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Live Culture: Vermont Arts News and Views

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July 2013

July 15, 2013

Alpenglow Play at Church Street's Let It Rain Concert Series


Weather permitting, a walk down Burlington's Church Street will generally put you in contact with two things: dogs and live music. Of the former, most are leashed and owned. Of the latter, most is free. And because of its free-ness, live music might appear to passersby as a gift from the gods — or maybe the Church Street Marketplace Commission.

 A conversation with Peter Coccoma of Alpenglow, who played for last Wednesday night’s Let It Rain Concert Series, offers an earthly perspective.

 The five-piece folk-rock band took the stage only 10 days after completing a monthlong tour.

 “We went from Portland, Maine, to North Carolina and everywhere in between,” said Coccoma. “We played 22 shows in 30 days.”

They returned to their Burlington base in good spirits, a condition that defied the preemptive warnings of fellow musicians.

Continue reading "Alpenglow Play at Church Street's Let It Rain Concert Series" »

Seen From the Road: Vergennes' Victory Baptist Church Messages Passersby


Most Route 7 commuters know the quirky landmarks between Burlington and points south by heart: the camel that grazes with sheep, the colorful Adirondack guideboats and the burned-down BBQ place, to name a few Ferrisburgh favorites. Seven Days intern Meredith White, who lives in Middlebury, has logged many hours on Route 7 this summer. She decided to pull over recently and get the scoop on another landmark: the eye-catching sign with the ever-changing slogans outside a little white church in Vergennes.

Victory Baptist Church's marquee stands triumphantly alongside Route 7 — triumphant because Vermont's 1968 billboard banishment made marquee ministry a challenge for Pastor Tim Taylor.

"This is actually a very expensive sign," he told me when I met him in the church's dusty gravel parking lot. "It's not easy to get marquees in Vermont."

The church's roadside real estate makes attracting congregants easy. After miles of serene countryside landscapes, with nothing but clouds and cows competing for drivers' attention, the marquee is almost impossible to miss. Windows down, WVTK crooning and miles of roadway to eat up — what better time to consider accepting Christ into your life?

Not that the Victory Baptist Church is hungrily scouting converts. On a recent day, a whole busload of churchgoers waited in the parking lot. Taylor said it was only after 9/11 that he appealed his initally declined sign permit request. 

"We needed a message of peace and hope to minister to the community," he explained. 

And voilà! Request granted. 

"We try to do a little bit of humor, a little bit of Bible, and a little bit of community," he added. The flip side of the sign pictured above currently advertises enrollment in the church's preschool. And if the lack of secularity hurts your eyes, there's always the nondenominational diversion of the Green Mountains to the east.

Continue reading "Seen From the Road: Vergennes' Victory Baptist Church Messages Passersby " »

July 12, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: Girl Model

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 3.04.00 PMThis week in movies you missed: Who are those girls in the glossy photos — not the supermodels, but the other ones? Where do they come from? How old are they? What do they earn? A documentary peers into one dark corner of the modeling industry.

What You Missed

In Siberia, teenagers flock to a modeling casting call. They all dream of a contract and a ticket to Tokyo.

Ashley Arbaugh, a model scout, is searching for young, "fresh," malleable girls to send to Japan. She finds one: an ethereal 13-year-old from a small village named Nadya Vall. The contract promises Nadya two modeling jobs and at least $8000, so her parents, who aren't well off, agree to send her off on her own. 

No one meets Nadya at the Tokyo airport. She speaks no Japanese or English. When she finally makes her way to her housing, she discovers she's already in debt to her employer, who will put her on a plane back to Russia if her waist expands by a single centimeter.

Filmmakers David Redmon and Ashley Sabin follow Nadya as she tries to navigate the cold metropolis, then return to Arbaugh — back in the U.S. — who has harsh words for her own profession.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: Girl Model" »

July 11, 2013

Rod MacIver to Close Heron Dance After Nearly 20-Year Run

618-SOTA-HeronRod MacIver is following a rough patch with liberation: ending Heron Dance Art Studio.

He's been selling his nature- and Tao-inspired paintings, prints, books, greeting cards and other items — and writing a daily contemplative e-newsletter for thousands of subscribers — for almost two decades. Years ago MacIver had a gallery in Middlebury; more recently, he had a short-lived one in Winooski, which I wrote about in February.

