Behind the bylines

Summer 2013 issue: Behind the bylines In putting together this issue, the theme of connections came into focus in so many ways — connections among people and communities, connections among artists engaging in a common medium, connections between farmers and the rugged terrain of Southern Vermont. “A sense of place is vital to community, say the founders of the West River Community Project in West Townshend,” reports Thelma O’Brien , a former resident of that community who writes about the creation of the West Townshend Country Store and post office in a once-burned-out old building. Learn about this effort on page 9. Katherine Cox , a regular contributor to these pages, found connections of the two young farmers at Big Picture Farm to a delicious specialty food product. “It’s no wonder the silky caramels made at Big Picture Farm won the Oscars of the specialty food industry last June,” she writes. Her report on these goats’ milk candies appears on page 42. Allison Teague, a freelance writer and reporter, writes about three people who make it their life’s work to build connections in nurturing the arts, in a series of three stories that starts on page 20. “It never fails to absolutely floor me to discover the depth of authentic engagement and expression in these extraordinary yet humble individuals who quietly exist amidst our verdant hills and valley floors,” she writes. Joyce Marcel, a regular contributor who has a passion for chronicling the business of the arts, “fell in love with glass while writing this story,” she writes. Her glimpse into this important arts sector begins on page 28. And for Arlene Distler , another regular contributor, writing about the upcoming Red Grooms show (New & Notable, page 4) cultivated a connection to her days in New York City in the late 1960s, where she once met the acclaimed modern artist and his then-wife, Mimi Gross. “Tall, unruly red hair and a boyish face had the females among us aflutter,” recalls Distler, who also profiles artists Pat Musick and Jerry Carr beginning on page...

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Celebrating local flavor: Food festivals in abundance this summer
Jun22

Celebrating local flavor: Food festivals in abundance this summer

Celebrating local flavor: Food festivals in abundance this summer If there’s one thing besides art steering folks to the historic villages and rural communities of Southern Vermont, it’s got to be the food. Here we enjoy a warm, sophisticated, yet rustic lifestyle based on family traditions fed by authentic and local food experiences. Ah, but find out for yourself. Here we’ll help you start a culinary vacation at which you’ll enjoy the sights, tastes, sounds, smells, and textures of the works of dedicated farmers, local and celebrity chefs, producers, food entrepreneurs, food co-ops, restaurants, CSAs, farmers’ markets. For a summer of what Southern Vermont serves up best, we recommend you start with these choice festival picks: Grafton Food Festival June 22-23, 10a-4p, The Grafton Inn, 92 Main St. (800-843-1801, graftoninnvermont.com). The annual Grafton Food Festival, newly established by Northeast Flavor magazine, is a pure celebration of Southern Vermont’s local food and farms. Offerings include tastings, cooking demonstrations, farmers’ market tables, and special dinners at The Grafton Inn. Conveniently, the Festival is held under an all-weather tent behind the Grafton Inn., and lodging packages are available. There’s live music, too, of course. $10 per person, free for kids under 12. Must be at least 21 with proper ID for beverage tasting. The event features two experiential events: Grafton cheese cave tours (max. 12 people per tour) and a Grafton wine and cheese hike at Grafton Ponds, 2p. Vermont Cheesemakers Festival July 21, Coach Barn of Shelburne Farms, Shelburne (212-576-2700, vtcheesefest.com). Vermont is the premier artisanal cheese state, boasting the greatest number of cheesemakers per capita — widely estimated at more than 40. We invite you to experience our passion for making fine cheeses, taste local and fresh foods and wines, and meet the artisans who make them. Spend a fine summer day along the shores of Lake Champlain at the historic Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, and sample, buy, learn, and network. Hosted by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company of Websterville, and the Vermont Cheese Council, the Festival is at Shelburne Farms from 11a-4p. The event is open to the public, and in 2012 attracted more than 1,100 visitors from across the country. This year’s attendees will sample more than 100 types of cheese from fully 50 cheesemakers, a variety of locally produced wines and beers, and several other artisanal foods such as maple syrup, honey, chocolates, and baked goods. Deerfield Valley Blueberry Festival and Parade July 26-Aug. 4, various venues in the Mount Snow Valley area (vermontblueberry.com). Berries, vintage cars, music, food, and tarp displays; if it’s blue, it’s probably happening in the Mount Snow area towns of Wilmington, Whitingham, and Dover....

