ART IS LIFE > couple moves back to Burlington to raise their family

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[story written in 2012]

Inside an old brick building that started life as a bakery, Ted and Winnie Looby are raising their four children in a housing cooperative for working artists. “It’s really important to us that our kids can experience art as part of daily life,” Winnie notes, “and the ethnic and economic mix in the Old North End makes them feel more at home than they might in other towns.”

The Loobys met in the Bay Area of California; they both had moved west – Winnie from Baltimore and Ted from South Burlington – to pursue lives as artists. Both are performing musicians; Winnie is also a member of dance and theater groups. After the birth of their first child, Charlotte, they realized that the Bay Area’s prohibitive housing costs would keep them from living the life they valued and that they needed to move. They decided on Burlington for its quality of life, hoping they could afford to keep pursuing art while raising a family.

Only after they moved here did the Loobys learn of the Rose Street Artists’ Cooperative, a complex of twelve apartments with an internal gallery. It was a perfect fit for their aims both as artists and as parents. They moved into a duplex apartment in the co-op in 2001. “When we first moved in there were not many children. These days a few of the other households have young kids too, so they get to play together, which is especially nice in the winter,” comments Ted.

The organizing principle of a housing co-op is that the members work together to manage the property and set ‘house rules.’ At Rose Street, the member work options include managing the gallery. That has been a special focus for Winnie and Ted, who helped expand the gallery programming with coffeehouses, exhibitions, and hosting of meetings for neighborhood groups and nonprofits.

“Being a multiracial family in Vermont, we have the experience of standing out. But every location has its pros and cons,” Winnie notes. “Burlington feels healthy, safe, and livable. And the kids walk past artworks or see art being made almost every day, and that is great.”