Artists as Vermonters, Vermonters as artists
Feb15

Artists as Vermonters, Vermonters as artists

The author’s father, R. Lewis Teague, at work in his Vermont studio in 1959. (Hanson Carroll) Artists as Vermonters, Vermonters as artists Growing up in the state in ’50s and ’60s, a third-generation artist saw the inspiration and isolation that Vermont had on her father, a painter. In the intervening years, the environment here has become much more appealing for artists. And artists, in turn, have stimulated the economy and helped create a community. By Allison Teague What really is Vermont’s cultural landscape? Is the arts part of it? How are the arts supported, and what role do they play? How is our Vermont economy sustained by the arts? Or is it? These questions had one answer while I was growing up here during the ’50s and ’60s, the daughter of an abstract expressionist painter who painted largely in isolation, and largely invisibly. And they have quite another answer today. To my great delight, I discovered that Vermont has come to genuinely recognize the role and value of having artists living and working in our communities. A significant component of the economy of the Vermont is tied, directly or indirectly, to having people practicing creative endeavors in our communities. And those communities, in turn, are increasingly filled with people who appreciate and support artists, creating an incubator and an infrastructure that makes Vermont an engine for the arts in ways that never would have been imaginable 60 years ago. Making the connections Advocates like Alex Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, are working at the state and national levels to help policy makers understand the facts and figures of the relationship and role of the arts to a healthy economy. Aldrich talks from Washington, D.C., where he is lobbying policymakers for this sort of support. He notes that getting communities to see the connections between artists and thriving local economies is at the heart of the revitalization efforts and the creative economy initiatives now going on here. “Once you begin to understand the social and economic dynamic benefits for communities to thrive in a place [where the arts and artists are seen as assets], you see the other connections,” he says. These connections, he says, all “affect directly the quality of school and quality of cultural amenities in a place.” One such connection — educational programs and services — resonates with me. I think back to the ’60s and ’70s, and remember clearly my father’s involvement with a federal program that took him every couple of weeks to a new one-room schoolhouse, where he would introduce the children there to drawing in charcoal and pastels. No matter...

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Brattleboro Bling
Feb14

Brattleboro Bling

A southern Vermont town becomes a retail destination for all sorts of jewelry — an art form of universal appeal — from handcrafted original designs to antiques By Joyce Marcel Last August, when goldsmith and platinumsmith David Walter opened his elegant retail showroom on Main Street, a concept that had been flying under the radar for a significant amount of time became unavoidable: Brattleboro has become a jewelry hub. Diamonds may be the town’s best friend, but the quality — and variety — of jewelry in Brattleboro is remarkable. There are diamonds galore, of course, both in contemporary styles and sparkling out of antique estate jewelry. There are precious stones and pearls imported from all over the world and turned into jewelry by experienced Brattleboro jewelers. Then there are unique, handcrafted pieces — works of art — made by local artists. “There’s a buzz on Brattleboro,” said Suzanne Corsano, co-owner of Gallery in the Woods. “There should be, shouldn’t there? People come in here and say, ‘What’s going on here? What’s this place about?’ I hear a lot of, ‘I’m going to move here.’ And some of the people who live here now are some of those people. And they’re always shopping.” Customers might live locally, but many drive in from New York and from all over New England. And they don’t fit one easy profile. “Yesterday, I had a deposit on a ring I have on layaway from a homeless person,” Corsano said. “He’s doing odd jobs and saw this ring in the window, and he had to have it. At first I said, ‘He’s never coming back here.’ And guess what? He did. That’s one level. I have lots of local customers, and then I have collectors.” Jewelry is wearable art, said Caitlyn Wilkinson, 40, who owns Renaissance Fine Jewelry and the Renaissance Fine Antiques and Gallery, both on Main Street. Wilkinson speaks about the business while wearing a huge tourmaline around her neck, large gold earrings, a 1940s Longines watch encrusted with diamonds, and diamond rings on her fingers. She is not afraid to sparkle. “I understood the idea of buying one nice thing early in life,” Wilkinson said. “By eighth grade, I told my parents I wanted one nice Christmas gift rather than lots of things.” Many of Renaissance’s customers live locally, but Brattleboro’s hippie image makes wearing serious bling a determined lifestyle choice. “Money is not the issue,” Wilkinson said. “It’s people’s comfort level about wearing jewelry. This is an area where you can be the L.L. Bean supermodel but you can be judged heavily if you’re wearing something fancy.” “It’s a weird reverse...