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Photo: Catamount Prowl

Following two successful and award-winning Moosefest Gala and Auction events, the Catamount Prowl aims to bring street art back to Bennington through October. Approximately 50 Fiberglas catamounts have been offered to area artists to decorate in imaginative ways. Hand it to the Bennington Chamber, they’ve found a formula that works. This is their third such art project: Moosefest 2005 raised $290,000; Palettefest 2006 brought in $100,000; and Moosefest 2009 thundered up $200,000. Says Lindy Lynch, chairwoman of the festival for the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce: “It does bring the tourists, and gets them walking Main Street.” These artistic catamounts will go up for bid at this year’s auction, planned for October 26. Large, wild cats, the catamounts, or cougars, are native to the Americas. Their connection to Bennington dates back to their adoption as the unofficial mascot of the Green Mountain Boys. The Bennington Museum (benningtonmuseum.org) reportedly is planning three months of exhibits in their lobby to explore the catamount’s history — and mythology — in...

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Tony Conner, Visual Art
Jun22

Tony Conner, Visual Art

By Allison Teague Like many who take up the arts following a first career, Tony Conner needed only the right moment to act. When downsizing loomed in 2003, this former AT&T account executive leaped at the chance to paint full-time. He’s glad he did. But painting the rural landscapes of Vermont and New England, and tackling commercial work, is not all Conner, now a Bennington-based watercolorist and teacher, does — and many, many other artists are grateful to him for it. Conner is a founder, and the event director, of Plein Air Vermont, now in its fourth year. This year’s event runs Sept. 3-8 and gives artists four days in the open air to paint what they like among what Conner calls “exciting designated sites across the shires.” At the end of four days’ painting — in an expanded geographical area this year — the artists will exhibit their work. There’s a main competition offering 11 prizes totaling more than $6,000 in cash, merchandise, and purchase awards, and a “quick draw,” offering nine prizes totaling more than $1,200 in cash and merchandise awards. Conner (tonyconner.com) says that painting en plein air — outside, and without the aid of photography — is flourishing as an art form, and that this season’s competition is attracting some of the best in the field from across the country. He says he’s pleased to hear how appreciative the visiting artists are to find the beauty in the local surroundings, and their place in it. The event even functions as historical record: “It’s documenting the iconic buildings and landscapes of the area — providing a history of how things change,” he says. And it’s certainly true that Conner’s longtime connection to the Bennington community has brought it economic benefits. People come in from all over the country to take his workshops: particularly the plein air events. Not only to paint, but to admire the process. “People want to see the artist working and then to see the finished work … Many, many people want to know what art is and what people do to create it, to see the magic of it. To them, an artist seems like a magician — as if they’re pulling a painting out of thin air,” Conner says. And while they’re here, they shop, stop in for meals, stay over, attend other events, explore. “It must be having an effect” (economically), Conner surmised. Looking back, Conner said he wouldn’t have wanted to be an account executive forever. When he took his corporate buy-out, his severance and some training funds eased his transition to a new career in the arts. But,...

