Barbara Merfeld Campman

Children are drawn to abstraction be it in painting or construction, following an inspiration - "the concreteness of the moment". They naturally place their trust in the process of creativity, and it is through this trust that creativity can flow and take one by surprise. Working with children I am struck by how they often create without the hesitation that comes with worrying about what they are making. Asking one student about what he was making he answered, "I'm not sure what I'm doing but I'm pretty sure it's cool."

Barbara Merfeld-Campman, River Gallery School Founder and Teacher


For the many who have availed themselves of its unique brand of art instruction, and for those who simply appreciate the spirit of creativity it has helped to foster in the town over the years, the River Gallery School, perched above the Whetstone Brook in downtown Brattleboro, is a venerated local institution.

Started in 1976, the school has been around long enough to be teaching the children of its early students, employing former students, and watching the careers of students who are making their way in the bigger ponds of the New York and Boston art nexus.

Ask anyone who has been there about the school and you are likely to hear gratitude and loyalty and testimonials of "it changed my life".

It's mission is stated thus: "to provide opportunities for creative exploration and expression to all members of the community." That community includes not only Brattleboro and the hill towns surrounding it, but also reaches into the nearby towns of southern New Hampshire and western Massachusetts.

The school was the "baby" of Barbara Merfeld-Campman and her then- husband, Ric Campman, renegades from city life who settled in the area in the early 70's. Ric Campman passed away a few years ago after a lengthy battle with cancer, but his legacy endures.

River Gallery School's special teaching environment in which the students' individuality is prized and noursihed makes all the difference in their success in working with a wide range of populations.

Students at the school have access to a broad spectrum of mediums - tempera, water color, pastels, oils, charcoal; students work in both sculpture and two-imensions. Curriculum responds to the needs of participants, says Merfeld-Campman. the words of the writer, Arlene Distler