September 2020
Featured Stories
Unless you subscribe to literary magazines or pen pal with writers, the last thing you might expect to receive in the mail is a poem—let alone one chosen and hand-mailed by such a nationally beloved writer as Mary Ruefle, Pultizer Prize finalist and current Vermont Poet Laureate. Over the past few months, over 130 Vermonters and counting have found this very surprise in their mailboxes. A little something by Louise Glück, an oldie by Robert Frost. By the time Mary is done, 1,000 of us will have received these mail poems.

The project is driven by serendipity. Conceived well before the pandemic and quarantines, Mary began mailing poems in the winter and later received support for the project through a Poets Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. For Mary, a notorious homebody, mailing poems to strangers seemed like another good way to stay in. For recipients, who may be quarantined begrudgingly, Mary hopes a poem in the mailbox may be a welcome surprise.

On August 1, Vermont's face mask mandate took effect statewide. We spoke with Maggie Neale, a Montpelier artist whose face masks are available at Artisans Hand Craft Gallery, and we've gathered links to more Vermont artists selling face masks.⁠
"As an artist whose galleries had closed and only recently started testing the waters of opening, I personally needed to make some artistic masks that I could sell. Digging through the backstock of hand painted silks, cottons, and hemp, I began creating one-of-kind masks for those people who wanted to be original and accessorize. Now I am painting with dye more silk, hemp, and linen experimenting with fabrics and color and it feels like being part of the essential art market.” - Maggie Neale⁠

Vermont Studio Center’s new executive director has landed. Appointed to start July 17, Elyzabeth Holford comes to the Studio Center at a time of great change, with arts organizations across the country scrambling to survive the Covid-19 pandemic and respond to the movement for racial justice. Luckily for the Studio Center, Elyzabeth has quite a track record with change.

Elyzabeth has spent her life in pursuit of justice and inclusion, and won. As a trial attorney in Ohio, she fought for equal opportunity and affirmative action. As the executive director of Equality Ohio, she worked across 88 counties to win marriage equality for the swing state in 2015. In Denmark, as the founding senior executive of the Digital Living Research Commons, she helped artists, businesspeople, researchers, families, and more explore and interrogate what it means to live in a digital culture—a subject that only grows more pressing.

Last year, Vermont Humanities and Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) chose, independently of one another, to plan their largest annual events around the relationship between democracy and journalism. Vermont Humanities’ months-long 2020 Fall Conference, themed “Democracy 20/20,” started Aug. 29, and in the conference’s later weeks there will be a special preview of VTIFF’s 2020 program, themed “The Reporter.”

The coincidence is no surprise—an election year is the perfect time to talk democracy. But no one could have known all the pressures 2020 would bring to bear on American democracy. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and economic crisis, the organizers of both events agree it’s more important than ever to stimulate conversation about civic duty, and to offer a wide variety of pathways into that conversation.

Healing is as much an art as a science. It often requires sound, movement, story, and that other creative mode, community. For this kind of healing you can turn to Amber Arnold of Brattleboro, a practitioner of cultural somatics, a discipline her mentor describes as “how bodies move, breathe, think, feel, and know themselves within a culture.”

Amber is the co-organizer of the Susu Healing Collective, a botanica and community organization that offers herbal medicines and educational programs for “all people who are ready and willing to begin or continue the path of transformation through accountability, connection, and spiritual practice.” Since starting in the summer of 2019, the collective’s work has taken many forms, from leading a crowd of demonstrators in a self-soothing hum to echo that of enslaved Africans arriving on colonial America’s shores, to workshops that bring together BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and allies to reckon with patterns of trauma and oppression. In all instances, Amber’s work shows us how our bodies are direct lines to our ancestors, to stories of pain and healing that can unlock the world we wish to see.

The latest installment in our "First Person" series exploring Vermont arts events as sector reopens. By Catherine Crawley

Vermont summer meadows are good for lots of things—picnics, puppetry, birdwatching, tick finding, and in some cases, sculpture. You’ll find plenty of the latter at SculptureFest 2020. On a dozen acres in and around a barn, artist studio, and farmhouse at Peter and Charlet Davenport’s property in Woodstock, some 32 artists exhibit their work of more than 50 sculptures in wood, metals, ceramic, fiberglass, stone, and other outdoors-appropriate media.

The Davenports co-direct the annual show, which they have hosted on their land for nearly 30 years. A painter and sculptor herself, Charlet has mentored countless New England artists over the years. Her studio gallery near the house contains two kilns and several countertops full of her ceramics in progress, colorful vest plates of various textures, and human faces as masks. You might find Peter tending the grounds or helping to install an artist’s work.

Students across Vermont are returning to school in varying ways—from fully remote to fully in-person, and many variations between—but how are the arts returning with them? That question has been top of mind to the creators of Bully No More!, a musical that empowers young people to stand up to bullying.

Since premiering in 2011 to sold out audiences at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, the musical has been available to schools and community theaters for live performance. Like all things in the time of Covid, Bully No More! has had to change, to adapt for production according to the needs of socially distanced and remote classrooms. And because increased internet use during the pandemic has seen a rise in cyberbullying, it’s all the more important that young people hear Bully No More!’s message of mutual respect and empowerment.

As part of our series featuring creative professionals’ responses to the virus, Elaine Davida Sklar, one of the creators of Bully No More!, shared her thoughts with the Council.

New Arts Experiences
Artistree Gallery
South Pomfret
Aug. 28 - Sept. 26
In-Sight Photography
Sept. 1 - 27
River Gallery School of Art
Fridays, Aug. 21 - Oct. 9
Main Street Park Gazebo
Sept. 7
North-End Studios
Wednesdays at 6 p.m.
Highland Center for the Arts
Sept. 11 - Nov. 22
The cultural conversation continues at Vermont's museums and galleries, both in-person and online. Follow Vermont Curators Group on Facebook or Instagram for updates on new virtual or in-person exhibitions and events. Check individual location websites for visitation guidelines.
Helen Day Art Center
Through October
Art at the Kent
Opens Sept. 11
Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
St. Johnsbury
Through December
35+ Virtual Exhibitions & Art-at-Home Activities
The Vermont Arts Council is looking for a filmmaker to work with Council staff to produce a video about the recipients of our 2020 Governor’s Arts Awards. Each year, the Vermont Arts Council, in association with the Governor’s office, recognizes outstanding individual and organizational contributions to the arts.

Submit Listings to Our Arts Calendar and Classifieds
Are you organizing an exhibit, concert, class, or other arts event? Do you need to list an ad for space, residencies, or a call for submissions? Submit your event listing to our calendar, or submit a classified ad listing.

Listings are free and seen by thousands of people throughout and beyond Vermont. Once submitted, eligible listings are reviewed, categorized, and published within two business days. Council staff may contact you for more information.
The Vermont Arts Council is funded, in part, by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which requires a 1:1 match from the Vermont State Legislature. Council grants, programs, and statewide arts promotion would not be possible without the critical funding provided by these government agencies.
Vermont Arts Council | 802.828.3291