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WEDDINGS: Sidebar/Three tips for selecting your wedding cake

Sharon Myers of Sharon Myers Fine Catering in Brattleboro (who made the cakes in the two photos in this story) suggests the following tips: • Cupcakes seem to be the rage right now. They give you an opportunity to offer two or three varieties to your guests. • If chocolate is your favorite and your groom/partner loves lemon, you can ask for different tiers to be different flavors. Or do two cakes for a real splash. • If you are going with a fruit filling, be seasonal and decorate the outside with the same fruit. Instead of paying for expensive sugar flowers and fondant, go with fresh blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries. It will look fresh and seasonal, especially with local...

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SPOTLIGHT: River Gallery School auction

The annual benefit auction supports the programs and scholarships of the River Gallery School, which has offered art classes, studio space, and a creative community since 1976. For $20 admission at the door, you get delicious appetizers, lively music, coffee, dessert, and a paddle number that lets you bid on fabulous items donated by local artists, craftspeople, businesses, restaurants, students, and friends of the school. A cash bar will be...

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‘My best production experience, and my best educational experience’: For Jay Craven, a new model of filmmaking turns his latest offering, premiering in April, into a hands-on opportunity for 34 students

Jay Craven’s new model of filmmaking On-time, under budget, and revolutionary. Though he’s still putting the finishing touches on his latest independent film, “Northern Borders,“ director Jay Craven can already say those three things about it. Due for release on schedule, with early to mid-April screenings planned in Brattleboro, and elsewhere, “Northern Borders” is based on a novel by Northeast Kingdom author Howard Frank Mosher and stars Academy Award nominees Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold. It was budgeted to cost $500,000, and Craven estimates it’ll come in a little bit below that. Now for the revolutionary part. In order to bring the film in at $500,000, far below the $2 million his other independent feature films have cost, Craven created a unique collaboration between his non-profit arts organization Kingdom County Productions and Marlboro College, which turned the production of the film into college coursework involving 34 students from a dozen colleges including Marlboro, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Boston University, Smith College, George Washington, Connecticut College, Wheaton, Vassar, Cornell, Champlain College and the University of Connecticut. Working under the tutelage of 19 film industry professionals, those students filled key roles in all areas of the production of the film, gaining valuable experience and handling tasks the film industry seldom entrusts to raw beginners. On the eve of the six weeks of filming in March and April 2012, at sites in Marlboro, Guilford, Chester and nearby in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Craven didn’t know if this new model would work. “It was an experiment. We really had no idea how it would turn out,” said Craven, in a January interview taking a break from final editing work on the film. “I had faith that the students would rise to the occasion.” His faith was justified. While he admits that “Northern Borders” will feel “a little more hand-made” than his other films like “Disappearances,” “The Year That Trenbled,” “Where the Rivers Flow North” and “A Stranger in the Kingdom,” he‘s comfortable with this new way of working. “If I take it all into account, it was totally worth it,” he said. “It was really my best production experience and my best educational experience. I’ve been really thrilled to be a part of it.” What the college students lacked in experience, they made up for in other ways. “They brought a freshness of perspective. They brought a commitment to something larger than themselves. … They infused the entire spirit of the project and became central to it.” By the end of the filming, Craven turned over 18 smaller scenes to be directed by the students. Since filming ended, about half the students have secured...

