Vermont Arts Council

Northern Vermont University-Johnson MFA Invitational

AnchorOct. 25 – Dec. 16, 2022 | Virtual and in person

Selected works in our virtual Spotlight Gallery. Full exhibit in NVU-Johnson’s Julian Scott Memorial Gallery.

Gallery hours at NVU-Johnson: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tues.-Fri. and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sat.

Julian Scott Memorial Gallery, Dibden Center for the Arts at NVU Johnson, 200 Pond Road, Johnson, VT 05656. Click here for directions.

Opening reception at NVU-Johnson 3-5 p.m. on Oct. 27.

The Vermont Arts Council has partnered with Northern Vermont University – Johnson to provide a virtual component to its in-person MFA Invitational exhibit. The work of seven students from NVU-Johnson’s Master of Fine Arts program is on display in the Dibden Center for the Arts’ Julian Scott Memorial Gallery from Oct. 25 to Nov. 18, with selected pieces and artist profiles featured in the Arts Council’s virtual Spotlight Gallery.

The MFA Invitational is curated by Philip A. Robertson, director of the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery and adjunct faculty in NVU-Johnson’s art department.

The profiles on this page show just a glimpse of each artist’s work. Visit the in-person exhibit at the NVU-Johnson campus for the full experience. 

View exhibit pieces in the below gallery or in the artist profiles farther below. In the image gallery, click on an image to enlargen it. You can also click an artist’s name in the list below to navigate to their profile on this page, where their work is displayed alongside a biography and artist statement.

Katelyn Hudson | Amy Kolb Noyes | Jillian Lauren Lisitano | Caroline Loftus | Chelsea Pafumi | Abigail Synnestvedt | Finnegan Watson | curated by Philip A. Robertson



Katelyn Hudson, D.Arch, Ph.D is a faculty member at Vermont Technical College, a designer/drafter at Cushman Designer Group, and a MFA student at Northern Vermont University. She grew up in Vermont attending summer art camps, while her academic and professional career took a more technical and pragmatic turn with a focus on architecture and architectural history, creative expression went hand in hand. She earned degrees from Vermont Technical College and The School of Architecture (Taliesin, formerly the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) prior to earning her Doctor of Architecture at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM). As an architectural designer, she has worked on a variety of projects in New England (USA) ranging from sustainable/passive residential design, educational facilities, civic designs, and historic preservation. Katelyn’s research into biophilic design in extreme environments was the foundation for her recent PhD from Bond University in Queensland, Australia, in which the written portion was heavily subsidized by graphical representation of the connections between human dwellings and their Antarctic surrounds.

View Katelyn’s CV.



Amy Kolb Noyes is an artist, author, photographer and award-winning journalist who has worked in print, broadcast and digital media in Vermont since 1991. She has contributed to several national radio programs and podcasts, including National Public Radio’s flagship news programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. In 2019 Amy was named a National Reporting Fellow for the Education Writers Association.

View Amy’s CV.


The progression of turning my most precious memories into paintings for others to connect with and interpret in their way is one of my most profound personal achievements. May these works open a portal sharing a morsel of my vulnerability and some of me.


Jillian Lauren Lisitano’s focus is Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism. Throughout her work we see a thread of nostalgia from the time she lived in Northern Italy and her Sicilian ancestry. Feeling and emotion plays a large part in her paintings, which is visible when viewing her canvases. She works mainly in oil, acrylic, pastels, colored pencils and graphite.

View Jillian’s CV.


Being human guarantees an inherent distance from nature. We lose contact with what matters most, as capitalistic developments become of highest societal importance. This purposeful destruction of habitat for human gain does not sit well with me, and it shouldn’t for you either.

This series, Body of Water, is an artistic representation of how much I care.

My work is a commitment to the birds, a celebration of their energy and existence. I am grateful for each quiet moment I am allowed to experience these creatures. There, time slows, and I connect with myself, and nature, on a level far greater than physical.

And to the birds; thank you.


Caroline Loftus is a visual artist working in alternative photography in Vermont. In 2021, Caroline graduated from Northern Vermont University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and is currently studying for a Master of Fine Arts. Inspired by the photogenic drawings of William Henry Fox Talbot, Caroline began printing her own creative reflection of the environment surrounding her. Lumen photography, also known as a solar photogram, is one of the earliest photographic experiments of the 19th century. This camera-less non-traditional process visualizes a unique interpretation of the photographic image. Caroline focuses on the flora and fauna, investigating the unique lifecycles of the natural world. Each image she creates is directly manipulated by nature: gathering plants, composing them on paper, then developing the image under the sun.

View Caroline’s CV.


I use a variety of materials in my 3 dimensional paintings including wood, wire, sculpting clay, casting materials, plaster, acrylic and oil paint. My Christian faith has been my biggest inspiration when it comes to creating artwork. Verbalizing feelings and ideas has never been a strength of mine, however visualizing an idea and making that come alive through art is where I’ve found my purpose in life. Whether I’m reading my bible, listening to a sermon, enjoying nature or just experiencing life my mind is constantly envisioning how I can translate these experiences onto a canvas.

In the coming years of completing my MFA degree I plan to continue working in this 3 dimensional painting style while pursuing my purpose. I believe everyone is uniquely gifted and I plan to use my artistic talent in hopes to inspire others and to honor the creator that gave this gift to me.


Massachusetts based visual artist Chelsea Pafumi spends a majority of her time in the classroom teaching visual arts to middle school students. Earning her degree to become an art educator caused her to be exposed to a wide variety of mediums in college. This exposure to a range of materials inspired her to expand beyond her comfort zone of drawing and painting to creating 3 dimensional mixed media pieces of artwork.

