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Live Culture: Vermont Arts News and Views


February 06, 2014

No New Lease for Winooski Circle Arts — Yet

Sota-mt-LisaCowan010814Last December we reported in Seven Days that Liza Cowan and Jodi Harrington had launched Winooski Circle Arts, featuring artworks and gift items by local artists, at a sunny venue on the Winooski traffic circle. In January, Cowan told us the landlord was not renewing their lease and they would be closing up the shop on January 15. However, she was in negotiations for another location nearby.

Today Cowan let us know the unhappy news: "Negotiations failed for the new lease for Winooski Circle Arts. So no store, at least for the time being."

Cowan and Harrington both have been avid supporters and purveyors of local arts, and we're certain this isn't the end of the story. "We will have to see what the future brings," Cowan says. 

File photo of Cowan in the shop by Matthew Thorsen.

February 04, 2014

They All Fall Down: Domino Extravaganza in Brattleboro

There is something terrifically satisfying about watching a careful array of dominoes collapse. Maybe it's the pleasing clickety-click, or the careful design, or (my candidate) the ephemerality of the whole thing. It takes hours, maybe days, to set up one of those complicated, thousands-of-dominoes arrays, and just a couple minutes for the whole thing to come crashing down.

But then, that's the whole point, right?

Aficionados of tiny, colorful, clacking controlled chaos need to get themselves to the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center for the Seventh Annual Domino Toppling Extravaganza on Monday, February 17, at 5 p.m. Thousands upon thousands of the colorful little tiles will fall on cue to the delight of onlookers.

Last year, the event set a record: 27,134 dominoes. The video of that event is huge fun to watch. Check it out below.

Continue reading "They All Fall Down: Domino Extravaganza in Brattleboro" »

February 03, 2014

Edward Koren Chosen as Next Vermont Cartoonist Laureate

Ed-BioFWWhen he learned he's to be the next cartoonist laureate of Vermont, Brookfield resident and longtime New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren said, he was "touched and bemused by it all." It's a typically low-key, self-deprecating response from the guy who has drawn more than a thousand wryly witty cartoons. Featuring hairy creatures with long noses, the single panels gently skewer human foibles — particularly those of the overly earnest, PC-obsessed type.

"It's a goof in a way, isn't it?" Koren said, then immediately began to riff on the idea of a laureate. "I'm growing indoor laurels — I'm making a wreath." He paused a beat and then added, "Maybe one made of copper so I can wear it year-round in Vermont."

Koren will be recognized on the Statehouse floor, with or without wreath, on Thursday, February 27. He's just the second cartoonist laureate of Vermont, following on the heels of Burlington's James Kochalka.

During his three-year term, Kochalka presented cartooning workshops all over the state, created a poster celebrating winter in Vermont and collaborated with Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea to produce the Vermont Double Laureate Team-Up book for the Vermont Arts Summit last fall.

Will Koren follow suit? That remains to be seen. He will be giving a public lecture following the Statehouse recognition, though, at 3 p.m. at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction.

Continue reading "Edward Koren Chosen as Next Vermont Cartoonist Laureate" »

January 30, 2014

Local DIY Artist Sticks It to the Man With Veggie-Anarchist Stickers

"Beet the system." "Overgrow the government." "Squash the state." "Berry the President."

For those who like their anarchy served up with a side of veggies, local DIY artists Ben Levitt, who prefers the moniker "breakfast," Jess Cullity and friends have been doling out stickers printed with such slogans for more than a decade. The catchy vegetable puns are accompanied by his striking black-and-white graphics.

Beet the system

It began, breakfast recalls, in 2000 when he and Cullity — both West Woodbury residents — developed the concept for "Beet the System." The pair printed the image on stickers with their own funds and passed them around for free. Like the viral Eat More Kale shirts, developed the same year by Montpelier-based artist Bo Muller-Moore, the concept really took off.

"People just kept asking for more vegetable puns," breakfast recalls. 

And since he and Cullity are strongly opposed to copyright laws, they made it easy for people to access their images. Anyone can download the masters online, then tweak, reprint and redistribute them. The artists don't mind — in fact, they get a kick out of it. 

"I love the whole DIY movement," says breakfast. "I'm not into the art world, such as it is, but I do love to do artwork."

Continue reading "Local DIY Artist Sticks It to the Man With Veggie-Anarchist Stickers" »

January 27, 2014

Team Vermont Represents in International Snow Sculpting Competition

Team Vermont's entry into the 2011 International Snow Sculpture Competition. (Photo courtesy of Michael Nedell)

UPDATE BELOW: January 27, 2014

By late January, many Vermonters have had their fill of snow. But one small group of Burlington artists not only loves it but needs it. Snow is their medium.

