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...

Read More
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...

Read More
SIDEBAR: Bringing yourself to the bling
Feb13

SIDEBAR: Bringing yourself to the bling

Bob Borter has been making jewelry in Brattleboro since 1984. (Lynn Barrett) Bringing yourself to the bling Following is contact information for the artisans and businesses listed in this piece. • DK Walter: 81 Main Street, Brattleboro; 802-722-9620; davidwalterjewelry.com. Tues.–Sat. 10–6. • Gallery in the Woods: 145 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-257-4777; galleryinthewoods.com. Mon.–Sat. 11–5:30, Sun. 12–5. • Renaissance Fine Jewelry: 151 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-251-0600; vermontjewel.com. Mon.–Sat. 10–5:30, Sun. 11–4. • Borter’s Jewelry Studio: 103 Main St., 2nd floor, Brattleboro; 802-254-3452; bortersjewelry.com. Tues.–Fri. noon–5:30. Additional hours by appointment. • Evan James Ltd.: 48 Main St., Brattleboro; 800-382-6583; evanjames.com. Mon.–Thurs. 10–5:30, Fri. 10–6, Sat. 10–5. • Adivasi: 8 Flat St., Brattleboro; 802-258-2231; adivasi.com. Mon.–Sat. 10:30–6:30, Sun. 11–4. • Verde: 133 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-258-3908; verdeforgardenandhome.com. Mon.–Thurs. 9:30–6, Fri. 9:30–7, Sat. 9:30–6, Sun. 11–5. • Boomerang: 12 Elliot St, Brattleboro; 802-257-6911; boomerangvermont.com. Mon.–Thurs., Sat. 10–6, Fri. 10–7, Sun. 10–5. • Penelope Wurr Fine Contemporary Glass: 167 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-246-3015; penelopewurr.com. Mon.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 11–5. • Silver Moon Adornments: 29 High St., Brattleboro; 802-254-9600; silvermoonvt.com. Tues.–Sat. 10:30–6. • Altiplano: 42 Elliot St., Brattleboro; 802-257-1562; altiplano.com. Mon.–Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-5. • Malisun Jewelry and Thai Imports: 44 Harmony Place, Brattleboro; 802-258-1124. Sun. and Mon., 10-4; Wed.-Sat. 10-6. • Delectable Mountain Cloth: 125 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-257-4456; delectablemountain.com. Mon.–Thurs., Sat 10–5, Fri. 10–6:30, Sun. 1–5. • Brilliance: 56 Elliot St., Brattleboro; 802-254-4460; brilliancebest.com. Mon.–Sat. 9:30–6, Sun. 11–5. • Vermont Artisan Designs: 106 Main St., Brattleboro; 802-257-7044; vtart.com. Mon.–Thurs., Sat. 10–6, Friday 10–8, Sunday...

Read More

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...

Read More

WEDDINGS: Mount Snow Valley

WEDDINGS: Mount Snow Valley The Mount Snow Valley provides numerous options for a destination wedding, including a winery with vistas of two states, and many charming inns that host tented weddings on their grounds. The Mount Snow Resort features spectacular mountain views or indoor ballrooms. Cooper Hill Inn boasts wedding couples can get married on “top of the world.” Owned and operated by the same family for over 80 years, Boyd Family Farm specializes in Vermont country weddings and offers truly custom wedding floral designs. Barn weddings are a specialty of the Colonel Williams Inn in nearby Marlboro. The Inn’s barn is the largest post & beam barn in Southern Vermont and dates to circa 1770. the innkeeper can even don the Colonel’s authentic uniform upon request. From florists to superb bakeries, country inns and dining options, the Valley is a perfect venue for a destination...