Chelsea mainly combines sculpture with painting in her work. She builds wood canvases then sculpts onto them using a variety of materials which have included wood, wire, sculpting clay, casting materials, plaster, and found objects. She then uses oil or acrylic paint over her sculpted canvas to create works of art. Her artwork hangs on a wall and physically extends off the canvas making it interesting to view from multiple perspectives. She is intentional with the use of texture within her work making surfaces appear as they might if you were to encounter them in real life. Themes of Christianity, creation, nature, personal life experiences and patriotism are mainly portrayed in her artwork. She feels that God gifted her with a talent to create art and wants to use that talent to inspire others and honor Him.

View Chelsea’s CV.


How could a simple still life painting of a decaying flower or plaster cast impart the feeling of being alive? Maybe it is presumptuous to declare that as the experience I hope to transmit to the viewer on a two-d surface smeared with colored oily pastes, but it is my intention. The flowers or faces that were happened upon or set up act as conduits to the pursuit of close looking which in itself is a doorway to presence. Perhaps the drive to make artwork is tied up in trying to make impermanent things feel permanent. It gives me a false sense of control to create artworks from seemingly static objects in a fleeting life. The irony is that I’m not looking to make something static but to create a timeless portal to the place of my experience.


Abigail Synnestvedt (b. 1989, Kempton, PA) entered the NVU Low Residency MFA program in the summer of 2020. She received a BFA and Certificate in painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia PA in 2015. Synnestvedt’s work was included in OHO Projects Guston Response Takeover at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on August 20th, 2022. In 2019 She was part of the two person exhibition In Plain Sight at Lauren Kindle Studios in Easton, PA. Her work was included in the Wet Paint Exhibition, at the Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton, VA. juried by Harry Cooper in 2017. In July of 2022, she attended the Vermont Studio Center Residency. Synnestvedt is a two time winner of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant.

View Abigail’s CV.


I wanted to imagine what that hidden page of the narrative might be. A Loon diving in the middle of a lake; coming right off of the canvas. To appreciate the majesty of these animals. Which was a nice thought. Beautiful. Picturesque. Something to look at, nod your head and smile.

As I read more and more about these birds, I realized that they were more than just a mystery. The common loon was a real animal that existed on this planet long before homo sapiens sapiens were even a thought. Their warbling, haunting cry was also heard by dire wolves and wooly mammoths.

I don’t think we give them the respect they deserve. I think about the plastic that washes into bodies of water from every direction. A discarded can on the side of the road, a candy wrapper, a paper coffee cup. No matter where it came from, it slowly creeps its way into the ecosystem. Let alone the fishing nets, lead sinkers and fishing hooks that were swallowed by the lake. Without even realizing it, we have forced ourselves into this hidden story.

On land, Loons can only awkwardly scoot about. The most time a Loon will spend out of the water is during the fall and spring migrations. What does this have to do with us? Well, on a wet, rainy day in September.. a parking lot might look an awful lot like a lake.

Loons have incredibly dense bones. They aren’t hollow like most birds. (very helpful for speedy diving) When it comes time to fly, they need a long, watery runway to take flight. When it is time to land, gravity does most of the work. Which shouldn’t be a problem, given you have a nice splash landing. But a hard, asphalt parking lot..

Suddenly that creature is confused and is completely stranded. Completely helpless unless they are lucky enough to run into a concerned human. That is to say, I think we should pay more attention to the animals we share this planet with.

Keep your eyes peeled. It’s fall.


Finnegan Watson is a Multimedia Artist who grew up in Montpelier, Vermont. He enjoys the variety of having multiple mediums, working in Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, Photography, and Digital Media. He graduated from NVU in the spring of 2022 with a BFA (cum laude) in studio arts. During his BFA Studies, he worked as a Photography Lab Monitor and came to understand the function of chemicals used in Film photography. He also gained a massive appreciation for the artform.

His BFA Exhibition was titled “Personal Nostalgia” and was centered around the concept of childhood and nostalgia. The exhibit featured paintings of VHS tapes and photography of childhood toys. There was an interactive element where people could write their nostalgia on stickers and place them onto the paintings. In that same year, he received two art awards: The Mary Parizo Memorial Scholarship and the Drawing Award. Currently, he is working on his post-graduate studies for his MFA at NVU. As an MFA Student, he has begun to work as a Teaching Assistant in multiple Digital Media classes.

In his artwork, nature has been a very important subject matter. Common Loons in particular have been the focus of his latest batch of work. To him, it’s important to use art as a message of what is happening on our planet.

View Finnegan’s CV.


Philip Robertson seen from the shoulders up.AnchorPhillip A. Robertson

Exhibit curator and director of the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery


Phillip Robertson is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and printmaker, living in Vermont since 1994. Phillip is inspired by the natural landscape, using his imagination and memory to look beyond realism to make a statement about the pastoral landscape tradition in the 21st century. He earned his BFA in Painting with a Minor in Art History from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1989 and earned an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College in 2008.

Robertson currently teaches printmaking, drawing, painting and art history at Northern Vermont University (Johnson Campus) and the Community College of Vermont. He is the Director of the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery on the Johnson campus of Northern Vermont University and has been involved as volunteer at the T.W. Wood Gallery in Montpelier, Vermont since 1997.

View Phillip’s CV.

Visit Northern Vermont University-Johnson’s Dibden Center for the Arts to see the full, in-person MFA Invitational exhibit in the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery.

Julian Scott Memorial Gallery
Dibden Center for the Arts at NVU-Johnson
200 Pond Road, Johnson, VT 05656

Click here for directions.

Catherine Crawley November 21, 2022