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Calendar: Gallery Openings

Gallery Openings Ann Coleman Gallery 7 N. Main St., Wilmington Artistanncoleman.com, artyani@together.net Thru June 25: “Green Theme,” featuring seven local artists celebrating the greens of spring and summer, depicted on canvas, paper, glass, wood, and silver. June 26-July 30: “Sumptuous Summer,” featuring local fine artists, jewelers and painters, opening reception June 29, 5-7p. July 31-Aug 27: “Water Works,” with picturesque rivers, streams and lakes on canvas and paper; home furnishings and fine jewelry, opening reception Aug 10, 5-7p. Aug 28-Sept 24: “Awesome Autumn,” with artwork celebrating fall splendor and the Vermont landscape, opening reception Aug 31, 5-7p. Asian Cultural Center of Vermont and C.X. Silver Gallery 814 Western Ave., Brattleboro accvt.org, 802-257-7898, ext. 1 Aug 2: Tonabata-Oban, Japan’s double summer festivals in Brattleboro’s Plaza Park, at the corners of Main Street, the Co-op and Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. Sept 19: 15th Annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival of China, Korea, and Vietnam, 5-8p, Kiwanis Pavilion in Brattleboro’s Memorial Park. Ongoing: Dim Sun Teahouse every other Sunday. Ongoing: Kiri-E Paintings of Hiroshima Youth of 1945 exhibit. Bennington Arts Guild 103 South St., Bennington benningtonartsguild.org, 802-447-0388 Thru June 3: New Works by BAG members show. June 7-July 1 Zentangle, inspired art in 2D & 3D by Sadelle Wiltshire, Ann Coakley, and other Zentangle trained artists (including Ceil Petrucelli, Ann Webster-Lang, Vickie Lampron, and others). July 5-29: Contemporary ceramics and stoneware by Johua Primmer of Bennington and art quilts by Jeanne Marklin of Williamstown, Mass. Aug 2-Sept 2: Group show featuring exquisite glassworks by Readsboro artist Mary Angus, pressed flower art by Wilmington resident Ellie Roden, and jewelry and other items fashioned from recycled zippers, vintage fabrics and buttons by Stacie Mincher of Bomoseen. Sept. 6-30: Watercolors by Bennington artist, and chair of Plein Air VT 2013, Tony Conner, paired with ceramics and sculpture by North Pownal artist and retired teacher Teru Simon. Sept. 6: Plein Air event in downtown Bennington. Bennington Center for the Arts 44 Gypsy Lane, Bennington 10a to 5p, Tues-Sun benningtoncenterforthearts.org, 802-442-7158 Thru Dec: Small Works Show featuring fine art that’s 11 x 14 and smaller. June 8-Aug 25: Impressions of New England, with more than 60 scenes. June 15-Aug 25: Art of the Animal Kingdom XVIII, one of the country’s most prestigious wildlife exhibitions. June 22-July 21: Overlap, featuring geometric abstraction on canvases large and small. July 27-Sept 22: Laumeister Fine Art Competition, with artists from around the country. Aug 31-Nov 3: Society of Animal Artists. Catherine Dianich Gallery 139 Main St., Hooker Dunham Building, Brattleboro catherinedianichgallery.com, 802-380-1607 June 7-July 26: “The Labors of Silence” photo exhibit by rural documentary photo artist Forrest Holzapfel created in support of...

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Plowing Old Ground: Vermont’s Organic Farming Pioneers
Jun22

Plowing Old Ground: Vermont’s Organic Farming Pioneers

Plowing Old Ground: Vermont’s Organic Farming Pioneers Photographs by John Nopper will be featured at The Works Bakery Café, on Main Street in Brattleboro, over June. The exhibit is part of “Plowing Old Ground: Vermont’s Organic Farming,” a work in development by agricultural writer Susan Harlow and farmer/photographer John Nopper. Their aim: preserve the story of the organic farmers who first came to Vermont in the 1960s. Over the past two years, Harlow has conducted about 40 hours of interviews, most of them around farm kitchen tables. Nopper came to Vermont as a teacher, worked for many years in the wood industry, and then built and managed a large-scale sheep operation on his farm in Putney. The photos are black and white and document the lives of six working farms and their farmers. “Vermont’s early organic farmers built an industry and a culture from scratch. Many of these farmers, now in their 60s, are asking themselves ‘What will happen to my farm?’ They’re getting ready to retire, but few of their children want to farm the land themselves,” Harlow...

