Vanessa Houser has a passion for writing and might even author a book someday.
Right now, the great story she wants to tell is about the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art and everything it has to offer.
“We have such amazing and unique spaces, stated Houser of SAMA’s five locations throughout the region. “It’s a completely different experience depending on which museum you’re walking into. Even if you see an exhibition at one museum, it would look different at another museum.”
As SAMA’s new director, it is one of her goals to make sure the community is aware of the treasures and potential each venue represents.
On the job for less than three months, Houser is embracing this new opportunity.
“I have always been passionate about SAMA,” the Loretto resident said. “It has been a place close to home that I’ve always felt a very close connection to.”
Houser was formerly a program specialist for the Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger Hospital and worked in State College.
Besides not missing the commute from Cambria County to Centre County, Houser loves having the chance to steer SAMA in an exciting direction.
“I’m able to work on the development side to really help move the museum into the future and enhance the activities that may not have gotten that type of attention in the past,” she mentioned.
While she focuses on her mission, she is appreciative of Michael Strueber, director emeritus, for stepping up to chair an exhibition committee.
“Everyone has been so open and excited about making the transition,” she explained.
Like most workplaces, there is no typical day for Houser. She loves that.
Her priority is meeting members of the board of trustees, participating in preview receptions and events at the satellite museums, and thanking everyone for what she calls an overwhelming wave of support.
Houser and her husband just celebrated their 12th anniversary. They have a seven year old son and a four year old daughter. She attended Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg and graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
She considers her writing her art, but concedes she has not been able to devote as much time to it since becoming a mother.
Houser is excited about the local arts scene and credits millennials for setting the pace.
“The arts and cultural experience is something that each generation values and treasures,” she noted. “We have tremendous support from the generations that have built us, and it’s cool to see how the next generation is moving the ball forward.”
Among the recent highlights for the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art was the May opening of its newest location – the Anderson House in Bedford. The 200 year old landmark is now home to a state of the art museum with eight galleries.
“The addition of Bedford has helped expand our footprint,” concluded Houser. “We’ve seen a tremendous turnout at museum events.”
As a result of SAMA’s expansion in Bedford, the museum recently received the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award for Community Involvement.
SAMA-Altoona is also preparing for its annual Think Pink event on November 2 at the Blairmont Club in Hollidaysburg. It is a joint fundraiser for SAMA and Magee-Womens Specialty Center and the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.
The Flying Ivories, a dueling piano group from Philadelphia, will be the featured entertainment along with a silent auction. Visit the SAMA website to purchase tickets.