Teaching Gallery: Fine art at Landmark College
Sep08

Teaching Gallery: Fine art at Landmark College

From the opening of its Fine Arts Gallery to the student art displayed front and center, Landmark College celebrates a ‘fundamental element of education and life.’  By Steve Noble If art is the result of artists seeing the everyday world in a way others don’t, then the existence of the Fine Art Gallery at Landmark College is, itself, work of art. In what was then the pleasant well-lit lobby of the Greenhoe Theater in the college’s Fine Arts Building, Humberto Ramirez saw greater possibility when he came as chairman of the Fine Arts Department seven years ago. Landmark, a small liberal arts college founded in 1985 in the quiet, earthy Vermont town of Putney, serves 500 students who have learning disabilities. The arts program has always been an important one there – alumni include prominent young visual artists Dave Cole and Yishay Garbasz – but the college lacked a gallery. Someday, he thought, that lobby would make an ideal gallery space for student and faculty work and for exhibits by other artists. Ramirez’s idea found the right champion when Dr. Peter Eden took the reins as president of Landmark College in July 2011. Eden had hardly had a chance to settle in before Ramirez told him of his dream for a gallery. “The first week or two I was there, I met Humberto in the Fine Arts Building. I remember the look on his face as we stood there in what was the undeveloped art gallery. … I said, ‘Oh boy, are we going to do something, Humberto,’” Eden recalled, explaining he never had any hesitation committing to it. “We are a college, and at a college you provide opportunities for students. … It’s a fundamental element of education and life – arts, expression and creativity – and there’s so much of it on campus.” After renovations that included rebuilding one wall, finishing others and installing art-friendly lighting, the Fine Arts Gallery opened in March 2013 with an exhibit by Tim Segar, a art faculty member at nearby Marlboro College, and his Rhode Island School of Design classmate Craig Stockwell. Since then, Landmark has shown four exhibits, featuring student work, faculty work and faculty-curated exhibits by professional artists. This past spring, Landmark presented “No Country For Old Men,” a multimedia show which showcased the work of eight emerging New England women artists, who offered diverse viewpoints on the idea of “landscape.” Curated by Landmark Fine Arts faculty member Samuel Rowlett, the show was popular and caught the attention of the art world beyond the gates of picturesque Putney camps. “It made out of a little place, a big place...

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Best of both worlds: Southern Vermont arts connect to New York City
Sep08

Best of both worlds: Southern Vermont arts connect to New York City

The Southern Vermont creative world finds deep connections to the New York arts scene — and vice versa. By Arlene Distler As Sharon Olds, New York poet, put it the year she appeared at the Brattleboro Literary Festival, “I lift mine hills to the hills from whence my deliverance comes.” New Yorkers have long eyed the lands to the north with yearning –at least since the 40’s and 50’s. That was the era of Scott Nearing and a few hearty pioneering “flatlanders” who decided to chuck it all and head for the hills. This chapter of Vermont’s history is well documented in literature and film, most recently in Vermont filmmaker Nora Jacobson’s documentary, ’The Vermont Movie,’ a six-part social, geographic, and political history. Jacobson documents her own family’s migration north in an interview with her father, Nicholas Jacobson, an intellectual who came seeking an “alternative lifestyle.” What was a trickle in those years turned into a full-on torrent in the late 60’s, with the “back-to-the-land” movement — a brave experiment that gripped the counter-culture movement, and changed Vermont forever. Communes sprung up in southern Vermont, and many communards came with intellectual and artistic backgrounds, likely due to southern Vermont’s proximity to the large cities of the northeast. Packer-Corners Farm was peopled by renegades from Boston University; many of the individual “homesteaders” in rural towns such as Readsboro, Guilford, Putney were and are artists, writers, and crafters who found the fresh country air brightened their colors, sharpened their wits and made nimble their hands. Abandoning the “rat race” made for time to think, write, make. In between of course cutting, splitting, loading wood, planting, gathering, “putting by” and all the honorable earthy good works the counter culture was hungry for. The upshot is that southern Vermont has become a rich arts-centered culture. As artists brought other artists, crafts people brought other crafts people and made committed lives among the maples and meandering brooks, Vermont took on a new character. A recent trip to New York highlighted for me how sympathetic is the arts culture of apple-laden southern Vermont with the Big Apple. As I sat watching “After Midnight,” a Broadway show that spotlights jazz from the time of the Cotton Club, I realized I was in my comfort zone – thanks to the Vermont Jazz Center. After years of attending performances at VJC in Brattleboro I thought how lucky to have access to this music – at affordable prices – all year round! Run by Eugene Uman, the VJC brings in jazz musicians whose “grooves” range from the classics to more modern “fusion” and world beat. Hailing from New York,...

