Seasonal Must-Sees, From Icy Art to Virtual Fests

Words and photos courtesy of Seven Days

Seasonal Must-Sees, From Icy Art to Virtual Fests
By Carolyn Fox & Amy Lilly

Vermont International Festival
Held virtually December 4-6 at, with international takeout dinners available for pickup at the O'Brien Community Center in Winooski.

At a time when travel opportunities have become limited, the Vermont International Festival offers a welcome taste of the world. For 27 years, it has invited locals to experience the many cultures in our community through three days of globe-trotting crafts, cuisine, music and dance. The invitation stands for its 28th year, with one big caveat: The fest is going virtual.

"You just have to be creative in times like this," said April Werner, executive director of the Vermont Performing Arts League, which organizes the event.

This year's festival will premier pretaped acts — produced in partnership with VCAM's Media Factory — from artists such as Afro-funk band Sabouyouma, the McFadden Academy of Irish Dance, Brazilian samba street band Sambatucada!, drummers Burlington Taiko, global hip-hop/pop group A2VT and Vermont Nepali Heritage Dance.

Area craft vendors will sell their wares through an online marketplace continuing through the end of December. In some cases, artisans offering handmade goods — such as Chinese jewelry, paintings depicting daily life in Guatemala, and Madagascan natural-fiber bags and baskets — will also share videos of themselves at work in their studios.

Just one aspect of the festival is "live": the food! Preorder a meal — Congolese on Friday, Argentinian on Saturday or Filipino on Sunday — and pick it up at the O'Brien Community Center in Winooski. Then go home and stream the festival.

"We're trying to create a show where [audiences are] getting a feeling of being at the live event," said Werner. "We're doing the best we can to simulate all the parts of it."

Everything besides takeout is free, but donations are gladly accepted for this entertaining and educational affair.

Also try...
  • BCA Holiday Artist Market, December 5 & 6 (rain dates December 12 &13), at City Hall Park in Burlington,
  • Highlight House Party, December 31, online,
  • Holiday Artisans' Market, November 27-December 24, online and in person (select days) at Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph,
  • North End Studios' multicultural takeout dinners, Saturdays at the O'Brien Community Center in Winooski,
'Ice Visions'
On view in person and virtually through March 6 at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center,

Human interventions in nature are sometimes uncannily beautiful when caught on film, as Edward Burtynsky's large-format photographs of industrial landscapes illustrate. Erik Hoffner, a photographer and essayist from western Massachusetts, works in the same vein as Burtynsky, though closer to his subject matter.

For "Ice Visions," a series now on exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in conjunction with the Vermont Folklife Center, Hoffner trekked or skated over frozen ponds and lakes around New England to photograph the previous day's ice-fishing holes. These perfectly round perforations, approximately the diameter of a spread hand, are made by drilling an augur into the ice. After a day, the holes acquire thin new ice formations.

Each of these circular formations, photographed in black and white, is unique. Some could be mistaken for close-ups of human irises, with fine lines radiating from a central spot. Others are filled with overlapping bubbles and resemble cells as seen under a microscope. Often, the ice outside the circle is filled with galaxies of tiny bubbles, captured in precise detail. As chief curator Mara Williams noted in her statement, "Hoffner is the Snowflake Bentley of our generation" — a purveyor of the beauty and infinite variety of ice formations.

Hoffner's abstract compositions themselves are also beautiful. Their flatness makes it difficult to distinguish where the effects of light come into play, which accounts in part for the pleasure of studying them.

But, as in Burtynsky's work, there's a bittersweet element here. Hoffner photographed the 36 prints in "Ice Visions" over 20 years. The most recent, bubble-filled ones, he wrote in a statement, revealed "striking new kinds of formations I've never seen before" that could be "the fingerprint of a warming climate." Hoffner's series is both a celebration of winter's wonders and a reminder that they're far from timeless.

Also try...
  • "Messages From the Anthropocene: Site Specific Installations That Reflect on the Impact of Human Activity on the Environment," by Patrick O'Shea, Tina Escaja, Bren Alvarez and Stuart Paton, through January 31 at Flynndog in Burlington,
  • "Precarious Shelters: Houses That Hold Us," sculptures by Jackie Abrams, December 5-January 24 at Mitchell • Giddings Fine Arts in Brattleboro,

About the series

This series, a partnership between Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Seven Days, will run weekly through mid-October, presenting curated excursions in every corner of Vermont. The idea is to highlight the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures so Vermonters and visitors alike can plan safe, local trips and discover new corners of the state. Happy traveling, and stay safe.