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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.

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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."

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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.



December 13, 2013

BCA to Buy UVM's Fine-Metals Equipment, Set Up Studio

Sota-peters-ripls112713Here's a feel-good story for the end of the year. It's a story about perfect serendipity, and turning lemons into lemonade.

"Lemons" in this case were the news that the University of Vermont art department was going to phase out its fine-metals program upon the retirement this year of its longtime instructor, Laurie Peters. (An example of her work is pictured here.)

That news was part of a November 27 article I wrote about a then-upcoming exhibit featuring jewelry by Peters and a number of her former students, who have gone on to make beautiful, sculptural work and names for themselves. Names such as Timothy Grannis, Jacob Albee and Jane Koplewitz, among others.

That exhibit opened on Wednesday with a buzzing reception at Von Bargen's in downtown Burlington, and continues through December 18.

But on to the lemonade.

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November 22, 2013

Vermont Blacksmith Steven Bronstein Chosen for USPO Hanukkah Stamp

Hanukkah stampAvid philatelists, aka stamp collectors, were probably among the first to learn that Steven Bronstein, a blacksmith who operates Blackthorne Forge in Marshfield, was the lucky winner of the U.S. Post Office's Hanukkah stamp design this year. That is, his wrought-iron menorah was chosen to be photographed for the stamp — an annual designation by the USPO.

Bronstein himself was not contacted until the selection was a fait accompli. "I had nothing to do with it," he says, when asked if he had applied for the gig. "I got a phone call one day and they said they wanted to use my menorah for a stamp."

What he learned later was that "an art director saw my work at a craft show in D.C." and chose his design. The piece is in the style of what Bronstein calls "Classic Curve."

That art director was Ethel Kessler, of the Kessler Design Group in Bethesda, Md., who has designed some 250 stamps for the post office.

There is no remuneration to be on the stamp, nor is his name on it, but it's an honor nonetheless. Of course, Bronstein can't help wishing the image on the stamp didn't cut the menorah in half. "There is this artistic component — I'd like the piece to be appreciated," he says, likening it to a painting only half seen.

But he's quick to say he doesn't want to appear ungrateful. He was thrilled his work was chosen, Bronstein says.


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October 29, 2013

Ashley Campbell Has Knives, Will Carve ... Pumpkins

524890_367657223317583_1588840033_nWhen Ashley Campbell moved to Vermont from New Jersey six months ago, it was to join her boyfriend, Michael Orfan, chef-owner of Rustic Roots restaurant in Shelburne. (Alice Levitt interviewed him for Seven Days in June.) Orfan is known for his charcuterie, but he's not the only one with knife skills: Campbell is one hell of a pumpkin carver.

And not just jack-o'-lanterns — she has made incredibly detailed portraits, such as the one here (for a bridal shower; it took her 12 hours) — corporate logos, wedding decorations, and more, as her website reveals.

Campbell says she got into carving pumpkins — along with her father, Steve — when she was still a kid. "When I was a teenager, I started making my own patterns," she says of the overlay designs that guide her knife. And at her previous job in New Jersey, Campbell says there was an annual pumpkin-carving contest, which she always won. "My designs got more and more complicated," she says.

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September 26, 2013

Return of the Champlain Mini Maker Faire

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 9.27.56 AMYou never know what you might find at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire — the second one takes place this Saturday and Sunday at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. Last year's drew more than 1300 people who bought tickets to see a pumpkin-chuckin’ trebuchet, a remote-controlled quad-copter and a pumpkin-headed robot monster.

“Makers” are essentially enthusiasts — people who create something for the joy of creating rather than for profit. Maker faires are opportunities for them to get together, share ideas and noodle around with technology.

The events have been cropping up all over the world since 2006, when MAKE magazine publisher Dale Dougherty held the first gathering in San Mateo, Calif. 

The line-up for this year's Champlain Mini Maker Faire — it's a little smaller than some of the others, hence the "mini" moniker — includes Bina48, one of the world's most social and sentient robots, as well as the team behind the Generator, a new 6000-square-foot "maker space" slated to open later this fall in Burlington. 

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July 04, 2013

Calling All Artists ... to the ReUse Fair

Hermandad3A fair highlighting sustainable living and featuring original art? Can't get much more Vermonty than that.

On September 21, the 10-year-old nonprofit Planting Hope is holding a ReUse Fair in Montpelier and is seeking artists and crafters to show and sell their wares.

According to director of operations Daniel Staples:

The ReUse Fair is a celebration of sustainable communities and is meant to foster a broader understanding of how one person can have an effect on their community and the environment.

The event will also highlight how reusing items for new and interesting purposes not only keeps them out of the waste stream, but can even help people in other communities.

Toward that end, artists and crafters who make work using found, recycled or repurposed materials are particularly welcome at the fair, which will run alongside the Montpelier farmers market. In addition to arty vendors, Staples says, there will be an outdoor sculpture park curated by central Vermont artist Janet Van Fleet, and an exhibit of works by University of Vermont art prof Beth Haggart.

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June 20, 2013

The Authority on Outhouse Building Speaks in Vermont

Outhouse-344"The Authority" sounds like a moniker for a big, muscle-bound wrestler in the AWF, or maybe an underworld crime boss. But in fact it's the sort-of-tongue-in-cheek name chosen by George Papp Sr. both for himself and for the title of his self-published book ... on building outhouses.

Yes, Papp is an authority on historically accurate "thunder boxes," if he does say so himself. And so his website and book reveal. Papp, who lives in Colchester, Conn., is speaking tonight in Bristol on the subject, and no doubt will have copies of his book ready to autograph and sell.

And there is no more suitable place in Vermont — maybe on earth — than Bristol for an authority on outhouses to visit. Because what comes to mind when you think of Bristol on the Fourth of July? The outhouse race!

On a shed-building website I found courtesy of Mr. Google, Papp reveals that he started building outhouses and sheds because "daddy made me do it." By which he means his daughter — after purchasing a rural home in New Hampshire — told him she needed one:

If you have a daughter you certainly know what daddy means. Dad is one thing, daddy is another, and she used the daddy card when she asked. When she uttered that word, I was obligated. When I built that Kybo in my driveway, it attracted more folks than ants to sugar and brought in several requests, and it has grown to a satisfying pastime. 

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