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Curtains up: new theatrical curtains reflect Vermont seasons
Sep08

Curtains up: new theatrical curtains reflect Vermont seasons

Five regional artists go all in to create a modern chapter to Main Street Arts’ historic theatrical curtain collection By Susan Morse How do you paint a curtain, and a large 9 by 18-foot theatrical curtain at that? With exuberance and color and not a small amount of trepidation and curiosity a group of five contemporary Saxtons River artists have learned.. Michele Ratté says she isn’t even a painter: the Saxtons River artist calls herself “a printmaker and assembler.” But Ratté agreed to be an integral part of Main Street Arts’ ambitious Five Seasons Project, (see sidebar) which included five contemporary artists who live in the Saxtons River area to paint theater curtains based on Vermont’s five seasons. (perhaps you forgot about Mud Season?) Ratté picked autumn. Other artists included Eric Aho, winter; Charlie Hunter, ’maple and mud;’ Julia Zanes, spring; and Donald Saaf, summer. It was Main Street Arts Chairwoman Julie Messervy’s idea to add a modern chapter to MSA’s already existing historic collection of theatrical curtains (the largest in the state) that intrigued Ratte, a Dartmouth College art major. Plus, the collaboration with the other artists – most of whom are her neighbors – was another plus. “I’m not a painter, so I had a lot of technical questions,” saidRatté. That and the scale of the curtain, and that fact that it would ordinarily be viewed 20 to 25 feet away, she said. Many ofRatté’s art pieces are small and delicate, jewel-like constructions, where the viewer can study the artistry. Ratté and the other artists made miniatures, or ’maquettes’ of their theater curtain designs, and those paintings are being sold as a major fund raising effort by MSA. Ratte said she ’collaged’ her two by four-foot maquette. “The curtain is almost psychedelic,” saidRatté, who said the experience of starting small – the maquette – and making it much bigger was a new experience. “It changes everything and some of the colors change,” she said. Ratté was unable to use her patented metal process on the autumn curtain because of the technical constraints placed on a theatrical backdrop, which must be able to be rolled up for storage. Ratté and another artist have developed a method for the permanent printing of precious metals and precious metal powders onto textiles; they hold a U.S. patent for the invention and her artwork is colorful and shimmering as a result.. So instead printing gold leaf or aluminum on the golden scenes of fall, she painted what she calls a “hybrid scene,” melding together different familiar scenes around Saxtons River, including the river itself, and area vistas, including the vista of her own back meadow. “I...

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The Brooks House: A new day for an Brattleboro landmark
Sep08

The Brooks House: A new day for an Brattleboro landmark

The Brooks House reopening celebration will be on October 3 The $24 million renovation of downtown Brattleboro’s Brooks House will be celebrated on October 3. The 80,000-square-foot building includes an 18,000-square-foot academic center for Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical Center, where classes have already begun. The building also features high-end apartments and a variety of commercial businesses, including the esteemed Denver restaurant, Duo; Wow frozen yogurt shop; Brilliance rugs and jewelry shop; and offices. A fire gutted the historic building, formerly a hotel, in April 2011. A few months later, Tropical Storm Irene slammed the downtown area, causing significant flooding. Since that summer, the block-long Brooks House in the middle of Main Street has been boarded up and surrounded by tarps and scaffolding. A group of local business owners and developers formed to purchase and renovate the building. The team’s financing for the project includes public and private partnerships, grants, and tax credits. The building should be mostly completed and occupied by the grand opening, whose details will be posted at...

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New travel apps poised to put Vermont  on the mobile map
Sep08

