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Live Culture: Vermont Arts News and Views

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July 2013

July 31, 2013

What's in a Name? On the Trail of Edmunds, Barnes, Wheeler, Hunt and Flynn

Name-tag-b-town-schoolsBurlington residents can easily deduce the sources of the straightforward names of two of the city’s nine public schools: Burlington High School and Champlain Elementary. But who was Lyman C. Hunt? How about Lawrence Barnes? H.O. Wheeler? And did Edmunds even have a first name?

Don’t look to those schools’ websites for answers. They have nothing to say about the historical figures who gave them their names. That seems odd, given today’s obsession with localism. Besides, doesn’t a school have a responsibility to acquaint its students with some basic facts of history — starting with, say, information about the person for whom it is named?

Props, then, to J.J. Flynn and C.P. Smith elementary schools, both in the New North End, for providing easily accessible biographical summaries of their namesakes.

Continue reading "What's in a Name? On the Trail of Edmunds, Barnes, Wheeler, Hunt and Flynn" »

Soundbites Extra

Since I spent the entirety of this week's Soundbites column raving about last weekend's thoroughly excellent Precipice festival, here are news and notes that would have been included had the Precipice not been so freakin' awesome. 


Didn't get an invite to this Friday's Daysies awards party at the ECHO Center? Actually, I'm jealous. Because that means you'll be free to take to the high seas with two of Burlington's hardest-rocking outfits, Waylon Speed and Rough Francis. (While I will be gamely pretending to enjoy schmoozing at the party. I hate schmoozing.)

WS and RF will be rocking aboard the Lake Champlain Ferry this Friday, August 2, as part of the MSR Presents-presented Rock the Boat. Aside from telling you the cruise departs the King Street ferry dock at precisely 7 p.m., and that you can get tix here, I'm not really sure what else I need to say about it. It's two awesome local bands. On a boat. If I need to explain why that's awesome, you're beyond my help. But what do you think, Artie Lange?



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July 30, 2013

New Tunes: Swale, "Middlesex"

OK, so Swale's "Middlesex" isn't really a "new tune," per se. For one thing, it was released by the Burlington art-rockers last October on their most recent full-length, A Small Arrival. That's not even considering that the record was some seven-plus years in the making, meaning "Middlesex" is … um, actually a pretty old song. However, the video for the song — that, my friends, is brand spanking new! Swale just released it this week, although judging by the gray light and foliage, it's a safe bet they started filming last fall. Whatever. Much like A Small Arrival, we think the "Middlesex" video was more than worth the wait. Enjoy.


Burlington Artist Mark Boedges Wins Plein Air Painting Competition

P502sAnyone who's been to his Battery Street gallery knows Mark Boedges is an excellent landscape painter, and one who has dedicated himself to the exacting artistic tradition of en plein air painting.

This past weekend, that was confirmed anew when Boedges took home top honors in the Door County Plein Air Festival in Wisconsin, for his work "Niagara Escarpment" (right).

Boedges also won the Artists' Choice Award for another painting, "Sturgeon Shipyard," which features, um, ships in a yard.

Both paintings are oil on canvas, 14 by 20 inches. Not surprisingly, both also sold.

Personally, I'm enamored with "Downtown Bethel," Boedges' 12-by-18-inch oil rendering of the now-calm river scene (pictured below right) that was a roaring, destructive force during Tropical Storm Irene two years ago. And that one, according to the painter's website, is still for sale. Hmmm.

Anyway, this exhibition adds another couple notches to the artist's belt. Guess this sitting outdoors and painting for hours on end thing can pay off.

In December 2011, Megan James wrote a profile of the Mark Boedges Gallery for Seven Days. You can read it here.

Congratulations to Boedges, and many happy repeats.



July 26, 2013

Photographer Peter Miller Roasts a Pig to Celebrate His New Book — And You're Invited

Fred Tuttle by Peter Miller

Peter Miller has much to celebrate this weekend. The 78-year-old photographer, known for his searing black-and-white portraits of Vermonters, recently published a gorgeous book called A Lifetime of Vermont People. But the process was a long haul.

"It was more than a slow boat," Miller writes on his blog. "The printer had to reprint the edition because of a singular mistake (their mistake and they made good on it). I missed signings, lost sales, came close to losing the shallow grip I have on this world."

A year and a half since Miller began writing the book, it was finally released on July 15. "It all ends," he writes, "with a pig roast at my home in Colbyville on July 27th."

That's tomorrow, at 2 p.m., two houses south of the Ben & Jerry's factory on Route 100. The whole pig, Miller says, will be ready for eating at 4 p.m.

If you've preordered a copy of the book, or if you buy one at the roast — Miller is offering them at a 10-percent discount — that's your ticket to the event. 

And just for fun, Miller and his assistant, Kyle Green, will be wearing pig masks.

For more information, visit

Movies You Missed & More: The Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 11.37.41 AMThis week in movies you missed: My search for entertaining summer schlock on Netflix Instant continues. Who could resist a title like this?

What You Missed

In 2007, writer-director-exec producer Jaymes Thompson brought the world this ultra-low-budget camp-stravaganza shot in Tucson, Ariz.

Five gay couples headed to the "biggest gay party weekend of the year" find themselves forced to lodge at a run-down B&B owned by creepily dolled-up Helen (Mari Marks) and her daughter, Luella (Georgia Jean).

Despite a rainbow flag flying in front of the B&B, there are early clues something's amiss. Such as the inn's name, Sahara Salvation. The mincemeat muffins Luella offers to guests. (One contains an earring.) The way Helen introduces Luella as "my very lovely and still single daughter." The fact that each room is stocked with five or so Bibles Sharpied with anti-gay messages. Oh, and the shrine to George W. Bush.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Gay Bed & Breakfast of Terror" »

July 24, 2013

Light Show Brightens Up Burlington's Gloomy Moran Plant

O'donnell 003
Ever since its decommissioning 37 years ago, the Moran Plant has hulked lifelessly over the Burlington waterfront. And while the abandoned coal-fired power plant won't be revivified anytime soon, it's temporarily become a little less of a gloomy presence.

