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Outstanding NH Women

The Laker - March 4, 2017





Meredith’s Liz Lapham

By Kathi Caldwell-Hopper

If you spend more than a few minutes talking with Meredith’s Liz Lapham, the words volunteer, community and involvement come up often in the conversation.

As the executive director of the Greater Meredith Program (GMP), Liz did a lot during her time on the job (she officially retired in December of 2016), but you won’t get her take the credit for her accomplishments. Rather, she talks about the people who donate their time and knowledge and expertise to the GMP.

Liz and her husband, Bev, have lived in Meredith since around 1988. Originally from Connecticut, Liz was an educator for years and she and her husband, who was a banker, relocated to New York City, then New Jersey and eventually upstate New York before settling in Meredith, New Hampshire.

“My husband decided he wanted to have his own business,” Liz explains. “Our son went to Holderness School, so we were familiar with the Lakes Region. Our son settled in the area, and we came here while we were deciding what business my husband wanted to go into.”

Liz’s husband Bev eventually purchased Village Canvas, and ran the business for a number of years; now that Bev is retired, the Lapham’s son has taken over the helm at Village Canvas.

Along the way, the Laphams fell in the love with the Meredith area, and the couple decided to put down permanent roots in the town. Liz worked at the Moultonboro Central School while also pursuing an interest in basket making. She sells her beautiful handmade baskets through the League of NH Craftsmen – Meredith Fine Craft Gallery; basket making is a long time interest for Liz. (She also sells through Artisans by the Bay in Meredith.)

Never one to sit on the sidelines, Liz was involved in the community from day one. When she retired from teaching, she kept up her basket making with a studio and giving classes and demonstrations. She also volunteered at the Main Street Program in Meredith.

Civic-minded business people who saw the benefits of promoting Meredith started the Program. Eventually, the Greater Meredith Program grew out of the Main Street Program. Liz worked for the GMP’s first executive director, Jeanie Forrester. Liz became executive director about five years ago, and under her leadership and with the help of many volunteers, the GMP has done some great things.

Liz would be the first to assert that the GMP could not have accomplished all it has done were it not for the dedicated and talented committee members and volunteers. “I was fortunate because the GMP has some great committees, such as the design committee and the beautification committee, among others. We have always attracted talented volunteers. When people either retire or relocate to Meredith, they bring skill sets that really help the GMP.”

Liz has seen Meredith continue to grew and become an ever-more interesting town in which to live. “There is a community spirit here and people really like living in Meredith,” she says.

As executive director of the GMP, Liz was responsible for organizing and working with all committees. “One of my strengths is being a good organizer,” Liz adds. “And we had to put a face on the GMP so people knew where we are.”

Perhaps one of the GMP’s most recognizable accomplishments is the Sculpture Walk that brings unique and beautiful sculptures to the downtown and dock and lakeside area of Meredith. It all started, according to Liz, in 2012 when the GMP designed a small courtyard on Meredith’s Main Street across from town hall. It was in an alleyway that the design committee created a courtyard with benches. They decided to add a sculpture, which was created by local artist Steven Hayden. Visitors really enjoyed the little courtyard and outdoor art and it was decided to expand the idea into a sculpture walk.

With a go-getter committee, the GMP had their first sculpture walk up and running by the following year, which was certainly not an easy undertaking. Liz explains that the walk was collaboration between the GMP and public and private properties. (Some sculptures are on public property, while others are in private property areas.)

“The walk has played a great part in bringing people to Meredith’s Main Street,” Liz says. Once on Main Street, visitors see a variety of businesses and eateries and are thrilled with the shops offering everything from antiques to specialty items and more.

This year there are 32 sculptures on the walk with two being permanent. Visitors arriving in or passing through Meredith cannot help but notice a number of sculptures in the Hesky Park area near the waterfront. “We have received nothing but positive feedback about the sculptures,” Liz adds. The sculptures in Hesky Park in particular receive a lot of attention from those in the dock area on boats, or those parking nearby and strolling through the area. The sculptures are often large, such as a mammoth horse figure made of wood or the silver polar bears in the park.

“We started a docent program so that the public could have a guided tour of the sculpture walk,” Liz explains. During the summer, docents are stationed at a particular gathering spot in Meredith and the tour starts from there. Visitors who take the tour can walk with the docent and learn about each sculpture and the artists who created the various pieces.

“We are so pleased with how the sculpture walk has grown,” Liz says. “Sculptors do not have a lot of places to display their work so the sculpture walk is very welcome. They love it that we have a ground crew to help them install their sculptures.”

The process for choosing each piece starts with a call going out to galleries, art associations and other avenues to reach as many artists as possible. Artists can then submit an application with slides of their sculptures. An anonymous jury comprised of people with an art background reviews the submissions. The jury committee meets in April of each year and selects the sculptures to be installed for the coming summer. If an artist has a piece already in the sculpture walk, they can resubmit to keep their piece up for the next year. “We had about 17 new sculptures last year,” Liza adds.

The Meredith Sculpture Walk Committee decides where each sculpture will be placed on the route; the two permanent sculptures on the walk are Black Sailboat and Red Wing. They are definite favorites of the public and area a permanent part of the sculpture walk.

Some artists have received commissions or sold pieces that were on display, and the GMP does not take a commission on any pieces an artist might sell.

When asked what accomplishments she is most proud of during her years with the GMP, Liz pauses to reflect. “I would definitely say the sculpture walk, and the restoration of the Wicwas Grange in Meredith Center. (That was a great project and was accomplished by volunteers.) We recently started a Do the Loop Program, and another one is the All American Display Garden at the Meredith Library. And we do some nice events, such as the annual scarecrow contest.”

One project of the GMP is the annual fireworks display in Meredith. “People are not generally aware that the GMP is involved in setting up the fireworks each year.”

A Career Partnership program between the GMP and the Interlakes High School pairs students with working professionals to give young people a taste of what a chosen career would involve.

Liz says she decided to retire because it “was time.” She hopes to do more traveling with her husband and she has other projects and interests she wants to pursue. And she is comfortable handing over the directorship of the GMP to the new executive director, Monica Philbin.

Liz will continue with her basket making and she laughs as she says, “And I have taken up pickle ball!”

But that’s not all; she is still active on GMP committees and is working on the Hawkins Brook Nature Trail project with the Meredith Village Pathways committee.

“I plan to stay involved on a volunteer basis,” Liz concludes.

There it is again, that word “volunteer.” For Liz, the definition of retirement is certainly not about sitting and watching the world go by. Not when the world is full of interesting people and places and the chance to be involved and give back to her community.

(Learn more about the GMP at www.greatermeredithprogram.com.) 

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