New travel apps poised to put Vermont on the mobile map

State, entrepreneurs offer modern twists on the old road atlas (and special provisions for cellular dead zones) Technology isn’t something you necessarily think of when you think of Vermont,” admits Doug Allbee, CEO and Co-Founder of Viewboost, a newly launched Vermont tourism app. “There are a lot of traditional ways that Vermont is marketing itself, a lot of status quo approaches. But we really feel strongly that it’s a great laboratory not only to create good technology, but to create and promote good business.” Doug and his father, Roger Allbee, are looking to put Vermont on the digital and mobile map with their custom-built Vermont travel app, Viewboost. Viewboost serves as both a directory and a map of Vermont businesses, communities, and attractions, with interactive features including customizable settings, visitor reviews, and photo submissions. On Viewboost, businesses and organizations list their location and details, and visitors access this information on their smartphones as they make their way through the state. Tourists enjoy a seamless, customizable travel map for their entire Vermont visit, and businesses and communities enjoy added exposure and valuable data generated by the mobile app. Differing from pre-existing travel apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp, Viewboost is entirely Vermont focused and developed. It’s also a native, rather than a web-based, app, meaning it can operate in areas without broadband or cellular service. “We felt that Vermont is so unique that it needed a unique application,” Doug explains, “so we created an application that gives added exposure to rural destinations, it has offline functionality for blackout areas, and it’s based on a model of local collaboration and partnerships.” These local collaborations range from traditional investors in the app, to data sharing agreements and promotional boosts. The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce was an early, albeit less than 1% investor, and has developed a strong relationship with Viewboost. The Chamber plans to recommend the app on its media, website, and to the more than 800,000 annual visitors to their center. “We like Viewboost because it’s a custom based app that focuses on Vermont and Vermont businesses, primarily,” says Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Tom Torti. “The Allbee’s have come a long way. They’ve traveled around the state listening to the tourism and hospitality industry, and they’ve built that feedback into the application. They’ve taken their time to understand the Vermont visitor experience, and they’ve blended that with some really cutting edge technology.” A percentage of proceeds from the app will be reinvested into community initiatives in Vermont such as the agriculture convention Strolling of the Heifers. The Allbees have also developed a non-mobile side to the...

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Talk of the Arts: Making is thinking
Sep08

Talk of the Arts: Making is thinking

At Marlboro College, the arts play an integral role in an education that sets free the mind and the spirit. By Ellen McCulloch-Lovell The arts infuse Marlboro College, our approach to study, way of thinking, and facilities. One of my joys and one of my goals as president of Marlboro College has been to keep its strong identity as a liberal arts college. Teaching and learning happens in many simple 19th century farm buildings on the Marlboro campus and in downtown Brattleboro at our Center for Graduate and Professional Studies. As the undergraduate college developed from its post-World War II founding arts facilities were added: the Whittemore Theatre, Drury Gallery, Persons Auditorium, Serkin Center for the Performing Arts (housing dance and music), and the visual arts complex of Baber, Woodard, and the Perrine and Gib Taylor studios. At Marlboro College, we use “liberal” in the root meaning of “free” and “arts” to mean the knowledge and skills that free the mind and the spirit. One strong tenet of our approach is that the arts are essential to a broad, humanistic education. Therefore, at this small college, about one-quarter of undergraduate faculty offer courses in painting, sculpture, print-making, ceramics, photography, film and video, art history, dance, theater, and music. Because we believe that “clear writing means clear thinking,” the writing and literature faculty work with students on fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and expository writing. Faculty and staff advisors ask students to study broadly. A young scientist will be encouraged to take a dance class or find time in the painting studio. A photographer will be urged to take philosophy or physics. Over one-quarter of Marlboro undergraduates incorporate the arts into their culminating study, called the Plan of Concentration. As our sculpture professor Tim Segar, says: “making is thinking.” The student makes discoveries by making an object, a dance, a composition, a poem, or a play. That person comes to understand not only the tradition of the art form, but its skills of practice, which include research, problem-solving, analysis, collaboration with others, attaining boldness and confidence, and the ability to combine disparate elements to create something original. Students also discover the possibilities of materials, finding out what shapes they can take, what themes can be expressed. They learn from creative risks taken and, like scientists, from experiments that fail. These ways of learning are not limited to the arts at Marlboro. Yet the arts provide the direct, tactile experience of learning by doing, knowing by making. It’s not surprising that students find creative spaces all over campus, not only in arts facilities. Music happens in the practice rooms and also in the student...

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A cooperative Manchester gallery: Route 7 Collection
Sep08

A cooperative Manchester gallery: Route 7 Collection

Visitors to the Route 7 Collection will find a cooperative venture by a group of friends who want to share their art with one another and the community. The gallery features new paintings by Mary Hill (maryhillstudios.com), metalwork by Payne Junker and Elise Alenick Junker (junkerstudio.com), furniture by Joseph A. Bedard (builditnow@verizon.net), wire tree sculptures by Randy Adams (silver-wood.com), quilts by Carolyn Van Tassel, and collage by Nancy Ferraro, with other artists participating monthly. The shop also offers a selection of vintage craft pieces, wearable art, garden art, and several collections of handmade jewelry. The Route 7 Collection, 148 Main St. (Route 7A) Manchester, VT 05254 (just past the Weathervane Motel), is open Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 pm, Friday afternoons, and Sundays by chance. For more information, contact Payne and Elise Junker at metalart@vermontel.net or...

