By Gordon Hayward
Latchis Arts Board President
This article first appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer on May 25, 2017
Joey Morgan knew she had done the right thing in volunteering to join The Latchis Arts (LA) Board. One Sunday afternoon this past winter proved it. She drove to The Latchis for a screening of an opera simulcast but found the Flat Street parking lot, due west of the building, was completely full. She parked in the multi-story car park across the street and started walking east to the theater just as upwards to ninety young parents and their children were walking in the opposite direction to their parked cars. They were coming out, having just seen an 11 a.m. screening of a Roald Dahl animated film.
At the same time the children were leaving, Joey and an audience of around 100 older opera enthusiasts were walking toward the theatre to see a 1:00 PM simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Three hours later, as the opera simulcast ended, that audience left the theater only to find nearly 100 people were milling about in the foyer waiting for the 4 p.m. doors to open for the Exhibition on Screen program on Claude Monet’s life and art. As Morgan told me, “There was just so much life coming and going on that afternoon by people from five to ninety years of age. This is one alive corner of town.”
All three screenings, and hundreds of others over the last few years, are a direct result of ideas developed and put up on the four screens by the nine-member Latchis Arts Board (LA). Since 2003, this board, originally the Brattleboro Arts Initiative, has owned and overseen the 62,500 sq. ft. building in Brattleboro on behalf of the community. As a board member, Joey and her colleagues, I being one of them, attend monthly meetings to generate and see through programming to complement the regularly scheduled films that Darren Goldsmith (subject of an earlier Reformer profile) screens to support the work of the for-profit Latchis Corporation Board (LC).
Morgan was drawn to join the board just over a year ago by Anne Latchis, a long-standing member of the LA board. (and granddaughter of Spero Latchis who, with his three brothers and sisters, built the theater and hotel in the late 1930s as a memorial to their patriarch, Demetrios Latchis.) Whereas the LC board oversees the profitability of the four-screen theater, 30 room hotel and five storefronts, the LA board generates ideas for additional programming and fund-raising to support new programming as well as provide funds for the upkeep and improvements to the 78 year old building.
Morgan brings a great deal to the table, in large part because she has lived a very rich, varied life within the arts. She was born in Bronxville, just north of Manhattan. Her father, Al Morgan, was a novelist and Broadway playwright as well as being the producer for The Today Show on NBC “from Kennedy to Nixon.” Her mother, Martha Falconer, was a Shakespearean actor on Broadway. “At one point in my mother’s career, she was the understudy for the legendary actress Uta Hagen who, one night, was injured. My mother played Desdemona opposite Paul Robeson’s Othello.” Joey’s birth was announced in Variety Magazine along with the announcement of the birth of Jimmy Stewart’s twins.
In the 1970s, Joey “bounced around Bard”, went to Rhode Island School of Design for a while and continued studying at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. After graduating, she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where she developed her practice as an artist. Her parents moved to Dummerston “while on their way to the Outer Hebrides” but decided to stay on in Vermont. Joey continued developing her work: large scale video and audio installations shown in Canadian and European museums. Having moved in the mid-seventies to Vancouver, British Columbia, she supported her practice with commissions, grants and part-time work at The Vancouver Province newspaper as well as working on local film-sets. In 1989, the Canada Council awarded her a studio and stipend in Paris for a year to further develop her video, text and audio installations.
She returned to the US, working in New York and, two years after her daughter Isabel was born in 1992 New York City, mother and daughter moved to Los Angeles. In 1998 they moved to Vermont and rented artist Gib Taylor’s house in Westminster West for eight years. She enrolled Isabel in the Westminster West two-room school where Claire Oglesby and this writer’s wife, Mary Hayward, were her teachers for grades one through four. Isabel is now studying neuro-psychology at Concordia University in Montreal.
Joey moved to Brattleboro in 2006 and has been living here ever since. She works on long-distance commissions and graphic design with local clients including Bensonwood, Ruggles and Hunt and Marlboro Productions.
Film, video and the moving visual image have been a big part of her life as well as her studio practice, all of which informs her participation on the LA board. When she was in Paris, for example, in 1989, she often attended morning screenings hosted by small cinemas throughout Paris that were hosting mini-retrospectives of different film directors’ work. Peter Greenaway, a famous British filmmaker and artist, was one of those directors whose work was featured. When living in Los Angeles a few years later, she and Isabel went to small movie theaters with couches as seating; mother and daughter curled up and watch movies for hours.
Based on this rich life gathered around movies, Morgan loves being at the LA board meetings: “We develop programming, rethink it, take new ideas like the series for children and then screen it, often by donation, for people to come together and share the experience. LA is light on its feet. It’s responsive to the community. As our programming responds to what we hear people are looking for, The Latchis becomes a place of affection. It feels permeable, welcoming, collaborative. We develop ideas based on the enthusiasms and suggestions of our community as well as cultural organizations.”
“The Latchis is our window, our lens on a larger world. I especially value the simulcasts from The National Theater in London. A quick drive to town and there is a performance from The National Theater on a screen. What could be better than that?”
Gordon Hayward may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org