“I’ve been making big, strange things in my garage as long as I’ve had a garage,” says Michael Nedell, a potter and sculptor as well as partner and CTO of the Burlington-based company Localvore Today. When he saw some snow sculptures on the Burlington waterfront during the city's Winter Fest in 1999, he was immediately hooked.

Over the years since then, Nedell and three other local artists — Adrian Tans, Brooke Monte and Alex Dostie — won the state snow-sculpting competition seven times, and as "Team Vermont" have represented their state in national competitions seven times. They've consistently placed in the top six teams and came in second two years. Last year, they won.

Lindsay J. Westley interviewed the team in Seven Days just before their successful trip to Wisconsin.

Around the third week of January 2014, Team Vermont will travel to snowy Breckinridge, Colo., to compete in the Budweiser International Snow Sculpture Championships. They’ll be one of just three American teams in competition, and the only one from Vermont. (The other two are from Colorado.)

The Vermonters are eager to represent their state in the contest. Nedell says that their goal is not only to win at the international level but “to show the world that people from Vermont have a serious aesthetic sense and a serious skill set when it comes to crafting.”

Sixteen teams from all over the world have entered the competition; snowier regions are well represented, with teams from Iceland, Finland, Russia, Estonia and two from Mongolia. Curiously, several countries not generally associated with snow — Spain, Mexico and Italy — also will field teams.

Even if the competitors from warmer climes forget their fur-lined hats, the event is sponsored by Budweiser, after all, so there’ll be plenty of liquid body-warmer on hand. “And the Germans make margaritas every year,” notes Nedell. Go figure.

Each team is composed of four members, and they’ll have a total of 65 hours to carve a 10-by-10-by-12-foot block of snow into ... something. There are no restrictions on the artistic content of the sculptures (besides the generally accepted bounds of family friendliness), but teams are forbidden from using dyes, armatures or power tools. Only hand tools — saws, wire and carving devices of various types — are permitted.

And the only acceptable materials all have the chemical formula H2O: snow, water and ice.

You may be thinking, Hey, I’ve been known to make a mean snowman — honey, let’s pack our bags for Colorado!

Not so fast. This competition is invitation only. The event’s committee sent out invites in July to 250 teams, who then have about three months to submit their designs as sketches. On the strengths of those sketches, 16 competing teams are chosen. 

Team Vermont's sketch of a sculpture called "Fugue" — of a conductor surrounded by a cylinder of swirling musical notes — is below.

Continue reading "Team Vermont Represents in International Snow Sculpting Competition" »

January 24, 2014

Barre City Place Sculpture Honors History of Granite Workers

Coffee BreakIf you've been through downtown Barre and wondered what's under that tarp outside the brand-new Barre City Place building, here's a hint: coffee.

That is, "Coffee Break," Heather Ritchie's sculpture that speaks to the camaraderie and labor of the city's granite workers and stone carvers. And she should know. The Plainfield artist has spent some five years in the granite sheds herself.

Ritchie's commissioned piece is the first in the Stone Sculpture Legacy Program supported by the Charles Semprebon Fund. More works will be sited in the city over the next few years.

In the photo at right, Ritchie and Joe Calcagni of the Granite Corporation of Barre are setting the sculpture. See the lunchpail and Thermos at right?

Studio Place Arts director Sue Higby, who coordinates the program, has this to say in a recent announcement about Ritchie's work:

The sparely elegant sculpture recreates idle stone blocks waiting to be shaped where workers set down their cutters tools, lunch pails and coffees for a scheduled break. Four blocks of stone are arranged in a horseshoe shape to encourage people to enter the space and interact with the sculptures. The blocks of exposed granite showcase the natural beauty of the stone and invite viewers to rest on the blocks, touch the life size tools on the stone surfaces, and consider the work ethic of the men and women toiling in local sheds. 

"Coffee Break" will be unveiled in a ceremony on Wednesday, January 29, at 4 p.m.

Winooski Sculptor Leslie Fry Wins Kohler Residency

New colossalThe name Kohler may suggest toilets and bathtubs, but in fact it gets much artier. The Sheboygan, Wisc.-based company's John Michael Kohler Arts Center offers Arts/Industry residencies that enable artists from around the country to use its foundry and pottery facilities.

The residencies, which range from two to six months, also include travel and housing, a stipend and a featured exhibition at the arts center. Sweet deal.

This week Kohler announced the 16 recipients chosen for 2014, and Winooski-based sculptor Leslie Fry is on the list. It will be her second residency there.

With a distinct artistic vocabulary, Fry synthesizes elements of architecture, botany, mythology and human forms in her work. Her sculptures and works on paper have been exhibited internationally since 1977, from Seoul, South Korea, to Paris, France, to the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum in Burlington. The results of her commissions reside in numerous museums. The bronze piece pictured here, "Colossal AcornHead," is at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass.


January 13, 2014

Director Werner Herzog's Latest Film Is a Vermont Exclusive

UPDATES BELOW: 12/26/13 & 1/14/13

Though the semester is nearly over, a film class at the University of Vermont has welcomed a new student: acclaimed director Werner Herzog.