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Next Stage Arts gets a boost
Sep08

Next Stage Arts gets a boost

Congratulations to Next Stage Arts Project in Putney which has been awarded a $370,000 grant from the national organization, ArtPlace America. Selected as one of 55 recipients out of nearly 1300 applicants, Next Stage was recognized as fulfilling ArtPlace’s mission “to advance the field of creative placemaking, in which art and culture play an explicit and central role in shaping communities’ social, physical and economic futures.” Next Stage was noted in ArtPlace’s award announcement for its role in helping the community emerge from “two major fires in the village center… to create a performing arts and community center that is already becoming the new anchor for Putney’s re-emerging downtown.” $320,000 of the award is for capital improvements at Next Stage’s performance venue at 15 Kimball Hill, as part of a joint effort with the Putney Historical Society (PHS) to renovate this historic building into a fully-accessible, modern performing arts center, with $50,000 going to support additional programming and school collaborations. The ArtPlace grant expands the Next Stage Arts Project/Putney Historical Society collaboration to embrace national partners and peer organizations, increasing visibility not only for Next Stage but for the whole Southern Vermont community. For more information about Next Stage Arts Project, please contact Maria Basescu, Executive Director, at mariabasescu@nextstagearts.org or 802-380-7028. ArtPlace America is a collaboration of leading national and regional foundations, banks and federal agencies committed to accelerating creative placemaking. More information at:...

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Mitchell & Giddings: Two artists, one gallery
Sep08

Mitchell & Giddings: Two artists, one gallery

Mitchell and Giddings want to fill a downtown void and offer a retail venue and showcase for the arts community  New to the Brattleboro arts scene is a commercial art gallery conceived by two artists with a passion for building ties between artists and the public, Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts located at 183 Main Street next to A Candle in the Night. Jim Giddings and Petria Mitchell, have lived and painted in Vermont for over 35 years. Both Jim and Petria are well known in Brattleboro as artists and also for their long history of involvement with area arts organizations including the Windham Art Gallery, Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center, Brattleboro West Arts, and the River Gallery School. The two met in the late 1980s as part of an artists’ critique group and later both helped to establish the Windham Art Gallery, a co-op gallery that was a vital presence on Main Street for 20 years. They both felt that with the closing of this gallery in 2009 a void was left in the local arts community. “We want to work with artists to create a supportive community that also links them with buyers” says Petria. Jim says his motivating factor in starting this gallery is “creating a distinctive space; a beautiful, welcoming, and dynamic place to buy fine art and craft.” Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts will celebrate its debut on Thursday, September 18, featuring paintings by Giddings and Mitchell, Doug Trump, and Lauren Olitski, blown glass by Josh Bernbaum, photography by Chris Triebert, and monumental ceramic vases by Stephen Procter. With plans to also introduce invited artists from near and far, they hope the gallery will become known for offering distinctive high quality works of art in a variety of media that cannot be seen anywhere else. Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts showcases work of local, regional, and nationally recognized artists and craftspeople with the goal of promoting sales and creating a nourishing and supportive community of professional artists. Contact: Margaret Shipman, Gallery Manager, Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts, 183 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301, (802) 251-8290,...

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A second Davallia gallery in the Stone Village
Sep08

A second Davallia gallery in the Stone Village

After success with Davallia, the Alons open a new branch After five years with Davallia, a beautiful gallery on the green in the center of Chester, Michael and Jessie Alon have opened a second gallery. This one is in Chester’s Stone Village, nestled on 39 North Street — just a stone’s throw to Okemo. The new location will allow the couple’s passion for the arts to flourish. They found a 1800s farmhouse and over the last several months have been creatively transforming it into the perfect backdrop for their gallery and studio space. Michael’s sculpture adorns the serpentine gardens that dance around the house. Inside is a modern farmhouse with exposed beams, sliding barn doors, and white washed bead board walls. Jessie’s handcrafted jewelry is showcased in custom cases built by Michael. The couple works closely together to select works from other artists and artisans to create a harmonious blend for the gallery spaces. Local artists and Michael’s custom furniture adorn the clean white walls and displays are layered with home accents, jewelry, art and vintage finds. Adjacent to the gallery are their studios and a new design center. They wanted a design center to help bring inspiration to life for their clients. We recommend paying a visit to both locations. Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/DaVallia-Art-Accents for images and work in...

