Talk of the Arts

Celebrating New Possibilities…People and Places…Reinventing, Collaborating, Repurposing

By Lynn Barrett, publisher/editor


We talk to Brandon resident and folk artist Warren Kimble about his art and his life at a time when the Bennington Museum celebrates 150 years of Grandma Moses with its largest Moses show in a decade. He talks about the popularity of folk art and how he has helped his small town community be a place where an artist can live and make a living. Under Warren’s influence, Brandon was the first small town in America to use artist-decorated fiberglass statues as a fundraiser. They chose to paint pigs, display them all summer-long and then auction them off in the fall. The funds raised allowed them to buy a building on Main Street for an artists’ guild. This year’s timely theme—“Art Makes Brandon Tick”, is an extravaganza of artist-created clocks that will be on display all summer long all over town. Thanks in large part to Kimbel’s cheerleading, Brandon is a happening place for eating, shopping and gallery hopping. How cool is that.

From Brandon we head to White River Junction… a long depressed railroad hub that’s experiencing an arty renaissance. As writer Dan Mackie reports, “White River Junction, which is still described as gritty, may be finding its Next (Sort of) Big Thing in the arts. Less than 10 miles from Hanover, N.H., and Dartmouth College, it offers lower rents and no upper crust.” Enter Matt Bucy, architect and “flagship pioneer” who got the ball rolling when he and a few investors bought and renovated the Tip Top Building. It’s colorful, full of a mix of creative businesses and there’s a waiting list for new tenants. The building inspires collaboration and has given rise to other entrepreneurial efforts in town. One shop owner says “Bucy made others think, “Maybe we can do something, too.’’ You can lunch at the Tuckerbox where you’ll see students of the Center for Cartoon Studies working on their Macs while enjoying fresh soup and salad. There’s shopping at the always-eclectic Revolution  (re-purposed designer and retro apparel) — and other shops you’ll find nowhere else, believe me.

Another inspiring reinvention is the Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Vermont’s first community-owned dairy and cheese-making operation. Their approach to cheese production is centered on community, family and farming. And that includes the cows. Between 1996 and today, Vermont has lost 25% of its dairy farms. The current number of farms is approximately 1200 down from 11,000 in 1946. Preserving a piece of Vermont’s history and heritage was something the South Woodstock community felt was worth doing. They see it as a model to help revitalize the Vermont dairy industry.

Just as farmers and fresh-food enthusiasts are finding each other at farmers’ markets, artists and art-lovers are finding each other at open studio tours, in new guilds and galleries, and at public events. We talk to several groups about their collaborative activities and newly formed alliances as hundreds of Vermont artists, open their doors to the public this summer and fall.

We love summer in Vermont. Poppies flare, hummingbirds zip and summer art blooms. From highly regarded local artists to world famous art, from “retro folk” duos to the heart and soul of American jazz, Southern Vermont enjoys a blissful riot of color and sound every summer day. As Warren Kimble would say, summertime is “Hour Time.” I hope that looking through these pages inspires you and opens the door to new possibilities.

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