Artistic ambassadors to the working woods
Jan10

Artistic ambassadors to the working woods

An exhibit at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center marries poetry with the painted image in a celebration of the life and lore of the Vermont forest Shedding Light on the Working Forest,” an exhibition of paintings and poems, is the deepest expression of an artistic friendship, nurtured over twenty-five years. Kathleen Kolb and I met as faculty members at the Governor’s Institute on the Arts, living and teaching painting and poetry, side by side. When Kathleen presented this series of paintings, I was struck by their humanity. Though utterly dependent on forest products, the public tends toward sentimentality about trees and ambivalence about loggers. Their essential work is hiding in plain sight. I knew these paintings needed a voice. Kathleen provided introductions. The people I visited love her paintings. They were honored to act as ambassadors, guiding the viewer through the woods and interpreting their work. There is another important backstory to Shedding Light: the sudden loss of my husband Richard Coutant, in the midst of our project. It was a mercy to immerse myself in a vital counter-narrative to metastatic pancreatic cancer. Each night I edited what I’d gathered before the diagnosis. Some words from logger-storyteller Bill Torrey shift their context as an epitaph. And you want a good ending when that tree hits the ground. You create a bed for it. Mortality is never far from the logger. Survival requires an assessment of risk, can-do gusto, and attention to the moment: qualities I admire. Kathleen describes a “moment of emotional ignition” that kindles each work. Gazing at the art and reflecting on my visits with our narrators, I imagined that moment as I wrote these poems. —Verandah Porche Morning Work on the Landing Dawn, the chickadees kick in. Father and son are glad to be Done with farming for nothing: 24/7 starving to death. And zero ain’t so bad when You’re dressed for it. The grapple holds aloft A log longer than the man Who felled it, snow on the bark. The loader will never tuck this One in the truck bed, and the son Won’t snug it with his bar. Gazing back, the father grins: This painting is right on the money: The red hat, the blue cab, The shadow they stand in Between fell and grapple. Everyone’s life is a book, he adds. What leaves his son won’t turn Let’s overlook, Like this valley or the empty Mountain Dew not littering The forest floor. —Verandah Porche This is the painting that first drew me in: the tree in midair, the blues of mountain, truck cab, shadows. Father and son: what were they thinking? Larry Sherman...

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Circus Arts: Planning to soar
Jan10

Circus Arts: Planning to soar

NECCA sisters fuse business savvy, circus thrills By Jon Potter Photos by Jeffrey M. Lewis Balance is a core value at a school whose curriculum boasts Trapeze, Teeterboard, and Acrobatics, and whose students are often found 10 feet off the ground, swinging from bars, beams, and fabrics. But for Elsie Smith and Serenity Smith Forchion, identical twins and co-founders of the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, commitment to balance is as important to business plans as it is to circus acts. And that, as a famous New Englander once said, has made all the difference. No strangers to the limelight, Elsie and Serenity spent four years touring with Cirque du Soleil’s Saltimbanco and also performed with Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, Circus of the Kids, the New Pickle Circus, Pilobolus, and more, winning awards in China and Spain for their spinning duo trapeze act — and winning fans and accolades everywhere else. And they have also earned respect and admiration for their business savvy. Quite frankly, it’s a hard choice as to which type of praise means more. “I think it depends on the day and the person,” says Elsie, who serves as artistic director of NECCA, which she and her sister established in 2007 and which has grown, appropriately enough, by leaps and bounds. Blossoming since the days of that initial class, NECCA this year will educate 6,000 students aged 18 months to more than 80 years. Their experience ranges from raw beginner to seasoned circus professional — revealing a world of wonder in between. “As an artist, and maybe even more as a female artist, I appreciate how valuable it is to be understood as a good business person. We may be stereotyped as artists without business sense, but I really appreciate when people realize we have business sense,” Elsie adds. Balancing careers which still include performing and teaching all over the world, Elsie and Serenity are in business mode more than ever, with NECCA poised to take a big leap. After years of rapid growth into and beyond one rented space after another, NECCA is embarking on plans to build its own 15,000-square-foot, $2.5 million circus school on three acres on land on a strip of Putney Road just north of Downtown Brattleboro. “We are actively working towards building a building. If anyone’s interested in helping us, they can contact us at necenterforcircusarts.org,” Elsie said. With any luck, the first shovels can move the first dirt on the new building this April, and the sisters aren’t missing a beat in hiring a managing director and running the circus school. “It’s basically recognizing...

