Monday, July 16, 2007

Losing a Friend

We were very saddened to learn today of the death of Alex Chirelstein, the former executive director of Very Special Arts Vermont and a great figure in the Vermont arts community. Alex passed away suddenly on Thursday.

Alex's legacy lies in the strength of the arts community in Burlington and throughout Vermont, especially through his work to include and empower the disability community in art making—which included collaborations with the Flynn.

Flynn Artistic Director Arnie Malina said, "The Flynn worked with Alex Chirelstein on a number of different projects when he was director of VSArts Vermont, most memorably the AXIS Dance Company residency and Bill Shannon's Crutchmaster dance. He also helped the Flynn get the METLIFE Access Award. We will miss his advocacy on many pressing issues, his sense of idealism and justice, and his pragmatism as well."

His obituary from the Burlington Free Press is below:

BURLINGTON — Alex Chirelstein, a teacher who for many years was executive director of VSArts Vermont, died Thursday, July 12, 2007. He was 48 years old. The cause of death was a heart attack. Chirelstein was born in New York City in 1959. He grew up in New Haven, Conn., and went to college at Boston University. He moved to Burlington in 1991, and for 10 years ran VSA, a nonprofit that provides arts education to disadvantaged people. He was a guitar player whose musical tastes ranged from Lowell George to Handel. He wanted to elect Barack Obama, to the presidency and worked to do so with the humor and zeal that characterized his endeavors. Alex had just completed his first year of teaching middle school, in Montgomery. He was devoted to his students and was to start teaching in Charlotte next month. He was cherished by his many friends, who will miss him everyday. Chirelstein is survived by his parents, Marvin and Ellen Chirelstein, of New York City, and his brother, Paul, of Hoboken, N.J. Contributions in his name may be made to the Obama campaign. For funeral time call Boucher & Pritchard at 862-2851.

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