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April 2013

April 30, 2013

Frog Hollow Shows Mini Artist Documentaries at the Gallery, and on TV

Screen-shot-2013-03-19-at-5It's not often crafters get to become film stars. But a handful of Vermont artists are just that, in a series of mini documentaries produced by Burlington's RETN (Regional Educational Technology Network) in collaboration with Frog Hollow, the Vermont State Craft Center.

The first three videos in the series, made by RETN interns, won first place in the 2012 Home Town Media Festival, a national competition for the Alliance for Community Media. 

RETN and the gallery have been working together for the past year and, lately, also with Burlington College students. Tonight, Frog Hollow will show a selection of the mini docs — six to eight minutes each in length — featuring steampunk-minded sculptor Mark Schwabe, painter/photographer Wendy James, "pallet art" maker Mark Dabelstein, blacksmith Steve Bronstein (pictured below) and Norton Latourelle, who carves whimsical wooden animals.

Steven-Bronstein"The Artists of Frog Hollow" can be viewed on RETN and also on YouTube. In addition, says Frog Hollow executive director Rob Hunter, the videos will be on the artists' individual pages on the Frog Hollow site.

If you attend the event tonight at 6 p.m., you'll get to meet some of the artists and student filmmakers. Hunter will give introductions.

Frog Hollow, 85 Church Street, Burlington.


A Trailer Called Death


By now, hopefully Vermonters are familiar with the remarkable story that is the proto-punk band Death. If you're not, read this and come back when you're finished. We'll wait. (Twiddles thumbs.)

Now that we're all up to speed, earlier this year, Drafthouse Films, a well-regarded film distribution company based in Austin, Texas, picked up the rights to A Band Called Death, a documentary about the band and its unlikely rebirth.

Directed by VT expats Jeff Howlett and Mark Covino, the flick has been garnering an increasing national buzz following screenings at major film fests such as the LA International Film Festival and SXSW Film, among others.

So far, the only chance locals have had to see the film was a screening last fall as part of the Vermont International Film Festival. Thankfully, for those eager to check it out, the wait is nearly over. Last week, Drafthouse unveiled a new trailer for the Death doc, along with upcoming Video On Demand and theatrical release dates. (May 24 and June 28, respectively.)

The trailer caused a modest stir online, including a post from Rolling Stone and some Twitterly love from the Roots' Questlove, who tweeted, "if "Sugarman" doc moved you....this will be your music doc of the year." Are you listening, Oscar?

Here's the trailer, which features no shortage of rock-star wattage — Hey, Alice Cooper! — or members of the Hackney family. [Speaking of which, full disclosure: Bobby Hackney Jr., son of Death's Bobby Hackney Sr., is an employee of Seven Days.] 



The Sequester Hits the Arts; the Hopkins Center Responds With Rock

DCWEThanks to quick, hey-wait-a-minute-this-sucks thinking on the part of our elected officials in Washington, D.C., the airborne public may now have enough air-traffic controllers on duty to handle our summer vacations. Not to mention the frequent-flyer jaunts to and from said elected officials' home states. Ahem.

But that isn't going to help the West Point Band. Long scheduled to perform at the Hopkins Center with the elite 50-member Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, the players are now limited to gigs within 100 miles of the U.S. Military Academy. Pentagon's orders. Why? You guessed it: the federal budget sequester.

"No engagements outside of a 100-mile radius of West Point that weren't of the highest priority, and a concert at a college campus simply didn't make the cut," writes the Hop's publicity coordinator, Rebecca Bailey, in an email. "Oh, well," she adds philosophically, "at a time when the sequester is hitting social services and other programs for the neediest folks, we certainly can't cry buckets."

True dat. But the college musicians didn't take this lying down — no, sir. Instead, Bailey informs us, "The Wind Ensemble drew on the rebellious spirit of rock 'n' roll, and used this as an opportunity to blow the roof off Spaulding [Auditorium] with works by young composers inspired by rock."