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SIDEBAR: Long a draw: Revitalizing the arts in Bennington County

Long a draw Revitalizing the arts in Bennington County Bennington and Dorset in Southern Vermont have long been a draw for artists who found inspiration in Vermont rural beauty and simple country lifestyle. As early as the 1870s, creative individuals and their families began to drive north during the summer months when travel was easiest. Answering the call for local cultural fare, by the end of the 1920s, the Dorset Players and the Dorset Painters had had their first shows and exhibits. Today, both groups still exist, though they have morphed into the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester, and the Dorset Theater Festival in Dorset. Since 1992, Bennington has been home to the Vermont Arts Exchange at the Sage Street Mill, a reclaimed and refurbished mill building that manufactured clothing accessories, as well as buttons, furniture and mirrors. Founding Artistic Director Matthew Perry, working from his own studio to start, wanted a place where artists could find affordable living and working space, a place to exhibit their finished works, and a place in which the community, especially the special needs community, could come to learn by offering artist-taught workshops. He also wanted the community to take a different view of the empty mills that dot the landscape of Vermont. “The arts served as a catalyst to convert a derelict property into a working community asset,” Perry said. That same year, the Bennington Center for the Arts was opened by two philanthropists, Bruce Laumeister and Elizabeth Small. The space included a theater and two gallery spaces. During their travels, the couple had collected art and artifacts that included paintings and bronzes of and by Native Americans, kachinas, pots and jewelry, as well as rugs, which are part of the Center’s permanent collection. Today, seven galleries exhibit American wildlife art, works by Eric Sloane, and images of New England, as well as a permanent wind sculpture display visible from the...

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Spotlight: Stone walls

What is more quintessentially Vermont than a stone wall? In this two-day outdoor workshop from the nonprofit Stone Trust, expert workshop leaders Travis Callahan and Chuck Eblacker will guide students in continuing the restoration of a beautiful wall across from the Dutton Farm House in Dummerston. Learn the structural techniques involved in building and rebuilding stone walls with no mortar so you can work on your own projects, or so you can simply admire and appreciate proper walling techniques of this traditional...

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Spreading the word: Our magazine proudly makes connections among arts, agriculture, business, and potential visitors — for all the right reasons

Talk of the Arts: Spreading the Word As we move into our sixth year, I wanted to talk about our mission. Recently, I participated in a Newsmakers TV segment sponsored by Comcast. That conversation is a great way to tell readers what SO Vermont Arts & Living is all about. * * * Most people don’t realize that Southern Vermont has more artists per capita than almost any other state. People tend to regard Vermont as a ski destination when, in fact, there is so much more to the region. What was your vision for the magazine? Southern Vermont needs to be marketed, and the magazine was founded to help promote the region for the cultural and contemporary area that it is. When people are enticed to come here and given information about all of the things to do in the area, it is an eye-opening experience — and they love it. * * * Why is it important for Southern Vermont (and, more broadly, any region) to market itself? We need to keep spreading the word about our special place. Vermont and especially Southern Vermont thrives on tourism and agriculture. We are unique. We are also so close to metropolitan areas that there is a huge opportunity to reach people who want to get away. A friend who came here recently commented how this area is a world of its own, and she was thrilled to discover it. That’s what it’s all about: making connections. Which is true for any region: it’s all about finding what is special or unique about an area and then using all of the tools of marketing and public relations to promote it. * * * What are some of the things that are unique about the area? Recently the governor of Vermont came to Southern Vermont to present the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts [New and Notable, page 8]. His comments are worth noting: “They finally figured out in the rest of Vermont that the center of culture, the center of taste, the center of virtue, and the center of creativity is right here in Windham County. “If you want to be hip, if you want to make it in the arts, you gotta come to Windham County.” We have the open farmland, the Green Mountains, the beauty, the small villages, the fresh food, the local businesses, the creative energy. You know you can go every 20 or 25 miles and enter a new village that has its own personality. It’s truly amazing. * * * Talk about the importance of having an outlet to get Southern Vermont’s message out....