Read More

WINE OBSERVED: Weighing the options: Planning a wedding or celebration? Here’s how you can find a wine that will please a number of different palates and complement a wide variety of foods

Here is something to think about as you plan your wedding (or other gathering, for that matter): What wine will you serve at your reception? If you are having the reception at an inn or managed property, you might be limited to buying your wine directly through them or paying a per-bottle corkage fee for what you supply yourself. Even if you are paying a $20 per bottle corkage fee, you can often do better supplying your own wine. You’ll have something that you like and, if there are leftovers, something to help remind you of your shared celebration. Here are some guidelines for choosing wine for your special day. They will allow you to select “common denominator” wines: those that will accommodate a broad range of palates and complement a variety of foods. Weight Weight refers to fullness in the mouth and the richness of the wine, and is generally a function of the amount of alcohol. Since sugar is converted to alcohol through fermentation, the higher the sugar content of the grapes, the higher the percentage of alcohol in the resultant wine. Higher alcohol levels are expressed in both taste (sweeter) and texture (fuller or weightier). Some people are used to the very full wines of ripe regions like California and Australia. Often these folks drink only red wine because they do not like the seeming “lightness” of white wines, which frequently are lower alcohol. Weight also affects food pairing. If you select something massive for your red wine (14.5–15%) alcohol, it is likely to overwhelm at least some of the food — unless you are only serving nearly raw red meats! To acknowledge the efforts of the caterer, you will probably need to tone down the alcohol level. And given that some people will drink multiple glasses, you might want to choose wine that falls in the 13.5–14% range. Fruit Wine flavors range from very earthy to very fruity. To some extent, this is a function of ripeness. If the fruit is mature when it is picked, it is sweeter, with fruitier flavors. Most people enjoy a healthy dollop of fruit, from citrus, apple, pear, or melon in white wines to cherry, strawberries, dark berries, or plum in red wines. Malolactic Fermentation Grapes contain acid, and depending on these may produce wines that are tart or even sour. One way to prevent undesirable off-flavors is to allow the wine to undergo malolactic fermentation. In this process, the naturally occurring malic acids — similar to those in green apples — are converted to lactic acids, like those found in milk. The difference affects both texture and flavor....

Read More

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...

Read More

SIDEBAR: Syrup for 10,000: One Vermonter takes his family trade into the 21st century

Peter Cooper-Ellis, who owns and operates Hidden Springs Maple online and retail in Putney, and his family have been making maple syrup for more than 50 years, selling under the Cooper-Ellis Sugar Makers label during the 1950s and ’60s. Yet Cooper-Ellis, who holds an engineering degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, lives in San Francisco, where he works at a software company in Palo Alto. He commutes east about once a month to help with the business and to visit with his three grown sons and the rest of the family. Cooper-Ellis and his brother Fraser started CE Maple in 1997, which uses current sap-collecting technology to boil about 10,000 gallons of syrup per year from the sap of 25,000 trees growing in a variety of nearby sugarbushes. Hidden Springs (the name comes from a nearby road), wholly owned by Cooper-Ellis and started in 2009, markets syrup — primarily, the CE Maple syrup, but also product from producers all over the state. He said he hopes to produce his own syrup for Hidden Springs. Hidden Springs, according to Cooper-Ellis, sells primarily online to 10,000 online customers through the company’s website, hiddenspringmaple.com, and on Amazon.com. “Various people had tried to sell maple syrup online,” but without much success, he explained, citing hard-to-reach customers. Further, Cooper-Ellis said, the problem with the maple industry relates to the multiple layers of middlemen and distributors. “The Web has really matured as a shopping destination in the last five years,” Cooper-Ellis said. “I wanted to see if the farm-to-Internet-to-customer model could work so that a farmer could set up a website, advertise on Google, and sell syrup. Which is what I’ve done.” Cooper-Ellis said he and his brother are very close, even though Fraser has nothing to do, by choice, with Hidden Springs. “He’s a conservative guy, more interested in the farm aspect,” he said. “But I never could have developed Hidden Springs without his help and support.” Cooper-Ellis spoke by telephone from the huge Fancy Food Show at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco — the first time Hidden Springs has gone to a major food show — where he has seen firsthand the niche that the business has in the wider marketplace. Hidden Springs is a “real Vermont farm,” he said. “The larger packers don’t really have small family farms” producing for them.” A little more than a year ago, Hidden Springs opened a retail store, attached to the picturesque family house at 162 Westminster Road, Putney, where syrup from various producers is sold, as well as a lot of other maple-related products, like candy. And gift baskets, art, beverages, and...

