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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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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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...

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SPOTLIGHT: “Vermont and Beyond 2013” Annual Art Exhibit

Become transported by some of New England’s most talented artists through Vermont’s scenic landscapes, and beyond Vermont to the far reaches of Europe at this free exhibit of watercolors, oils, pastels, and pen-and-ink renderings. With individual styles range from realism to impression, most exhibitors are full-time artists and signature members of the Vermont Watercolor Society and other New England–based and national art organizations. Many teach in their studios and local art centers. A raffle of demonstration paintings benefits Just Neighbors, a local charity. Refreshments and live folk music by Potluck add a festive touch to the...

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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....

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Spotlight: The Fifth Annual Culinary Awards and Oscar Party

Join The HotChocolate Society at its 2012 Oscar Party and help raise money to keep movies in Manchester. An industry-wide shift to all digital distribution threatens to close Manchester’s only cinema unless it raises $175,000 by March 15. The society (which “create[s] great times for people that appreciate chocolate and good stories,” according to its Facebook page) will contribute 30 percent from ticket sales to this year’s Oscar Party to the “Digitize Village Picture Shows!” Kickstarter campaign. The event includes a pre-show reception featuring Vermont artisan breads and cheeses and live entertainment, the broadcast of the 85th Academy Awards, a complimentary champagne cocktail for those over 21, dinner, and dessert, with green-screen photography and one photo print. The Culinary Awards challenges chefs to explore the art of cooking with cacao, cocoa, or chocolate. Guests can vote for Best Savory and Sweet Bite. There’s also a “red carpet” optional fashion competition and Oscar pool that will award prizes to the top three winners. Earlier in the day, chocolate lovers can attend a chocolate tasting event with Clay Gordon, author of Discover Chocolate! (Gotham Books, 2007), and creator of TheChocolateLife.com. Tickets may be purchased online or at Village Picture Shows and Zippy Chicks in Manchester or at Crazy Russian Girls Bakery in Bennington. The event is produced by Eons...

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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...

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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
Feb13

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...

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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....

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