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May 24, 2013

Barre Cultural Alliance Pools Its Many Resources, Presents Story-Based Celebration

History4What do socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs, anarchist Emma Goldman, dance troupe Pilobolus and South African singers Ladysmith Black Mambazo have in common? Go ahead, think on that.

Give up? The answer is this: All have appeared on the stage of the Barre Opera House. Granted, the first two and last two were decades apart, but that just illustrates the long cultural history that Vermont's Granite City has had. And that's not even to speak of the colorful, artistically and politically rich past fostered by the granite industry itself.

But we will speak of that, because the Old Labor Hall — once the site of immigrant stoneworkers' intense socialist gatherings — last year joined the Barre Opera House and two other local institutions as charter members of the Barre Cultural Alliance.

The nonprofit consortium also includes Studio Place Arts, the Aldrich Public Library and the Vermont History Center. SPA executive director Sue Higby notes that the BCA is following the model of St. Johnsbury's Arts & Culture Campus, a similarly culture-minded coalition of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, Catamount Arts and St. J Academy. Neither group is the first to take this strength-in-numbers approach, but it makes good sense for towns with such notable institutions to coordinate efforts and share resources in these financially challenging times.

History1Next month, the BCA (not to be confused with Burlington City Arts) presents a series geared to local little folks: Story Time in Barre is a "celebration of children's literature and books." But the variety of activities, talks and exhibits at each of the five venues offers something for story lovers of all ages. 

The Aldrich Public Library kicks things off on June 1 with a panel discussion about the children's book collection of Emily Proctor, the marble industry in Vermont and the lives of early immigrants from Europe who came here to work. 

The rest of the month brings a film and photo exhibit collectively called "Children on Strike"; a performance of Alice in Wonderland by Berlin's Moving Light Dance; a theater workshop for kids; a show from the Book Arts Guild of Vermont; and numerous other exhibits and activities.

The BCA aims to be a resource for other organizations, too, such as Montpelier Alive, the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce and media outlets. See schedule of activities here.

Photos: Top, courtesy of Barre Opera House (1912); bottom, Studio Place Arts.

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