Arts with letters: libraries are doubling as art galleries

Bobbe Ragouzeos, President of the Board of Trustees, and Marilyn Allen at Marilyn and Nan Heminway’s exhibition in the Moore Free Library in Newfane.

Bobbe Ragouzeos, President of the Board of Trustees, and Marilyn Allen at Marilyn and Nan Heminway’s exhibition in the Moore Free Library in Newfane.

You might not expect to see paintings by such major artists as Wolf Kahn or Emily Mason in a community library in Southern Vermont, but at the Moore Free Library in Newfane you will. Nineteenth century Chinese ceramics are just part of the vast permanent art collection you might see in the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro. The Canfield Gallery at the Martha Canfield Library in Arlington hosts a reception for a distinguished area artist on the first Saturday of nearly every month. At these and other libraries in Southern Vermont, patrons and visitors can drink in good art, build their own art collections, and contribute to the library, all at the same time. The pairing of art and libraries is a big win for art lovers, art education, library budgets, serious Vermont artists, and for tourists who are drawn to the beauty and richness of Southern Vermont.

The trustees of the Martha Canfield Library in Arlington felt so strongly about the importance of art in the library that they incorporated an art gallery into the plans for their new building 17 years ago. Today the Canfield Gallery has built such a reputation that there is a waiting list of well-known area artists who want to show there. The monthly (Feb. through October) solo shows draw large crowds, and in 2014 the library’s 25% portion of art sales netted the library approximately $2,400. More important, many young library goers become lifetime art lovers.

Exhibit at the Moore Free Library, Newfane

Exhibit at the Moore Free Library, Newfane

The Moore Free Library in Newfane has been the fortunate beneficiary of a foundation established by Thomas Crowell, who founded the Crowell Publishing Company (now part of Harper Collins) in 1876. He was an avid art collector, a lover of books, and a generous benefactor – traits passed down to his heirs. Thomas’ grandson, Robert Crowell provided an endowment before his death in 2001 to renovate an old barn on the library property into an art gallery. The Crowell Art Gallery now houses the Crowell’s large collection of contemporary Vermont art, the family’s significant library of art books, and encourages art collecting by hosting area artists and craftspeople. During January and February visitors may view a changing exhibit of the library’s large permanent art collection. Local artists and craftspeople exhibit during the other months. From November 1 through December 10, 2014, visitors can examine the oil paintings and drawings of Marilyn Allen and Nan Heminway in an exhibit entitled “Making Peace With Oddity.” The following exhibit will showcase quilts by the Newfane Quilters Group.

Visitors to the Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro can take a self-guided tour of portions of the extensive permanent art collection donated by patrons over the last 100 years. They could see works by such famous artists as Daniel Chester French or William Morris Hunt. With no dedicated art gallery, the library rotates the collection of more than 400 significant artworks. In addition, throughout the year, the Brooks Library hosts changing solo shows by local artists on the first floor, and a demonstration cabinet near the second-floor children’s room featuring the work and processes of children’s book illustrators.

Arlington, Brattleboro and Newfane aren’t the only towns in Southern Vermont where visitors and patrons can enjoy art. There are popular monthly solo shows by serious area artists in the Dorset Village Library, the Putney Public Library, (which features a local artist every two months in a recently remodeled space), and others. It’s a win-win practice for everyone: the community library, visitors and patrons, and Vermont’s ever-growing population of serious, excellent artists!

Contact these Southern Vermont libraries about their current and upcoming art exhibits. Plan to build (or start) your own collection while you support your library. And don’t forget to bring the children and grandchildren!

Brooks Memorial Library

224 Main Street, Brattleboro, VT 05301




Jerry Carbone, Library Director

Canfield Gallery

Martha Canfield Library

528 East Arlington Rd., Arlington, VT 05250



Phyllis Skidmore, Library Director

Crowell Gallery

Moore Free Library

23 West Street, Newfane, VT 05345



Louise Sirois, Library Director

Dorset Village Library

On the Green at Church St. & Rt. 30

Dorset, VT 05251



Erica Shott, Library Director

Putney Public Library

55 Main Street, Putney, VT 05346



Stephen Coronella, Library Director

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