Most of his business, though, is handled through his website. Now, the word "liquidation" is in the pull-down menu, and the listed contents are 50 percent off.

Continue reading "Rod MacIver to Close Heron Dance After Nearly 20-Year Run" »

July 09, 2013

Read About Jay Craven and "Place-Based Cinema" in Orion Magazine

NbsyrupbigHow many Hollywood movies reflect the way you live? If you live outside New York and LA, not many, argues Bill Kauffman in the current issue of Massachusetts-based Orion magazine. In an article called "On Location," Kauffman touts Vermont's Jay Craven as a leading producer of authentically regional, "place-based cinema."

"What if...," Kauffman asks, "a filmmaker who lived far off the beaten path — say, in Vermont — made a movie based on a book by his region’s most acclaimed novelist? And then he made another. And another. And what if these works looked and sounded, glowered and sang, like their state, like sugar houses and mud seasons and hootenannies?"

While some might point out there's more to Vermont than sugar houses, mud seasons and hootenannies, Kauffman makes a cogent case for local filmmaking. Read it here.

Read more about the making of Northern Borders here. And, if the topic interests you, join Craven and Orion for a live webinar discussion on July 16 at 4 p.m. It's free, but you must register here.

 Photo: Bruce Dern in Craven's Northern Borders.

Shelburne Museum's New Arts and Education Center Gets a Name


Build it and they will ... name it after you?

The Shelburne Museum has announced the long-awaited moniker for its not-even-open-yet Arts and Education Center, and it is Pizzagalli! Which is a good thing, because "Arts and Education Center" is really boring. "Pizzagalli" has, well, pizzazz.

So named for James, Angelo and Remo Pizzagalli and their families, the beautiful stone-and-glass facility officially opens on August 18. 

The Pizzagallis are not only builders (PC Construction); they are notable local philanthropists. James is past chair and current member of the board of trustees, and the family is credited as "longtime museum benefactors" in a press release issued this morning. Said James:

We believe strongly in Shelburne Museum’s mission and are proud to see the institution move forward with this building and with a year-round program of educational offerings and exhibitions.

Inside the center, two wings are separately named for other generous donors: The Theodore H. Church Exhibition Wing, after the late art collector and owner of Superior Technical Ceramics Corp. in St. Albans; and the J. Warren McClure and Family Education Wing, honoring a well-known philanthropic clan. 

The Pizzagalli Center is part of an ongoing $14 million capital campaign, which includes an endowment to sustain operations of the building, as well as to install a fiber-optic communications network throughout the 45-acre campus. If Electra Havemeyer Webb could see her museum now!

Expect a ribbon cutting and daylong festivities on Sunday, August 18.


What's in a Name? You Say Winooski, I Say Onion


Name-tag-winooskiThe first installment in this series suggested that the settlement south of the mouth of the Winooski River came to be called "Burlington" because of a clerical error.

This week, we're tracing the origins of that river's name. And this etymological investigation appears to lead to a marketing ploy by 18th-century real estate speculators.

"The river's name has caused more dispute than any other place name in Vermont," historian Esther Munroe Swift wrote in her 1977 book, Vermont Place Names. Disagreements begin with how to render into English the Algonquin (or Abenaki) word for the 95-mile-long river that rises in Cabot and empties into Lake Champlain.

To Swift, it's "Winooskitook" — which, she tells us, should be pronounced "Weenooskee." Frederick Wiseman, an Abenaki scholar, transliterates the name as "Winosik" in an essay included in The Mills at Winooski Falls, edited by Laura Krawitt. And local historian Vincent Feeney goes with "Winoskitegw" in his 2002 book, The Great Falls on the Onion River: A History of Winooski, Vermont.

These and other historians do agree — more or less — on the English definition of the Abenaki word. Its root means "onion" or "leek," they all say, noting that the tangy bulb once flourished in wild profusion along the river's banks.

Continue reading "What's in a Name? You Say Winooski, I Say Onion" »

July 08, 2013

The Read on 'Legendary Locals of Burlington'

Legendary-locals-1Fitting Burlington into a book is no easy task. The eccentric gamut of its residents included in Robert J. Resnik’s recently released Legendary Locals of Burlington leaves you with a sense of just why that may be.

