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An Art Packed Summer Day

By: Susan McDowell

In “Summer Blues,” Vermont poet David Budbill laments, “Ninety days is what we get, just Ninety days of frost free weather.” He then instructs, “we Just got to get outside and get together!”

As the frost-free days accumulate, the Vermont Arts Calendar swells to include hundreds of events. Choosing becomes overwhelming. I find help in “How to Art Pack Your Day in Ten Easy Steps,” first published in July 2015.

I begin by selecting my last stop: Rutland. A mural by Bill Ramage piques my interest. I’ll follow it with free movie night at the Paramount. I decide to stay off the interstate. As I meander, I mentally highlight this part of tip #8: “Art can be found in the most surprising places.” I hit pay dirt on my first stop.

BGS: The Barnard General Store

I imagine a new tip for “Art Pack II” as I roll into the parking lot. “Don’t pass up a general store.” There is no guarantee, but you can find great coffee frequently, local food often, and organic food sometimes. Art now and then.

I fill my stainless cup in Barnard with a promising dark blend and grab a bag of Krin’s macaroons. (Try them. Really.) The words “Art on the Farm” stop me on the way out. I take a postcard from a stack on the counter. I turn and hold it up. “Do you know where this is?” The cashier describes the route as she pens a map to Fable Farm. I drive uphill on a dirt road.

The exhibit is open only on Thursday, during the Feast and Field farmers market, but we make an easy arrangement: I can tour the sculptures if I don’t mind kids on the farm for camp. I don’t mind. I trek up and down a grassy hill, enjoying and taking pictures of a perfectly themed and sized installation. On the way out, I overhear a camp leader’s question to the kids, “You like pyramid?” (referencing yoga). “Let’s all do two more poses before we go into the woods.” I smile to myself thinking, “That’s Vermont …”

Behind Another General Store

ArtisTree is in South Pomfret behind Teago General Store. Now that I’ve seen it, it’s also on my short list for an acoustic concert. The top floor of a refurbished barn is the music room, or a performance venue that seats up to 80. There is also a painting room. And a movement room. And a fiber arts room. Each beautifully appointed space has spacious windows and doors opening to idyllic grassy hills. Did I mention the gallery? The upstairs offices for art therapists? Or the new theater space? Bookmark!

Making Art in Peace

I take quiet time at the Vermont Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland, wandering among both whimsical and classic works in the gallery and sculpture garden, then walking to the quarries. Sculptures and old machinery show me West Rutland’s roots in marble. I am there the same day as the stone bench kids who are working on the porch.

Each summer for eight years, youth at a day camp carve a marble bench each year under the tutelage of Nora Valdez. Every bench has a theme; this year’s is environmental consciousness. Two campers carve a tree stump to form the base. A large eye is being carved on the side of the seat. The eye implies, “I’m watching.”

Downtown Rutland

My art-packed day ends in the area of Merchant’s Row in Rutland. An alliance with Castleton University fills the downtown with visual art. Pop-up galleries and fun murals draw foot traffic. Mural is too small a word for Bill Ramage’s work. I don’t really see it, I go in it. The streetscape is built on panels twice my height in a semi-circle against a mirror. Standing next to the artist’s image of himself pulls me into a quiet version of the street outside. The space is captivating; I find it hard to leave.

At the end of my art-packed day, it’s a relief to take a seat at free movie night in the Paramount Theater. Director Bruce Bouchard programs something for everyone from opera aficionados to Red Sox and Super Bowl fans. Tonight’s left-leaning documentaries bring in a crowd with gray pony tails and natural fiber clothing.

Uh-oh. Buzz kill.

All day I avoided the news of an iceberg the size of Delaware breaking away from Antarctica and the discovery of more incriminating emails. My bliss ends as the Paramount’s larger-than-life high-definition screen and clear-as-a-bell sound system deliver images of plastic ruining the earth, references to greed on Wall Street, and no-holds-barred news about money in politics.

As the film ends, author Joanna Macy claims it’s not too late. She makes a plea for the world to be changed in something she calls the Great Turning. She calls for sustainable agriculture, widening relationships, spiritual and environmental awareness. Things, I begin to think, like art on farms, music and movement therapy, stone benches hearkening environmental consciousness, and foot traffic in our towns. I’ve heard this called living in the solution. Starting where you are. The power of one. And, “That’s Vermont … ”

Visit the Vermont Arts Council for help planning your next art-packed summer day in Vermont.