BY KATHY KAHN
For more than three decades, Julianne Ramos has been guiding the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack. Today, March 30, she’ll be handing over the reins of the establishment she helped to build into one of Rockland’s most popular arts venue to ROCA’s interim director, Art School Director, Daly Flanagan, until a successor is chosen.
Arriving in the early 80’s, she found “dilapidated chicken coop and an old barn where our sculpture garden is now,” said Ramos, one of the many changes she brought to the Art Center off Route 303. “The Art Center was housed in an old building that burned down, so we had very little to work with at the outset.”
ROCA, housed on five acres of a former farm, was founded by actress Helen Hayes, playwright/screenwriter Maxwell Anderson, composer Kurt Weill (of Threepenny Opera fame) and multi-talented artist Henry Varnum Poor of Clarkstown. From those auspicious roots, ROCA has firmly established itself in Rockland and has grown decade by decade into a powerhouse for promoting arts in the county.
“ROCA has had only two other directors since its inception,” said Ramos, who has, in her three decades as its director, grown the art mentoring Mecca into the centerpiece for the arts it has become. Although she had thought of retiring a few times, “My friends told me they didn’t believe it and would have to see it in writing.” (This story may finally convince them)!
“I’m leaving at a good time for ROCA and at a good point in my personal life,” said Ramos. “We have over 1,400 students of all ages taking classes here and a wonderful summer arts program for children.
“The new director, who will be chosen by the Board, will use the grant money we’ve received to oversee the expansion of the ceramics center and build the new painting studio. Whomever the Board chooses, the choice will be made with careful consideration.”
While she’s leaving her position at ROCA, Ramos will still administer the Rockland County Art in Public Places program and will remain a consultant at the Queens, NY Council for the Arts’ Peer Circles, a program she developed for it. She’ll also remain connected to ROCA.
Ramos plans to start pursuing her own art as a writer, enjoying more time with her family and traveling to all the places she’s had on her list but never had the time to fulfill. She will have the best of both worlds now—still involved in her passion to bring art and artists to the public and to pursue her own dreams.
“It’s been a wonderful run, and it’s always good to go when things are at their best—not the other way around,” said Ramos. “It’s been a joy to be surrounded by such a talented staff and our students, to know them and work with them, and I’ve no intention of walking away,” said Ramos, as a group of students toured the sculpture garden behind her. She’ll just be walking at her own pace, one that, after three decades of service to the community, is well-deserved.