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What Vermont stands to lose
Jan10

What Vermont stands to lose

Shall Vermont’s mountains be sacrificed in the great game of big wind? By Tom Slayton Vermont’s mountains and high ridges are under siege once again. Across the length and breadth of our small, mountainous state, dozens of immense wind towers taller than the 306-foot-tall Bennington Battle Monument are planned or in place. With official sanction, this state is gradually industrializing and suburbanizing its mountains and high ridges. In the Northeast Kingdom towns of Lowell and Sheffield major wind installations have already destroyed the fragile ecology of high ridges and mountain ranges and compromised the viewshed for miles around. Southern Vermont is not immune from this new threat to Vermont’s highlands. A huge industrial-scale project is proposed for the high ridges shared by Windham and Grafton. Iberdrola USA says it wants to place 28 500-foot-tall wind turbines — the largest wind implantation in Vermont — atop those ridges. To permit that to happen would be a colossal mistake. Both towns are rural; both villages are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The landscape there balances the works of man and nature in a way that is pleasant, scenic, and restful. In many ways, these towns represent the best of rural Vermont. We would lose that — permanently — should these immense industrial wind towers be built. This is not a matter of simple aesthetics. Vermont’s one drawing card in the battle for tourist dollars is its incomparable countryside. Compromise that, as these large wind installations do, and we’ll lose the battle. Our tourist economy will suffer. These installations also will do significant environmental damage, impacting fragile, high-altitude ecosystems and destroying the forest integrity — “habitat connectivity” to biologists — that is vital for wildlife populations to thrive. In fact, Vermont is not a very good location for wind generation. A recent issue of National Geographic shows us prime wind generation areas in the United States are off the Atlantic coast and in the wide, flat Midwest. Furthermore, the demand for wind power in Vermont is already maxed out. Executives of both Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Cooperative are on record saying that the transmission grid is close to being unable to accept more wind-generated electricity. Thus, the only real beneficiaries of these huge wind installations are the developers proposing them. Global warming is a fact and we must combat it. But to allow a distinctly mediocre power source to destroy our state’s signature feature, and compromise a natural, benign, world-class carbon sequestration system — which is what mountain forests are — is utterly foolish. There are better ways to reduce our carbon footprint and better ways to...