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Live performance as community
Jun22

Live performance as community

Nurturing the Arts: Liisa Kissel, Music: Live performance as community By Allison Teague It took the Grafton Music Festival only three years to rise to the status of go-to music festival, held in tandem with the annual visit of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra & Fireworks, itself a Grafton staple of the past 23 years. Grafton resident Liisa Kissel, president of Grafton Music Festival, Inc., serves with a board of three to get the job done. She explains that her lifelong love of music, something she shared with her late husband, informs everything she brings to GMF. “Just listening to the live performance, (and) to classical perfection is so beautiful and dramatic,” she says. She adds that she gets very emotional about the sound. “For me, it’s an essential part of being a human. Life would be so much poorer without it.” This year’s 5th Annual Grafton Music Festival is July 3-6 in a large tent on the ball field in the center of town, and is aimed at generating additional interest in beautiful, musical, Grafton. Samirah Evans and her Handsome Devils play Friday, 7-9p; the Starline Rhythm Boys — a rocking honkytonk rockabilly band — play Saturday from 2-4p, followed by the Compaq Big Band (we’re talking 15 horns and a cookin’ rhythm section) with local Alstead singer Rebecca Holtz from 6-8p. As with the Festival’s first year, organizers have scheduled a concert Sunday morning in the White Church, where the acoustics are perfect for classical, jazz, and swing. Anticipating some 400 visitors over the course of the event, Kissel says a flood of volunteers attests to how well the community has received the Grafton Music Festival. Every year she sees more return — and new ones are quick to tell her how much they enjoy the Festival. New on tap: a series of occasional expert talks on music, with live demonstrations. Seth Knopp, Yellow Barn’s artistic director, kicks off this “Open Ears” series June 18. “In Grafton we have a great natural soundscape … and composed music is an extension of the natural sounds. It’s just essential beauty, and a dimension to our lives which is very important,” Kissel says. “I think it’s another outlet for one’s emotions. We need to express who we are and what’s going on inside. Even if (those) emotions aren’t articulated, you need to be aware of your feelings and emotions and reactions,” she adds. Grafton itself takes center stage thanks to the Grafton Music Festival. Whereas in the festival’s inception, which incorporated a craft show with vendors, this year Kissel promises something a little bit different: a focus on food. Look for...

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At the Museums

At the Museums   Bennington Center for the Arts 44 Gypsy Lane, Bennington 10a-5p, Tues-Sun thebennington.org, 802-442-7158 Thru 2013: Small Works Show. Figuratives, landscapes, cityscapes, wildlife, and still-lifes by nationally recognized artists. June 15-Aug 25: Art of the Animal Kingdom, one of the country’s most prestigious wildlife exhibits, with guest artist Carel Brest van Kempen. June 8-Aug 25: “Impressions of New England” annual exhibit with more than 60 scenes captured in paint and bronze. June 22-July 21: Overlap: Art school professors at Dartmouth and Yale collaborate to bring a unique show. July 27-Sept 22: Laumeister Fine Art Competition, with artists from around the world, juried by Peter Trippi, editor-in-chief of Art Connoisseur magazine. Opening Aug 31: Society of Animal Artists show. Opening Sept 7: Plein Air Vermont show. Opening Sept 28: American Artists Abroad show. Bennington Museum 75 Main St., Route 9, Bennington 10a-5p (Closed Wednesdays) benningtonmuseum.org, 802-477-1571 Thru July 30: Disappearance of the Catamount from Vermont. Thru Oct 27: “Southwestern Vermont and the Civil War, the Fabulous General Ripley: Capture of Richmond.” June 6-Sept 2: “Tom Fels: Cyanotypes from the Arbor Series.” June 7-Oct 27: “Southwestern Vermont and the Civil War: Bennington Boys (and Ladies Too): The Local Civil War Experience.” July 13: “Conjuring the Civil War: Recreating History for Dorset Theatre Festival Production.” Aug-Oct: “Is the Catamount Really Gone?” Aug 24: Bringing farm-fresh goodness to the table, the Farm to Table Dinner is a Tuscan-inspired, elegantly casual, seven-course tasting dinner hosted by Bennington Museum. The dinner incorporates vegetables, fruits, cheeses, cider, honey, meats and more from farms in Bennington County and the surrounding area. Each course is specially paired with a wonderful wine. Meet the chefs, enjoy the live music accompaniment, and take home a special gift. Aug 31-Oct 14: “150th Anniversary of the 1863 Jane Stickle Quilt” exhibit. Brattleboro Museum & Art Center 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro 11a-5p (Closed Tuesdays) brattleboromuseum.org, 802-257-0124 June 29-Oct 20: “Red Grooms: What’s the Ruckus?” Meet a group of New York City characters as you walk through this madcap recreation of a Fifth Avenue bus. Entering Red Groom’s world involves embracing your inner child and experiencing the joy of the circus and hurly-burly of the Big Apple (Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Gallery, East Gallery, Mary Sommer Room, BMAC Sculpture Garden). “Dynamic Invention: American Abstract Artists at 75.” Explore the visual language of form, color, and line in the work of 45 of America’s leading nonobjective artists (Center Gallery). “Between Dark and Night: New Pastels by Mallory Lake.” Steam trains, foggy nights, and the golden glow of monumental Beaux-Arts interiors are the settings of this evocative and mysterious new work inspired...