Herzog, who has been making films since the early 1960s and is best known for his films Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Grizzly Man and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, has been an artist-in-residence at Dartmouth College for the past semester, working with students and speaking at public screenings of his films.

UVM professor Peter Gruner Shellenberger, a visiting lecturer in film and photography, recently took some students in one of his filmmaking classes to Hanover to hear Herzog speak about his films. Shellenberger brought to the event a vintage Super-8 camera, preloaded with film and, at the Q&A session, asked Herzog if he would use the camera to make a film for the UVM students.

To Shellenberger's surprise, Herzog agreed.

"Did I think he would do this?" asks Shellenberger rhetorically. "Never in a million years. But, then, there’s a part of me that maybe knew that he would be open to it," he adds, referring to Herzog's reputation for unusual film projects.

Two weeks after giving Herzog the camera, Shellenberger received it in the mail, with a roll of unexposed film still inside it. Herzog also included a few unusual conditions:

What should happen is the following: please develop the film and hand it over to your students. My demand is the following: they have to make films, collectively or individually, which should include my footage. Obviously, they do not need to take everything, nor in the order I filmed the material.

The title of their film/films has to be WHERE’S DA PARTY AT?

In my footage this appears in one of the graffiti, and at least this portion of the text should appear in the film, or all the films.

Continue reading "Director Werner Herzog's Latest Film Is a Vermont Exclusive" »

Nail Man John Bisbee Brings Contemporary Art to the Shelburne Museum

Bisbee1Since construction began on the Pizzagalli Center for Arts and Education, excitement built about having a venue open year-round at the Shelburne Museum — and one that would enable the beloved folk art institution to exhibit current work in a state-of-the-art gallery.

So it's apropos somehow that an artist whose medium is building nails is the Pizzagalli's first contemporary artist (the venue opened last fall with an exhibition from the permanent collection). His medium is also in a line historically with the museum's collection of metal pieces, not to mention the blacksmith shop.

Maine sculptor and longtime Bowdoin College art prof John Bisbee (pictured right at his exhibit installation) employs foot-long nails — they're called Bright Common nails, I learned — to create both wall-mounted and freestanding works. Despite their heft and scale, they are graceful and elegant — and yet playful.

I'll be reviewing the show, "New Blooms," which opens this Saturday, in Seven Days at a later date, but wanted to note what fun my sneak preview last week was — both because the show was a revelation and seeing it come together even more so, and because its creator is, as museum director Tom Denenberg calls him, a "hurricane." In a good way.

Bisbee is warm, engaging, funny, direct and unconventional. No cooler-than-thou vibe here. His kinetic energy and enthusiasm is contagious; It was clear that he had charmed the socks off the museum staff, and kept his own crew — a mixture of students from Maine and relatives from Vermont — on task with wit, good cheer and a lot of positive reinforcement.

The ability to make everyone feel good while working hard is a gift, but no more so than Bisbee's way with nails. If it sounds simplistic to work with just one material, it is — and it isn't. You try inventing a polygonous form from welded steel nails whose sides resemble flowers and you'll see. Never mind then arranging dozens of these floral forms into a wall sculpture ("Floresco") that looks different from every angle.

Continue reading "Nail Man John Bisbee Brings Contemporary Art to the Shelburne Museum" »

January 03, 2014

Winooski Circle Arts Loses Lease, Looks for New Home

Lizacowen121113With barely three months behind it, the cooperative gallery Winooski Circle Arts — yes, facing the infamous traffic circle — was informed by building owner Hall Keen that it had to move out by January 15. Co-owner Liza Cowan sent a letter to members of the nascent co-op yesterday giving them the bad news.

But, she said, there is also good news — almost. Cowan is in negotiations for another space "that will be even better than the one we are now in," and hopes to announce that next week.

Cowan put a positive spin on the developments:

When we started with the pop-ups in 2011, none of the commercial spaces were occupied, and it seemed nobody wanted them. When artists move in, they make a neighborhood exciting and desirable, and then others, with more income and cash flow, want to move in.

In the case of the Hall Keen building, this has been a good thing. This year oak45, the new bar, opened its doors, then Salon Salon, the hair salon, moved in, and soon Misery Loves Company will open its bakery. These are all wonderful, local businesses and we are happy that they are here, and wish them all the very best success.

Seven Days wrote — too optimistically, it turned out — about WCA settling in "to stay" in a State of the Arts story, and in our year-end follow-ups. But Cowan and fellow owner Jodi Harrington are nothing if not doggedly determined to show and sell art in Winooski. We have no doubt they'll find a new home. Meantime, the store is open 11-5 through January 15.

Stay tuned for updates.

Matthew Thorsen file photo of Winooski Circle Arts interior in December.



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