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Winter picks

Brattleboro Clayworks Holiday Sale 532 Putney Road, Brattleboro http://www.brattleboroclayworks.com, 802 254-9174 December: Stop by during extended showroom hours where we have an annual 10 percent off sale. Brattleboro Clayworks is Southern Vermont’s ceramics resource center. Founded in 1983, we seek to increase access to ceramic media for the communities of southeastern Vermont, northwestern Massachusetts, and southwestern New Hampshire. 32nd Readsboro Glassworks Holiday Open Studio and Sale 6954 Main St, Readsboro http://www.maryangusglass.com, 802 423-7706 Dec 18-20: Please join us for our Annual Holiday Open Studio and Sale, on two weekends, December 12-13 and December 18-20, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Stop in to see our hand blown glass, enjoy some hot mulled cider and homemade cookies and help us celebrate our 32nd anniversary! We will have a unique collection of hand blown glass for sale, including perfume bottles and ring holders, bud vases, colorful handmade glass candy cane and icicle ornaments and our intricately carved glass snowflakes. Mount Snow Film Festival Sundance Base Lodge, Mount Snow, West Dover http://www.mountsnow.com Dec 19: Join us for our 5th Annual Mount Snow Film Festival at the Sundance Base Lodge. We’ll show a ski movie and a snowboard movie as well as a ton of Carinthia footage from the 2014-’15 season, all on our 16-foot widescreen! Snacks and drinks are available downstairs, and Cooper’s Bar is open upstairs for adult beverages and a great view. Come out and enjoy some of this year’s best videos — and get yourself stoked for the season! Extension Master Gardener Course Online at http://www.uvm.edu/mastergardener Feb 2-April 26: Learn the keys to a healthy, sustainable home landscape from your home computer as University of Vermont faculty and other experts provide live, interactive webinars on gardening in Vermont. This 13-week, non-credit course covers a rich range of horticultural topics, including fruit and vegetable production, flower gardening, botany basics, plant pests, soil fertility, disease management, healthy lawns, invasive plant control, and introduction to home landscaping. Register by credit card at uvm.edu/mastergardener or by phone, to UVM’s Extension Master Gardener Program office, at 802 656-9562. Paying by check? Download your registration form from the website. R. John Wright First-Ever Studio Open House 2402 West Road, Bennington http://www.rjohnwright.com Feb 12-13: To celebrate its 40th year of 100 percent American-made, hand-crafted doll making, the R. John Wright Doll Co. hosts its first-ever public doll making studio tour and open house. Explore the facility, learn and appreciate the process that is the art of RJW doll making, and meet the team of talent bringing R. John Wright artist dolls to life. Free; refreshments included. Meet and speak with celebrated doll artists John and Susan...

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At the galleries

Bennington Arts Guild 103 South St., Bennington http://www.benningtonartsguild.org, 802 442-7838 Thru Dec: Bennington Art Guild Holiday Show. To wrap up the year, the Bennington Arts Guild hosts its Annual Holiday Show of work by Guild members. Chaffee Art Center 16 South Main St., Rutland http://www.chaffeeartcenter.org, 802 775-0356 Thru Dec: Annual Holiday Exhibit and Gingerbread Construction Competition. Crowell Gallery at Moore Free Library, 23 West St., Newfane http://www.freelibrary.wordpress.com/crowell-gallery Dec: Sew What’s of Newfane, fiber. Jan-Feb: Crowell Permanent Collection. March 1-30: Artwork exhibit by Bill Schommer. April: Timson Hill and Newbrook. Gallery in the Woods 145 Main St., Brattleboro Open daily 11a-5:30p, Sun noon-5p http://www.galleryinthewoods.com, 802 257-4777 Gallery 1: Reincarnation Group Show featuring Vintage Fetish. Gallery 2-3: The current paintings explore two themes, an interest in pattern and why we are wired in such a way as to be attracted to it and a way to make paintings that are improvisational and carry the immediacy of the creative process. Gallery North Star 151 Townshend Road, Grafton 10a-5p daily (Tuesday by chance) http://www.gnsgrafton.com, 802 843-2465 Thru Jan 18: Robert Steinem Solo Show. Feb 6-March 6: Julie Y Baker Albright Solo Show. Gallery Wright 103 West Main St., Wilmington http://www.gallerywright.com, 802 464-9922 Thru Dec: Mary Therese Wright Solo Show. Vermont Center for Photography 49 Flat St., Brattleboro http://www.vcphoto.org, 802 251-6051 Thru Dec 27: Annual VCP Members Holiday Exhibition. VCP’s membership represents a wide photographic background. Members hail from all corners of New England. We encourage our members to display new work that has not previously been exhibited at VCP to ensure that there is always something new and exciting for visitors to see and enjoy. Jan 1-30: Allison Barnes: Neither For Me Nor the Holey Bee. Feb 5-28: Zora Murff: Corrections. Vermont Folklife Center 8 Main St., Middlebury http://www.vermontfolklifecenter.org Thru Jan 9: Portraits of a Forest: Men and Machines. Photographs and interviews by George Bellerose. Jan 15-April 30: Shedding Light on the Working Forest. Paintings by Kathleen Kolb, poetry by Verandah...

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