- Courtesy Of Yestermorrow Design/build School
- Britton Rogers
Waitsfield's Yestermorrow Design/Build School is entering its 40th year with new but familiar leadership. Last week, the nonprofit announced the hiring of executive director Britton Rogers. The architect and landscape designer has a 10-year relationship with the school, first as a student and then, since last year, as an instructor and full-time staff member.
But his connection to Yestermorrow dates back further. As a kid growing up in Colorado, Rogers visited an uncle in Waitsfield in the summers.
"I knew of Yestermorrow more as 'What is that interesting place? What's going on in there?'" Rogers recalled in a conference call with Seven Days that also included Yestermorrow outreach and enrollment director Chrissy Bellmyer and outgoing Yestermorrow ED Charlotte Potter Kasic.
As an adult, Rogers, 45, who has a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's degree in environmental design from Yale University, was drawn to Yestermorrow as a student after he was laid off from Centerbrook Architects and Planners in Connecticut in the aftermath of the 2008 economic collapse.
"It became this place where I could reinvent myself and make more out of my career," Rogers said. Among his long-term goals, he continued, is "to bring the experience that I had to as many people as possible, to those people who are trying to reinvent themselves, to those architects who don't know how to build, and those people who might be searching for a career or a vocation or a skill that maybe they can't quite find through traditional means."
Rogers replaces Potter Kasic, a Waitsfield-born visual artist who joined Yestermorrow in December 2018 and recently returned with her family to Virgina, where they lived before she took the Yestermorrow job. She will stay on with the school in her new position as enrichment director.
"There are two people in every family, sometimes more," Potter Kasic said, regarding her decision to step down as ED and transition to a new role. She explained that when she moved her young family to Vermont, her husband was able to keep his job and work remotely. But when he was recently (and repeatedly) offered a significant promotion, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
"We didn't get that $10,000 incentive, by the way," Potter Kasic joked, referring to the state's Remote Worker Grant Program, which offers potential telecommuters a financial incentive to move to Vermont. "We missed it by, like, six months. I was really annoyed."
Among her accomplishments during her brief tenure as ED, Potter Kasic highlighted the creation of a new gallery where students and staff can show off their work. Rogers has been curating that space since it opened last year.
Potter Kasic also stressed her efforts to reconnect the school with the Mad River Valley community where she grew up. Among those initiatives were free tours of the Yestermorrow campus, a new lecture series and the Standby for Locals Program, which offers Vermonters 50 percent off certain classes based on availability.
"It's truly been a collaborative effort," Potter Kasic said, crediting Rogers and Bellmyer with working on those and other initiatives. She added that Rogers was her first hire as ED and she's delighted he's taking over.
"He's the perfect fit, the perfect spokesperson for the school," Potter Kasic said of Rogers. "If I was the person who was well situated to put us on a better local footing, Britton is hands down the person to do that on a national footing."
Rogers will spearhead the implementation of Yestermorrow's master plan, which includes campus-wide infrastructure improvements such as building new student housing. He'll also oversee much of Yestermorrow's 40th anniversary programming and initiatives. These include replacing all of the school's signage in collaboration with Wood & Wood Sign Systems, a company owned by Potter Kasic's father, Sparky Potter.
The school also plans a tiny house festival this summer and an instructional event called the Naked Table Project led by furniture maker and Yestermorrow board member Charlie Shackleton. Attendees will learn to build their own tables from sustainably harvested materials.
More broadly, Rogers plans to lean on his professional background to restore certain emphases to the curriculum.
"I hope my experience can bring renewed design interest into everything that we do here," he said. "The board tasked me with reinserting design into every class we teach, as a big-picture element, along with carpentry or plumbing for homeowners. So I'm hoping to bring design, whatever that means, into the conversation again."