Forty years as a Burlington resident and 13 as a reference librarian at the Fletcher Free Library qualify Resnik for this job, for the story of Burlington is catalogued in its people. (Full disclosure: He is an occasional contributor to Seven Days.)

Arcadia Publishing approached Resnik to write the Burlington installment in its Legendary Locals series.

"You get these emails that say, 'Congratulations, you have been selected for the jerks of New England. Write the book and you'll receive your $25 check in the mail,'" Resnik quipped in a phone call.

But that email lingered in his inbox until he decided to take on the challenge of writing short-and-sweet stories about nearly 100 Queen City residents, past and present, who have some claim to fame. More than 200 photographs help tell their tales.

"It's amazing how I got a real sense of responsibility," Resnik said. "What can you do in 120 pages of pictures and captions? There's no way you can touch all the bases."

As a self-professed foodie and music nut, Resnik resisted the urge to weight the book too heavily toward his personal interests. Instead, he divvied up Burlington's "legends" into seven chapters and included an introduction detailing Burlington's origins as a township, granted on June 7, 1763. A century later, the lucrative trading post founded by Ethan and Ira Allen evolved into the city of Burlington. And the rest is history, literally. Legendary Locals brings us up to entries as recent as Dave and Jenny Rooke, who began home-brewing all-natural Rookie's Root Beer in 2005.

"With every entry I had to ask, 'Has this person really done something to make Burlington what it is today?'" said Resnik, explaining the challenge of winnowing down the multitude of eligible candidates.

Continue reading "The Read on 'Legendary Locals of Burlington'" »

July 05, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Tall Man

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 10.41.30 AMThis week in movies you missed: If you found this 2012 thriller randomly on Netflix Instant, you'd probably assume it was a standard vehicle for Jessica Biel. You'd be wrong: The Tall Man isn't standard anything.

What You Missed

One by one, children have been disappearing from the dying Washington mining town of Cold Rock. Eighteen are gone so far, and police have no leads. For the townspeople, the abductor has become a quasi-mythical figure: the "Tall Man."

Biel plays nurse Julia Denning, who staffs Cold Rock's rudimentary health clinic. When a woman comes in with her teenage daughter — pregnant by her mother's boyfriend and about to give birth — Julia does what she can for them. She coaxes the teen's selectively mute sister (Jodelle Ferland) to talk.

Julia does her best for her small child at home, too, sheltering him from the realities of life in Cold Rock. Then, one night, a black-dressed abductor appears on her doorstep.

Continue reading "Movies You Missed & More: The Tall Man" »

Raves for Sandglass Theater's "D-Generation"

D-Generation Florence-278x500For Alzheimer's patients memories are elusive, but as far as Doug Anderson is concerned, "D-Generation" is unforgettable.

In addition to the usual publicity avenues, the executive director of Middlebury's Town Hall Theater is sending personal emails extolling the latest work by Sandglass Theater. Sure, he has a little conflict of interest: Sandglass' "D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks" is appearing tonight and tomorrow at THT.

But Anderson is not the only one raving about this puppet-theater piece based on stories written collaboratively with individuals with late-stage dementia.

"The idea of sensitively portraying Alzheimer's patients with puppets proved inspired," writes Boston's Hub Review. "Sandglass has developed some superbly realized marionettes."

Fans of Putney-based puppeteers Erik Bass and Ines Zeller Bass already know the extraordinary artistry of their work, and that the couple has tackled heady topics before, using texts from the likes of Bertolt Brecht and Jewish literary critic Walter Benjamin. Of course, Sandglass has created child-centric pieces as well (think flea circus, or a hippo who lives in a tree).

"D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks" seems a work of another order. Its three puppeteers act as the caregivers, its five puppets residents of a senior care facility. Set to original music by Paul Dedell, the text derives from the "complex world" of individuals living with dementia and those who take care of them. It was created using TimeSlips, an improvisational storytelling technique developed by Anne Basting for individuals with cognitive impairments.

A serious and frightening subject for many, memory loss is also, sadly, germane to just about all of us. According to a description on its website, Sandglass explores the "dark private terror" of dementia, but also its playful moments and "lyrical inner visions."

Continue reading "Raves for Sandglass Theater's "D-Generation"" »

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