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Save the date for a sweet weekend

Plan to visit the 15th Annual Whitingham Maple Festival on Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24 to learn about the life and lore of making maple syrup — sugaring, as it’s known — and its historical importance in this small town (the birthplace of Mormon church icon Brigham Young). The town also hosts a craft fair and pancake breakfasts/luncheons on both days, and a sugar-on-snow supper on Saturday evening. That’s just one of the maple-related events taking place on Vermont’s Annual Maple Open House Weekend, which offers an opportunity to visit one or more sugarhouses throughout the state. We suggest you call first. Participating sugarhouses in Southern Vermont: • Evans Maple Farm, 61 Spaulding Hill Rd, E. Dummerston (802-257-0262, http://www.evansmaplefarm.com). • Green Mountain Sugar House, 820 Rte 100N, Ludlow (802-228-7151, http://www.gmsh.com). • Hidden Springs Maple, 162 Westminster West Rd, Putney (1-888-889-8781, http://www.hiddenspringsmaple.com). • Havoc Hill Sugarhouse, 190 Havoc Hill, East Dorset (802-362-4136, havochil@myfairpoint.net). • Jim and Josie’s Maple Syrup, 1055 Vt Route 11, Londonderry (802-824-3295, windrows@sover.net). • Mitch’s Maple, 2440 Green Mtn Turnpike, Chester (802-228-5242, cpmit@tds.net). • Robb Family Farm, 822 Ames Hill Rd, Brattleboro (802-258-9087, http://www.robbfamilyfarm.com). • Smith Family Maple, 327 Atcherson Hollow Rd, Cambridgeport (802-869-2417, smithfamilymaple@hotmail.com). • Sweet Maple Alpaca Farm, LLC, 154 River Rd, Westminster (802-376-9846 or 802-380-0750, http://www.sweetmaplealpacas.com). • The Corse Farm, 773 Corse Rd, Whitingham (802-368-2420, thecorsefarm@myfairpoint.net). • Wood’s Cider Mill & Sugar House (1482 Weathersfield Center Rd, Springfield, 802-263-5547,...

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Behind the Bylines
Feb13

Behind the Bylines

Behind the Bylines Joyce Marcel, a frequent contributor to these pages and the writer of “Brattleboro Bling,” page 34, arched an eyebrow when given the assignment to write about the role of jewelry in the life, arts, and economy of Brattleboro. But she came back from the assignment duly impressed. “From mastodon bones to diamonds, it all seems to be happening in Brattleboro,” she writes. “I’d like a diamond tiara, myself.” Marcel also was duly impressed with the, shall we say, nontraditional uses of maple syrup that she reported on in this issue’s Vermont Food and Wine section (page 40). Allison Teague (“Artists as Vermonters, Vermonters as Artists,” page 22) writes from Southern Vermont for a number of publications and is no stranger to the life of an artist: Her father, R. Lewis Teague, was an abstract expressionist second-generation New York School painter, and she also is a painter and a sculptor. In 2012, she curated a retrospective of the industrial design of her grandfather, Walter Dorwin Teague, for the Madisonian Museum of Industrial Design in Waitsfield. Katherine P. Cox (“Say Bake to the Cake,” page 32) is one of our regular contributors. A former writer and editor at the Keene Sentinel in Keene, N.H., her work has appeared in Vermont’s Local Banquet, Monadnock Table, and Here in Hanover. Marty Ramsburg (Wine Observed, page 44) co-owns Windham Wines in Brattleboro (windhamwines.com). The shop has just moved to Putney Road. Thelma O’Brien has enjoyed a long newspaper career as a dogged reporter who loves writing about food, thus casting her in the perfect role to track down information about maple syrup for the stories in this issue (Local Flavor, page 40). O’Brien currently contributes news and features to The Commons.  Jeff Potter, who by day edits The Commons, an award-winning, nonprofit community newspaper based in Brattleboro, is proud to design this magazine and contribute some editorial support. Potter (shown here in the cluttered newsroom with advertising designer Jessica LaPatta taste-tasting maple syrup for “It’s a Tough Job, but Somebody Had to Do It,” page 42) has been working in and around newspapers, magazines, and high-end graphic design studios for just shy of 30 years. He joins his colleagues at The Commons in supporting publisher Lynn Barrett in shepherding this wonderful community resource into print and online....