Read More

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...

Read More

It’s a tough job, but somebody had to do it: What does aging maple syrup in a bourbon barrel do to flavor that’s already Grade A? Quite a bit, actually.

Our publisher had emailed me a photo of a bottle of Baker Farm Bourbon Barrel Aged Pure Maple Syrup. “Already on it,” I said. She was reassured until she saw the text of the story, which showed that we most certainly were not on it. Turns out, I had thought the image that she sent me was illustrating the product of Saxtons River Distillery, which produces maple liqueur. The photo of a big flask-o-booze sitting in my email? It’s a flask, all right — a flask of maple syrup. Sugar farmers Dennis and Deborah Baker of East Dummerston are putting a new spin on maple syrup — at least new by our standards — by aging it in charred white oak seven-to-eight-year-old bourbon casks from Kentucky’s bluegrass region. Packaging gimmick? Or a novel twist on a venerable Southern Vermont tradition? Intrigued, we decided to do some investigative journalism ourselves, largely because we had let too much time elapse with the misunderstanding. Our high-school intern did the legwork on the story — literally — by walking to the Brattleboro Food Co-op to get some local ice cream. He soon returned with Walpole Creamery’s Sweet Cream, made just across the river in Walpole, N.H. (walpolecreamery.com). We divvied up the pint for our focus group — a publisher, an editor, a copy editor, a graphic designer, and an intern — and I solemnly drizzled the syrup onto our respective servings. It made an impression. “Wow, that is amazing,” one taster said. “It’s pretty amazing,” said another. If that’s not consensus, I don’t know what is. Baker’s product was unmistakably maple syrup, but the oak barrels brought out (or, more likely, added) some distinct and interesting complexities to it. “It definitely tastes kind of alcoholic, slightly fermented,” said our intern dreamily, wise beyond his years, or at least beyond his legal capacity to have any frame of reference for the comparison. The Bakers’ product was unmistakably maple syrup, but the oak barrels brought out (or, more likely, added) some distinct and interesting complexities to it. We detected a complex flavor profile: smoke, vanilla, honey, caramel. I tasted pistachio. “I can’t quite place that flavor,” I said. The ice cream long gone, I poured another sample straight onto my spoon. Several times. All, of course, in the name of research. * * * Just in the nick of time, Dennis Baker returned from vacation and told one of our reporters a little bit about it. The bourbon barrel-aged inspiration was not precisely original with their son, John, 33, of Burlington, according to his father. Several other producers “up north” have been making the bourbon-enhanced...

Read More

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers Markets Bennington: Walloomsac Winter Farmers’ Market, Feb. 16, March 15, April 19, 10a-1p, at First Baptist Church, walloomsac.org, 802-688-7210. Brattleboro: Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market, Saturdays through March, 10a-3p, at the River Garden, downtown Brattleboro, postoilsolutions.org, 802-869-2141. Dorset: Dorset Winter Farmers’ Market, Sundays through Feb. 19, 10a-2p, at J.K. Adams Kitchen Store on Rte 30, dorsetfarmersmarket.com, 802-876-7080. Ludlow: Ludlow Farmers’ Market, every Saturday through April 2, at Masonic Lodge, 9a-1p, ludlowfarmersmarket.org, 802-734-3829. Montpelier: Capital City Farmers’ Market, first and third Saturdays through April, 10a-2p, Vermont College of Fine Arts gym, montpelierfarmersmarket.com, 802-223-2958. Norwich: Norwich Farmers’ Market, Feb 9, March 8, April 12, 10a-1p, at Tracy Hall on Main St, Norwich, norwichfarmersmarket.org, 802-384-7447. Rutland: Rutland Winter Farmers’ Market, Saturdays through May, 10a-2p, at Old Strand Theater in downtown Rutland, vtfarmersmarket.org,...

Read More

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...

Read More