Since retiring after nearly half a century as Director and Curator of the Erie Art Museum, John Vanco has devoted his time to building a better community with an emphasis on environmental awareness, especially efforts to mitigate and cope with the effects of global climate change. From 1968 to 2017 he led the Museum through repeated expansions, culminating in the 2010 LEED Gold-certified building that connects five historic buildings into one complex. He developed a comprehensive green operations policy for the Museum, as well as an exhibit explaining the building’s green aspects. In 2011 the Museum received the nation’s highest honor, the National Medal for Museum Service, and in 2015 was honored with the Sustainability Excellence Award in Programming in 2015 by the American Alliance of Museums.
During his tenure at the Museum, Vanco organized more than 500 exhibitions, including a series of Environmental Art Fairs, promoting green awareness through art exhibits and performances. He led environmental art projects such as The Feather at Presque Isle and the Outdoor Classroom at the Multicultural Community Resource Center. He founded and continues to direct Erie’s Blues & Jazz Festival, the community’s only green festival, now in its 26th year.