Burlington artist Sarah O Donnell has rigged up a light show at the top level of Moran's interior that blinks colorfully from dusk to dawn, readily visible to anyone looking at the southern exterior of the plant. "A Visible Night," as O Donnell titles her work, will remain in operation through September 21.

She's hung 18 silk sheets along a row of now-glassless windows just below Moran's roof line and above the "City of Burlington" inscription on the brick facade. A swiveling beam of light is powered via a 500-foot series of extension cords plugged into the plant's only functioning socket far below O Donnell's installation. Like a zoetrope, the light plays quickly along the row of silks arranged as a color spectrum — from cool blues and greens on the eastern end, to warm reds and purples along the part closer to the lake.

Moran appears to be sending out signals. Maybe it's trying to tell onlookers, "I'm not dead! See — I've got a pulse!"

O Donnell's aim, she explains, was "to show Moran a little love."

It sure can use it. The interior fills her with "foreboding," O Donnell confessed during a tour of the ghostly interior on Tuesday evening. That's partly because of the racoons — maybe rabid, maybe not — that lurk in the unlit space where she installed her work. With its many unfenced pits that drop to the lake or into some seemingly bottomless darkness, the place is also just flat-out dangerous. Graffiti sprayed on crumbling cement-block walls adds a sinister note. Plus, the plant is a toxic-waste site.  O'donnell 005

O Donnell, who moved to Vermont a year ago after earning an MFA from Ohio State University, says she's done a lot of artwork involving abandoned buildings, including a suite of photos of a ghost town in Montana. But there's a special discomfort to being in Moran, O Donnell adds.

It's not as though she hates the place, however. In fact, O Donnell says she hopes her show helps accelerate the move to redevelop Moran in some still-undecided manner.

Standing on a shaky walkway at the top level of the plant as darkness gathered, O Donnell said her status as a newcomer to Burlington allowed her to focus on the plant's architecture rather than on the politics that have produced the decades-long stalemate on redevelopment. And although city officials have been "amazing" in their assistance with the project, O Donnell noted she "didn't want too much information" from them about Moran. "I wanted to work from my gut."

The result puts a smile on a building that's been glowering at Burlington for a long time. And O Donnell's simple but ingenious project will likely have the same effect on all who see it.

"A Visible Night" was made possible with funding from Burlington City Arts. A show related to O Donnell's piece can be seen on the second floor of the BCA Center on Church Street.

Ready to Move on From Some Artwork? Bryan Memorial Gallery Can Help

045 Lucca, ItalyAnyone who collects, inherits or otherwise acquires art knows the slightly guilty feeling when you're just not that into it anymore. Maybe you never liked it in the first place. Or maybe you've moved and don't have enough wall or storage space.

Whatever the issue, Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville has come up with a way to divest, guilt-free: Put the work in an exhibit titled "Hidden Treasures" and hope it sells to another loving collector.

There's one caveat, though: The artist of said work must be deceased. Also, not just any old thing will do —  a panel of artists will jury the worth of each applicant. So forget about that paint-by-number collection you've been meaning to off-load.

The chosen works will be exhibited during November and December in the gallery's Middle Room. For more info, contact [email protected] or check out the prospectus at

Image by Paul Goodnow above, which was in last year's show, courtesy of Bryan Memorial Gallery.

Harry Bliss-Designed PETA Chicken Rebuffed by City of Salem

Chicken-statue405tallDon't you hate it when you design a giant chicken and then can't put it to good use?

Burlington artist/cartoonist Harry Bliss, better known for his work in the New Yorker, numerous children's books and, we hope, in Seven Days, designed a chicken for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The fully realized, 3-D fowl was ostensibly to be used for protests against, say, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

In Salem, Ore., PETA hoped to use its "crippled chicken" as a roadside memorial for hundreds of actual chickens that sadly perished earlier this month when a delivery truck carrying 5400 of them crashed. The driver was speeding and caused the truck to overturn, according to Oregon's, which added:

The statue “would serve as a reminder not only to livestock haulers to take extra precautions with their live cargo but also to city residents that chickens are among the most abused animals on the planet and the best way to try to prevent crashes like this is to go vegan so that chickens don't have to make the trip to the slaughterhouse in the first place,” PETA spokeswoman Shakira Croce said in a news release.

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July 23, 2013

What's in a Name? Not Horned Animals Having Sex in the Streets

Nametag-rutland Would Burlington have become the coolest place on earth if it were named Bummerton? Maybe not. So is an unfortunate handle what's been holding back Rutland?

The lack of a university and a scenic lake probably accounts more for Rutland's rep than does a name with at least a couple of negative connotations. But if a do-over could be arranged, branding specialists would surely recommend calling the city, the town and the county something other than Land of Rut.

As an anonymous chatter pointed out in an online forum in 2010, the name suggests "someplace people are stuck in and can't get out of. Either that, or horned animals having sex in the streets."

There's also the Rutles.

Former Monty Python member Eric Idle created this Beatles parody band for BBC television in the 1970s. He named the group for England's smallest county — a landlocked, nondescript placed viewed by hip Londoners as a sad-arse backwater. Yes, the Rutles came from Rutland.

Jokes about mental depression, badly maintained roads and moose in heat are cracked only by those who "want to see it in a negative way," objects Mike Coppinger, director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership. "I've lived in Rutland all my life, and I've never perceived it like that."

Continue reading "What's in a Name? Not Horned Animals Having Sex in the Streets" »

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