and would blow through entire series seemingly overnight, and was not ashamed to be a Star Trek junky, having watched every episodes of every series—multiple times.
Enjoyed walking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, tennis, traveling, and the great outdoors.
He enjoyed sharing a few navy stories, the most memorable of which was with a commanding officer who tasked him to clean and polish a “huge” meeting hall floor that he was told no other officer could do to the commander’s satisfaction. As he would tell the story many times, “I thought, hey…I can do this…so I stayed up all night, scrubbed every square inch on my hands and knees, and then polished that floor to a sparkling shine…I even had time to scrub the commander’s ‘grimy’ coffee cup to a shine.” Rick then goes on, “come the following morning in front of the other officers, the commander praises me for a ‘job the way it’s supposed to be done,’ then reaches for his mug…that’s sitting in its usual reserved location…and starts to tear my head off and threaten to throw me in the brig for the stupidity of washing his mug that hadn’t been washed in over twenty years!—a common Navy tradition.” As Rick would tell the story laughing retrospectively, “it was one of those hard lessons in life…but I pick my a** off the floor and managed to move on.”
A celebration of Rick’s life will be held at the Chaffee Art Center, 16 Main Street, Rutland on Saturday, November 4th, from 4-7PM. All are welcome to attend. There will be a brief dedicated time of remembrance starting at 5:30pm. Come enjoy community by sharing in art, music and food. Children’s activities are planned.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider a donation to the Chaffee Art Center – Rick Twigg Legacy Fund, 16 Main Street, Rutland VT 05701.
For more information, please call the Chaffee Art Center at 802-775-0356
He enjoyed sharing a few navy stories, the most memorable of which was with a commanding officer who tasked him to clean and polish a “huge” meeting hall floor that he was told no other officer could do to the commander’s satisfaction. As he would tell the story many times, “I thought, hey…I can do this…so I stayed up all night, scrubbed every square inch on my hands and knees, and then polished that floor to a sparkling shine…I even had time to scrub the commander’s ‘grimy’ coffee cup to a shine.” Rick then goes on, “come the following morning in front of the other officers, the commander praises me for a ‘job the way it’s supposed to be done,’ then reaches for his mug…that’s sitting in its usual reserved location…and starts to tear my head off and threaten to throw me in the brig for the stupidity of washing his mug that hadn’t been washed in over twenty years!..a common Navy tradition.” As Rick would tell the story laughing retrospectively, “it was one of those hard lessons in life…but I pick my a** off the floor and managed to move on.”