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SPOTLIGHT: 22nd Annual Women’s Film Festival

Celebrated during Women’s History Month, the Women’s Film Festival is devoted to films by and about women. Over the course of five jam-packed days, (Friday, March 8 to Sunday March 10 and Saturday, March 16 to Sunday, March 17) the festival will screen 26 films this year: five feature films, 14 documentaries, and seven shorts from around the world. One of the films, Inocenti, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Documentary. A vibrant coming-of-age documentary, it tells the story of a young artist’s fierce determination to never surrender to the bleakness of her surroundings. A special Opening Gala takes place Friday, March 8 at 7p with live music, champagne, hors d’oeuvres, and a screening of an audience favorite from last year, Girls in the Band. Tickets for the gala are $20 and can be purchased at womensfreedomcenter.net. This year’s film tickets will be $7.50 at the door, $6.00 for students and seniors and $30 for a 5-movie pass. All films will be shown at the New England Youth Theatre in Brattleboro. Filmgoers should arrive 15 minutes before the show time. Popcorn and drinks will be...

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LOCAL FLAVOR: Adding value: Can you improve on the simple goodness of maple syrup? Entrepreneurs and farmers in Southern Vermont are using the sweet stuff in ways that might surprise you.

Maple syrup. It’s never been just for pancakes. The Algonquins wouldn’t have been surprised at the current entrepreneurial nature of the “sugaring” industry. It’s well-known that Native Americans were tapping northern maples for centuries before the first settlers came, and the legend has it that the delicious sweet sap was discovered when a woman — naturally, it was a woman — used some of it to boil up the evening venison. So put down marinade as its first use. But hold on to your hats. Besides the traditional syrup, maple cream, and ice cream (Yea! Creamies!), there are maple lollypops, maple cotton candy, maple jellies, granulated maple sugars, maple cookies, maple pickles, maple vinegar, maple mustards, maple barbecue sauces, maple-coated nuts, and maple kettlecorn. Also, a dip made from half maple cream and half cream cheese. (How do you stop eating it?) Now, in a new twist, maple has recently entered the wine-and-spirits field. There’s a place in New York selling a chocolate maple porter beer-making kit and another making organic maple bitters. Three kinds of maple vodka are coming out of a company in Quechee. And now maple bourbon, maple rye, and maple liqueur are coming out of our very own Brattleboro. Christian Stromberg’s Saxtons River Distillery has been making Sapling, a rich, golden, sweet, small-batch maple liqueur, since 2007. In 2011, it won the gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Located in the longhouse by the West River on Route 30 (where Tom & Sally’s Chocolates used to be), Stromberg started his distilling career in Cambridgeport, near Saxtons River — hence the name of his company. Stromberg was an automotive engineer before he became a distiller — something about the technical nature of distilling makes it attractive to engineers, he said — and he based his liqueur on his family’s traditional Lithuanian recipes. But where Lithuanian cordials had a honey base, he substituted maple. “I didn’t see anything happening with maple in the spirit world, so I modified the family recipe,” Stromberg said. “The Lithuanian cordials are heavily spiced, though, and I didn’t do that. Maple is subtle and could easily be overpowered.” When Stromberg went into business, in 2007, the country was in an economic decline. Yet his company has always been in the black, Stromberg said, even if only a little. “You know what they say,” he said. “When times are good, people drink. When times are bad, people drink.” Now he is introducing two new spirits, maple rye and maple bourbon. Both are made by sweetening and then re-aging — in oak casks — bourbon and rye that he buys from...

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