Doug Coe, the driving force behind RiverArts since he was hired as executive director in 2013, has announced his retirement, effective Feb. 1, 2021.
Now in its 57th year, RiverArts conducts events and programs throughout Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, Irvington, and Tarrytown. Coe’s position as executive director of the nonprofit was split into two part-time jobs this summer. Coe became artistic director while Josh Suniewick of Hastings was hired as managing director.
Regarding his decision to retire and his plans for the future, Coe, 67, said, “I am just anxious to return to my own work in weaving. I have loved my work at RiverArts. Throughout this period, when someone would ask, ‘Are you an artist?’ I would answer ‘yes’ because, at the moment, my art was RiverArts. I poured everything into creating art with the organization.”
“Doug’s devotion to RiverArts and his many contributions over the years have left an indelible creative legacy for our villages,” said Jill Garland, president of the RiverArts board of directors. “We are a stronger, more vibrant, more resilient nonprofit because of Doug’s tireless work. We will always be grateful for his compassionate, egoless leadership, and for bringing out the best in us as artists, audiences, board members, volunteers, and parents.”
Coe earned a bachelor’s degree in music from New York University and then worked as a staff member for the New York City Opera and later as a director of an opera company in Vermont. He became a board member of RiverArts in 2009. RiverArts decided to hire a full-time executive director in 2013, as the organization had grown. Under Coe’s leadership, RiverArts continued to expand.
“As I look back, the programs and events I am most proud of are the creation of the Music Tour, the Chamber Music Series, Drink & Draw, Salon Sundays, and the expansion of Artists Conversations,” Coe said. “I am also proud of ‘Braiding,’ a piece that combined different art forms and received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts. And I am pleased that the New York State Council of the Arts is now a regular supporter of RiverArts.”
Coe noted that soon after he started as executive director, RiverArts launched a redesigned website. In the coming weeks, the website will be updated again.
Marie-Louise Miller of Hastings, a RiverArts board member, spoke of Coe’s gift for “collaboration” in bringing new series and events to life.
“It was by collaborating with musician Peter Seidenberg, and then with the foundation that runs the former home of artist Jasper Cropsey, that the annual Chamber Music Series came into being,” she said. “It was Doug’s brainchild and he knew the estate would be the perfect location. His understanding of the foundation’s concerns, his sensitivity, resulted in their being willing to work with us.”
Miller and Coe collaborated on “Braiding,” she as artistic director and he as music director. Staged in 2018, the production included dance, music, painting, sculpture, and video.
“Doug has an eye for what people’s strengths are,” she said. “And it was wonderful to see him encourage each of the different artists and groups to explore their own strengths, their own voices.”
Coe fell in love with weaving at age 6, when he watched a weaver at a loom at a country fair in Connecticut.
“I have wanted to weave ever since but it would be many years before I had space for my own loom. I knitted and crocheted and did it in such a way that it almost looked like weaving,” he said. “In 2006, I left a job, was very depressed, and thought, ‘What do I do now?’ I had the time and the space so I bought myself a second-hand loom and literally wove myself out of depression. I have been weaving ever since.”
In six months or so, when he has an inventory of blankets, linens, and shawls, Coe plans to have a website and to sell his own works of art. In the meantime, RiverArts is conducting a search for an artistic director.