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Sicilian wines: From Quantity to Quality
Sep08

Sicilian wines: From Quantity to Quality

Sicilian winemaking was all but destroyed by a root-eating aphid and two world wars. Now, thanks to good agriculture, winemaking on the island is enjoying a renaissance. By Marty Ramsburg Goethe wrote that “to have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything,” and if the wines coming out of Sicily in the past 5-7 years are indeed representative “clues,” then great things are happening in Sicily. Though Sicilian wines are relative newcomers to the US market, wine has been part of Sicilian culture since vines were planted by the Greeks who colonized the island circa 800 BC. In the late 1800s, however, many vineyards were destroyed by the root-eating aphid, phylloxera. Waves of emigration in the early part of the 20th century, as well as the devastation of two world wars, left Sicily economically strapped. Wine was relegated to cooperatives that sold grapes to fuel the massive production of low-quality, bulk red wine, much of which was sent to the mainland to blend, adding richer color to lighter-toned reds like Sangiovese in Tuscany and Nebbiolo in Piedmont. In the 1980s, however, things started to change. Leading that charge of change were three school friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti and Cirino Strano, who began experimenting with wine-making during their summer breaks from architecture and medical schools respectively. They purchased 3 hectares of vines in Bastonaca, in the area around Ragusa in Southeast Sicily. Since its founding in 1980, Azienda Agricola COS (the acronym for Cilia-Occhipinti-Strano) has been committed to quality production, to “understanding the soil” and letting it express itself through the wines. That quest has led them to adopt biodynamic agriculture as the best practices to ensure healthy soils and therefore vines and grapes capable of representing place and vintage. Their study of Sicilian winemaking led to their decision to use amphorae or even pithos to age the wine, clay containers historically used to transport or store wine. In the hot SE region of Sicily which is closer to Africa than to Italy, COS also revisited historic practice by burying the amphora in the ground to maintain a cool, constant temperature while the wine ages. (Picture here) Part of the trend of moving from quantity to quality has been a renewed focus on grape varieties native to Sicily, some having arrived when the Greeks colonized the island around 800 BC. Principal among these is Nero d’Avola, the most-planted red grape on Sicily. Nero d’Avola accounts for 16% of Sicily’s total vineyard plantings, valued for its color, body and aging potential. In its resurgence as a...

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Local Flavor: Heritage harvest at Scott Farm

A Dummerston farmer nurtures heirloom apples — a strategy that’s good for the preservation of hundreds of varieties and for the farm’s bottom line By Allyson Wendt I’m really excited about the Medlars,” Zeke Goodband tells me as we sit in the warm sun by the apple barn at Scott Farm, where he is the orchard manager. The fruit is native to the Middle East and tastes a bit like spiced apple sauce. “I read about it, and just had to try it,” he adds, referring to the fruit’s appearance in Romeo and Juliet. Scott Farm, which neighbors Rudyard Kipling’s Dummerston home, Naulakha,, seems an appropriate place for Zeke to have ended up. Over 40 years, he has sought out varieties of fruit discovered in novels, plays, histories, and journals, creating a collection of over 100 varieties of apples, peaches, plums, pears, apricots, quince, grapes, and, of course, medlars. Zeke has recently added paw-paws and persimmons to the farm. He’s managed several orchards, coming to Scott Farm in the 1990s. His investment in rare and heirloom varieties of apples is not just due to literary curiosity, however. Early on, he realized that he needed the heirlooms to make the orchard economically viable. Mainstream varieties such as McIntosh face stiff price competition from huge orchards in other countries. Many heirloom varieties, like those Zeke grows, do not transport as well as the mainstream varieties, and are best grown locally, picked ripe, and sold quickly. Farming innovation is not new to Scott Farm, which dates back to 1791. The farm at one time had a tavern where Brattleboro residents came to “rusticate,” according to Zeke. The Holbrook family purchased both the farm and neighboring Naulakha and planted the first orchard there in 1911. The farm was among the first to use refrigeration and offer apples via mail order, shipping apples across the country and abroad. At its height, the farm stretched over about 1,000 acres and employed 26 people in the production of pork, milk and dairy products, and maple syrup in addition to apples and vegetable crops. The Landmark Trust purchased the farm from the Holbrooks in 1995, in part to protect Naulaukha, which it had purchased and preserved, from development pressures. According to Zeke, 50%-75% of the crop stays in Vermont, sold through local grocery stores, coops, and farm stands. Most of the rest stays in New England, and some is sold through a broker to places as far away as Texas. The local nature of the business suits Zeke. “It stays personal,” he tells me, “I often meet people who have tried our apples, and I’m ‘the apple...

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