Which makes total sense: When you can't get the army, bring in some attitude.

Continue reading "The Sequester Hits the Arts; the Hopkins Center Responds With Rock" »

April 29, 2013

Monday's Child: Persephone

I was thinking about the Greek myth of Persephone, who, abducted by Hades, was released once a year from the Underworld and thus brought about spring.

We have relinquished explanatory power over the changing seasons to our weather forecasters. Of course, in Vermont we may spend weeks wondering why spring hasn't come, already — but the sublime season does, eventually, arrive. And it's an artistic miracle every time.

That's why I just have to share some of the returning, all-too-brief beauties in my backyard, because it doesn't get much better than this.


And this. 











I take it back: It does get even better from here. Thank you, Persephone.


April 26, 2013

Vermont Legislature Honors "My Place" Host Joel Najman


Joel Najman, courtesy of VPR 

On Wednesday, April 24, the Vermont Legislature surprised Joel Najman with a resolution congratulating the local DJ on his 30th anniversary as the host of the Vermont Public Radio show, and rock-and-roll time machine, "My Place." 

"My Place" was originally hosted by David Field and began life as a wide-ranging, interactive retrospective of rock and roll from the 1950s and ’60s. But Najman dramatically revamped the show's format when he took over in 1983, after serving as a substitute host the year prior.

Najman is as passionate a musicologist as he is a fan, which is really saying something. In each hourlong episode, he hones in on a specific theme or topic, sometimes sharpening his focus to a single song, and examines its historical context and cultural importance in painstaking detail.

He's said those details can take years — yes, years — of sleuthing to fully unearth. Recent episodes of "My Place" have explored the first and second waves of the British Invasion, Berry Gordy's pre-Motown canon and "Popular Songs About Women."

Continue reading "Vermont Legislature Honors "My Place" Host Joel Najman" »

Movies You Missed: The Final Chapter

MudIt's been fun writing Movies You Missed. But, with Burlington's Waterfront Video due to close its doors for the last time on Tuesday evening, I no longer have a reliable source for movies that never reached our theaters because they were too indie, arty, foreign, misguided, insane and/or weird.

True, many of those movies will still pop up on the-streaming-service-whose-name-we-don't-speak and its companion discs-through-the-mail service, not to mention iTunes and other services I don't know about. (Full disclosure: I've been streaming from Netflix for the past couple of months. It's great for catching up on "Friday Night Lights" and "Fringe," but no substitute for an excellent video store.)

I'll continue to use this weekly space to preview the weekend's new movies (in theaters and on DVD) and, perhaps, to write short reviews of MYMs that pop up on whatever service I'm using. (For instance, did you know you can stream local director Liz Canner's Orgasm Inc.?)

But for now, back to Waterfront Video, where you can still rent movies for one more weekend. I asked buyer/curator Seth Jarvis and manager Chris LaPointe to name some of their all-time most memorable movies that never reached (or didn't stay in) Vermont theaters.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed: The Final Chapter" »

April 25, 2013

Vermonters Remember the Civil War Like It Was Just 150 Years Ago

VcsPRAsset_527897_87879_d4ac7e6f-ff9b-40a0-847a-0ad97738780f_0I'll confess I did not realize until yesterday that Vermont had a Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, but it does, and it's been busy. And to save you having to look up "sesquicentennial," it means 150th anniversary. So yesterday that commish and the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing announced the top 10 exhibits and events that were chosen "for their efforts to bring to life Vermont’s Civil War experience with history from the homefront and battlefield."

It's been hard not to notice the recent uptick of interest in the period, though, starting with reruns of Ken Burns' The Civil War on PBS and the movie Lincoln last year. And this week, Seven Days previews the original musical Ransom, based on letters from Rochester, Vt. soldier Lt. Ransom W. Towle and produced by Montpelier's Lost Nation Theater (which is celebrating an anniversary itself this year — the silver one). Ransom opens on Friday.

