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

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

‘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...

Read More

Spotlight: Circus Terrificus

The Women’s Community Club of Grafton is assembling a show of circus acts to thrill the young and old in the style of the famed Cirque du Soleil. Featured will be three Vermonters whose talents were honed at this famous Canadian circus: Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion, who toured for four years as duo trapezists in Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbano show, and Bill Forchion, acrobat, character actor, and Cirque veteran (and Serenity’s husband). The event promises fun for all ages, with popcorn and treats and circus items for sale. A children’s show will be presented at 2 p.m. with a general public show at 7:30 p.m. VIP tickets for the evening performance includes a pre-show reception and a meeting with the performers after the show. All profits will go to the Women’s Community Club of Grafton Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to qualified students every year to further their higher education. The club has been awarding scholarships since the 1950s....

Read More

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....

Read More

SPOTLIGHT: Two Exhibitions Devoted to Arts and Disabilities

Organized by VSA Vermont, a statewide non-profit organization devoted to arts and disabilities, and curated by Greensboro artist Paul Gruhler, “Engage” is a juried exhibition showcasing art created by 35 Vermont artists with various disabilities. “More Like You Than Not” is organized by Bennington Museum curator Jamie Franklin as a complement to Engage. This exhibition takes a look at some of the varied contexts in which artists with disabilities have worked in Vermont and the surrounding region during the last 200 years. The art in “More Like You Than Not” — a quote from Vermont artist and autism activist Larry Bissonnette — reminds us that we all share a universal humanity. Indeed, we are all more alike than...

Read More

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....

Read More

Spotlight: Hot Pot

A new exhibition from Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, “Hot Pot” will explore contemporary artistic expression in China. A hot pot is a communal dish of many ingredients in which each retains its distinctive flavors and textures. An integral part of Chinese culture for over 1,000 years, the hot pot serves as a metaphor. The volume and diversity of art being produced in China today is enormous and in many ways resistant to categorization. The exhibition explores three themes: image and identity, environment and politics, and reinterpreting artistic traditions. “Hot Pot” will feature more than 100 works in all media by two dozen artists, filling the museum’s six galleries and sculpture...

Read More

About the cover

The watercolor “In the Embrace of the Osier” (13 x 14) “reflects my bottomless affection for birds,” says cover artist Susan Bull Riley (www.susanbullriley.com) of Montpelier. The piece is for sale at the Luxton-Jones Gallery in Shelburne, which offers Riley’s work in watercolor and oil. Riley’s work can also be found at the Visions of Vermont gallery in Jeffersonville. Her next exhibit as the featured artist will take place in March at the Artist in Residence gallery in Enosburg Falls, with a reception on Sunday, March 3 at 1p. This summer, she will exhibit her work at the Adamant Music School (www.adamant.org) in...

Read More

SPOTLIGHT: Charlie Hunter’s Sugaring Season Paint Out

Sugaring season is a special time, and Charlie Hunter invites you to join a hardy crew of adventurous artists for an unforgettable five days of painting outdoors during one of Vermont’s most unpredictable seasons. Each day, the group will meet for coffee and an array of alarmingly calorie-laden pastries, then head out to one or another of Hunter’s favorite painting spots — a sugaring operation, a working farm in Grafton, to the industrial village of Bellows Falls — and then engage in a late afternoon critique session. Hunter also offers more formal demonstrations of his distinctive painting technique and time is devoted to working one-one-one with artists who wish to explore particular areas of interest. Those participating will head out from the Grafton Inn each day, returning each evening to discuss the day’s work and challenges, to socialize, to learn from one another. Patrons can sign up for just one to all five days, with or without lodging and meals. Lunch and dinner are provided each...

Read More

SPOTLIGHT: RAMP art auction

The Rockingham Arts and Museum Project (RAMP) Art Auction and Raffle is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon with artists and friends: with the suspense of bidding for great art for a good cause. More than 60 regional artists and performers contribute their time and artworks for this 11th annual benefit, including Charlie Hunter, Steve Procter, Natalie Blake, Phyllis Rosser, Chris Sherwin, and Robert McBride. Proceeds benefit the work of RAMP, a nonprofit that is dedicated to “revitalizing the community by developing awareness of the arts, creating vitality in the community with the arts, and demonstrating that the arts favorably impact the local economy,” according to its founder Robert McBride. You can purchase tickets in advance or at the door: $25 each or five for $100. Artists reception on Sunday, April 7 from 2-4p. View the work during BF3F on Friday April 19,...

Read More

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

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. Read full piece...

Read More