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venues

Southern Vermont boasts world-class stage productions, concerts, play readings, and the lively arts. Select venues include: • Arkell Pavilion, Southern Vermont Arts Center, 930 Vermont Arts Center Dr., West Road, Manchester Village (svac.org, 802-362-1405). • Bennington Center for the Arts, 44 Gypsy Lane, Bennington  (thebennington.org, 802-442-7158). • Concerts on the Green, Shelburne Museum, 6000 Shelburne Rd., Shelburne (shelburnemuseum.org, 802-985-3346). • Dorset Theatre Festival, Dorset Playhouse, Manchester Center, 104 Cheney Rd., Dorset (dorsettheatrefestival.org, 802-867-2223). • Hunter Park, Riley Rink and Hunter Fairgrounds, 410 Hunter Park Rd., Manchester Center (hunterpark.org). • Northshire Bookstore, 4869 Main St., Manchester Center (northshire.com, 800-437-3700). • Oldcastle Theatre Company,  331 Main St., Bennington (oldcastletheatre.org, 802-447-0564). • Riley Center for the Arts, Burr and Burton Academy,  57 Seminary Ave., Manchester Village (burrburton.org, 802-362-1775). • Stratton Mountain, Base Lodge, Stratton Mountain (stratton.com, 1-800-stratton; 787-2886). • United Church of Dorset, 143 Church St., Dorset (ucc.org). • Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, 703 Main St., Weston (westonplayhouse.org, 802-824-5288). • Weston Rod and Gun Club, 982 Route 100, Weston (802-824-9604). • Zion Episcopal Church,  5167 Main St., Manchester Center (zionchurchmanchester.org,...

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Raising a ruckus in Southern Vermont
Jun22

Raising a ruckus in Southern Vermont

Raising a ruckus in Southern Vermont A show celebrating major themes of influental artist Red Grooms over 60 years — his first show ever in Vermont, and his first in New England in 16 years — opens in Brattleboro this summer By Arlene Distler And now, under the big top, in the center ring, Red Grooms, ringmaster of the human comedy, brings you jugglers, wild animals, acrobats, clowns, and trapeze artists; whole chunks of Manhattan, assorted city characters you are sure to recognize; and, finally, artists and their strange and assorted wares, all for your viewing pleasure! Thanks to a fortuitous set of circumstances, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is mounting a major show of the work of “environmental installation” artist Red Grooms, a major figure in American art. The show, “Red Grooms: What’s the Ruckus?” focuses on three veins of his work: the circus, New York City, and art about art. Grooms, born Charles Rogers Grooms on June 7, 1937, rose to prominence during the fertile years of late 1950s, early ’60s New York, a time of great artistic and cultural experimentation. There was a restlessness among young artists, a movement away from the dominant Abstract Expressionist esthetic; a desire to be figurative, but also relevant to modern life. It was during this period the artists Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Lester Johnson, and Allan Kaprow all cut their creative teeth. It was a time also during which the art of film entered an experimental phase that pulled the curtain back on the work of Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, Jonas Mekas, and Bruce Conner. In fact, it was while working on a film with Rudy Burckhardt and his then-wife Mimi Gross, that Grooms first glimpsed the direction he wanted his art to take. The short film “Tappy Toes” (1968), a stop-motion animation, was the first film in a series that included “Fat Feet” (1966), a classic of the genre. Gross and Grooms made set pieces for the characters to inhabit. It was at this juncture, Grooms has said, that he “realized I wanted people to be able to walk through my art.” Grooms was influential in “happenings,” an art form Susan Sontag called “animated collages.” She has described them as containing the “curious dualism of optimism and anarchy,” an esthetic that abides with Grooms’ artwork to the present. Distinctly, they eliminate the boundary between the artwork and its viewer. BMAC’s Mara Williams, curator for “What’s the Ruckus?” says she had considered the show for years. Moved things along considerably was Grooms’ daughter, Saskia, who lives in Southern Vermont, and advocated for getting at least a small showing of her...