If you have an interest in commemorating America's Civil War period, and Vermonters' role in it, you'll want to know who's got the top-10 events and exhibits. Here they are, courtesy of VDTM, with handy hyperlinks courtesy of me:

Continue reading "Vermonters Remember the Civil War Like It Was Just 150 Years Ago" »

April 24, 2013

Oh When the Money Comes Marching In: NEA Grants to Vermont

DollarsArt and numbers don't always go together, especially art and numbers with dollar signs in front of them. Unless you're, say, the Vermont Arts Council or the National Endowment for the Arts, and then you think about art and dollars rather a lot.

And that's why the VAC was pleased to point out this week that the NEA is sending $252,000 in Art Works grants collectively to nine arts entities in Vermont. And they are — imagine drum roll here — Burlington City Arts, the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, Brattleboro's Vermont Performance Lab, Piper's Gathering (yup, money for bagpipers), Sandglass Theater, the Shelburne Museum, Vermont Folklife Center, Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the Windham Regional Commission (not sure what's arty about this last one, but anyone working on disaster prevention and relief certainly deserves an award).

A quarter-mill is not a lot of money, really, especially when divvied up nine ways. If that pot were distributed equally — which it isn't — each Vermont recipient would get just $26,000. Compare that with the cost of, for example, the F-35: $207.6 million each, according to the Pentagon's FY2012 budget.

Since this is an arts blog and not a political one, let's consider some cultural crumbs, financially speaking, instead:

Continue reading "Oh When the Money Comes Marching In: NEA Grants to Vermont" »

Last Verse: National Poetry Month Draws to a Close

CD-LuskOne of the strengths of Burlington poet Daniel Lusk's works is their luscious evocation of the natural world. In 2009, armed with a unique grant from the University of Vermont, he set his sights, and words, on the body of water some of us still fondly call the sixth great lake. He worked with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vergennes to study its science and lore, conducting interviews with divers, archaeologists, historians and marine biologists — and, of course, having his own experiences with and on the water. Lake Studies: Meditations on Lake Champlain is the aptly titled volume that resulted.

Now Lusk, a lecturer emeritus in English at UVM, has a new and equally watery work, The Inland Sea. And those who would rather listen to than read poetry are in luck: It's an audiobook!

It's also Lusk's second collaboration with the LCMM. The "Inland Sea" is the old name for the waters east of the Champlain Islands. In the audiobook, which was designed by Anne Linton of Winooski, Lusk reads 19 poems selected from Lake Studies. He celebrates at a release party this Saturday, April 27, at Phoenix Books Burlington.

(More poetry news after the break.)

Continue reading "Last Verse: National Poetry Month Draws to a Close" »

Film News: White River Indie Films Goes Transmedia; Feminist Docs in Burlington

CCSketchBkflt_midresThis year, White River Indie Films is going trans — transmedia, that is.

In addition to film screenings, this weekend’s three-day fest will feature iWRIF, a series of panels and workshops devoted to “Transmedia: The Future of Storytelling Across Platforms.”

“People kept asking me if it was a transgender festival — which would be cool, too!” says festival coordinator Emma Mullen.

But transmedia — as opposed to trans media — is simply storytelling across media, such as a documentary film supplemented by a “website with an audience-participation video” and a social-media component, Mullen explains. The term “transmedia,” she adds, is gaining favor in academic and professional circles now that the so-called “new media” are “not that new.”

Transmedia, Mullen says, is “about expanding your engagement.” “How do you tell a story through the use of new formats, and using it to your best advantage?”

That story could be an online archive like the one New York artist Melanie Crean is building to help Americans and Iraqis exchange their views on “home.” (WRIF participants can become part of it at the “Shape of Change” workshop.)

Continue reading "Film News: White River Indie Films Goes Transmedia; Feminist Docs in Burlington" »

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