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Sweet success
Jun22

Sweet success

Sweet success: With their goats’-milk caramels, Townshend farmers find their niche in the marketplace of locally produced speciality foods It’s no wonder Big Picture Farm’s silky caramels won the specialty food industry’s equivalent of the Academy Awards last year, and the awards keep coming: Pop one in your mouth — savor it — and you’ll understand that this is no ordinary caramel. Handcrafted from goat’s milk on a rugged, hill farm high above the village of Townshend, the super-creamy treats have brought farmers Louisa Conrad and Lucas Farrell swift success in an enterprise they launched barely three years ago. Conrad and Farrell met in 2000 at Middlebury College, graduated with bachelor degrees — he in art, she in English — and veered off for grad school: Montana and California, respectively. They returned to Vermont in 2008 and married in 2010. Farrell found work at Middlebury as an adjunct professor, and Conrad taught art after-school art, but those opportunities dried up with the faltering economy. As Conrad explains, the art market had collapsed. So they went to work at Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury, making goat cheese. “We loved the rhythm and life of it there,” Conrad says. And they fell in love with goats. “We knew we wanted [them],” she says. They soon went to work at Peaked Mountain Farm in Townshend, where they gained more experience with goats and cheese-making, and bought a starter herd of three. Not a big stretch for them, as it turned out, as most of their friends were farming: “Starting new types of farms and doing exciting things in terms of food,” Conrad says. As the couple’s herd grew, and with so many others’ artisanal cheeses well represented in the marketplace, they looked for something they could make beyond cheese: a gift item that leveraged the best of their artistic skills, and the natural talents of their lovely goats. It was Conrad who proposed caramels. She’d been inspired by an English toffee she remembered sweetly from childhood. The pair went to work experimenting and taste-testing at the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market, and unveiled their first product: a creamy sea-salt and bourbon vanilla caramel. “It took a long time to get it right,” Farrell said. Well, right is an understatement. They got it right to the tune of winning the prestigious sofi Award for Outstanding Confection, bestowed by the Specialty Food Association at the Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., in 2012. It’s a big deal. Between the Winter Show in San Francisco and the Summer Show in New York City, Specialty Food Association events bring in more than 40,000 attendees from more than 80...

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Spotlight: Manchester Antique and Classic Car Show
Jun22

Spotlight: Manchester Antique and Classic Car Show

Spotlight: Manchester Antique and Classic Car Show The premier annual antique and classic car show puts Manchester and the Mountains back in gear for the 27th year of the best antique and classic cars, food vendors, and flea market experience to be had. Thousands of spectators and hundreds of car collectors will turn out to enjoy this exciting array of vintage vehicles. It’s a family event offering activities for all ages: great food, silent auctions, 50/50 raffles, tractor rides, and strolls on the show field. This year the featured marques are Ford and Land Rover. Tailgate competition — and judging for the best of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70, and ’80s — take place on Sunday. Motor...

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