Posts Tagged ‘Vermont Arts Council’

walter cerf lifetime achievement awards

June 12, 2010

State House, Monplelier

On Thursday afternoon I headed to Montpelier in the afternoon for the annual Vermont Council on the Arts presentation of the Walter Cerf Lifetime Achievement awards. Three women were being honored this year, and over the years I’ve become friends with two of them. I couldn’t miss their big day. Jane Amrose (UVM Lane Series) and Andrea Rogers (Flynn Center) are both also retiring this year, as is the third Cerf honoree, Jean Olson (Governor’s Institutes), who I had not met until that day. During her acceptance speech, Olson remarked on the womens’ 100+ years of combined service in serving the community.

The ceremony started at 4, at the end of the Council’s annual meeting. It opened with the annual State of the Arts presentation by VAC director, Alex Aldrich. He warned that the state’s arts organizations ignore marketing and promotion at their own peril, even when declining ticket sales and donation revenue mandate reduced budgets. Aldrich also outlined the three broad initiatives the Council is focusing on now in its own effort to market, promote and grow the arts in Vermont:

  • The Breaking into Business workshops: provides tools and consultation to artists in intensive 2-day sessions to help them learn how to market their own art.
  • The Routes Initiative: starting on August 1st, makes $200 grants available to teachers and arts orgs for transportation purposes. The Council created this program in response to the increasing comments it had been receiving about how difficult and prohibitively expensive it was becoming to physically get people to the events being presented.
  • A new marketing and outreach campaign to promote Vermont’s arts and culture sectors in state, and beyond.

Then the awards presentation began, including an artist showcase of dancing (Tiffany Rhynard’s Disposable Goods: What Is/Who Is?) and a preview of Upper Valley Arts forthcoming film, Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie.

As for the award recipients themselves, Ambrose, Rogers and Olson all shared a bit of their personal history, thanks to their co-workers and partners, and, words of insight. Jane Ambrose summed it up when she talked about how she was able to fulfill her vision for adventurous programming over the years: “It’s a Vermont thing. You have to trust people and when people trust you, you can do anything.”

The house chamber at the State House held many familiar faces that afternoon, as reps from arts organizations all over the state turned out for the same reason I did. The afternoon was a luminous collage of memories, friends, inspiration, laughs and a few tears.

Things are changing with the retirement of these three influential, strong arts leaders.

I’m looking forward to finding out – and being part of – wherever we go next.

poetry out loud

March 9, 2010

Late Saturday afternoon and early spring sunlight flooded the already overly warm Chapel at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Teachers, parents, siblings, and lots of onlookers had all come together to cheer on the participants in the annual Poetry Out Loud recitation competition.

Most of the audience had been there since morning, I learned, patiently listening and waiting for the results from each passing round of sem-finals. It’s not an easy process, but the experience is invaluable and the top performer advances to the national finals in Washington, DC on April 26-27, where $50,000 dollars in scholarships and school prizes will be awarded.

The idea is for students to pick a few poems from the national program’s approved list of poems, memorize them, share them in the classroom, and then move on to the statewide  – and possibly national – competition. This year’s event featured 33 students from schools around the state, all high school-aged, each one reading selections from the list.

By the time I got there in the afternoon the 12 semi-finalists had already been selected. They each read a poem, and then, in turn following a short intermission, they all read a second poem. After another intermission the judges selected five finalists, and then, the winner: Sharon Academy’s John Marshall. He recited Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussy-Cat; John Clare’s I Am!, and then finally Possible Answers to Prayer by Scott Cairns.

It was inspiring to watch the passion and investment of each student in the poems they selected. From the old man trying on scratched sunglasses in Ted Kooser’s In the Basement of the Goodwill Store to the disquieting dialogue in Ai’s Conversation, each recitation strove to embody the voice of the poem and convey the ultimate essence of its meaning.

John Marshall was selected to advance to the national finals, and he’ll also be in the Cedar Creek Room at the State House, March 17th at 4pm, for a recitation of two poems as part of Vermont’s annual Arts Advocacy Day.

Abigail Volmer, a senior at Saint Johnsbury Academy, was the runner up in this year’s competition.

Poetry Out Loud is presented by the Vermont Arts Council in partnership with the Vermont Alliance for Arts Education, the Vermont Department of Education and the Vermont Humanities Council, and sponsored by Vermont College of Fine Arts.

2010 governor’s award for arts excellence

February 13, 2010

Ines Bass of Sandglass Theatre

Thu. Feb. 11th – Montpelier, VT

“Art is the cement that holds the individual and the society together.”

Puppet artist Finn Campman’s words summarized the life work of this year’s Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence recipients, Eric and Ines Zeller Bass of the Sandglass Theatre (Putney, VT).

Why puppet theatre? Because “puppets are not stuck in realism, not stuck in naturalism – they’re free to move across the whole spectrum of artistic expression”, according to former Sandglass guest director Richard Edelman.

The evening’s celebration opened with a warm address by Vermont Arts Council director Alex Aldrich, who acknowledged the Award’s 42-year history in recognizing those artists whose skills have contributed both their their respective art, and to their community. Then last year’s Award winner, Rob Mermin performed a whimsical tribute to the Sandglass Theatre (in bubbles and smoke!) by re-enacting a few scenes from their past time performing and touring together.

Further remarks by Aldrich were humorously issued with decreasing visibility from behind the frame of a large puppet theatre being being set up in front of the podium by the Crabgrass Puppet Theatre. Their Buster Keaton-worthy vignette “Up On The Roof” illustrated the futlity of a puppet’s effort to get “up on the roof” and clear off a blanket of snow with a mischievous mind of its own.

The  next performance was no less enchanting, as Larry Hunt’s silent character “Backward Boy” gracefully danced and moved in visually illusionistic ways uniquely enabled by his condition of bodily reversal.

The evening closed with a performance by the evening’s honorees. Sandglass Theatre (Eric, Ines, and an unidentified accordian player) enacted “Mud” from their newest piece, All Weather Ballads. With his red pickup half submerged in the muck and a pesky, steering-wheel eating goat unhelpfully standing by – what’s a poor guy to do? Exasperation sets in and before you know it, getting himSELF unstuck from the mud becomes the first task: funny, charming, and then some. (And who can’t relate?) What magic to see great puppet mastery at work.

Eric and Ines Bass have worked in theater as directors, playwrights, performers, and mask and puppet makers for more than 30 years.  They founded Sandglass Theater in Munich, Germany in 1982 and relocated to Putney in 1986. A decade later they opened their 60-seat theater in the heart of Putney Village.

Sandglass Theater has become an internationally respected theater company specializing in the use of the puppet and visual imagery. Their productions have toured 25 countries, performing in theaters, festivals and cultural institutions, and garnering many international prizes.

Congratulations to Sandglass Theatre for the Governor’s award, and for more than three decades of imaginative  artistry!

Here’s the upcoming calendar for Sandglass Theatre performances.

the art of arrival

December 2, 2009

The Vermont Arts Council’s traveling exhibit, The Art of Action: Shaping Vermont’s Future Through Art, has moved to the Burlington International Airport now.

Opening reception is this Friday evening (two sittings, one at 4pm and  the other at 6pm) in conjunction with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Project’s exhibit, The Art of Arrival.

International foods, live music, a silent art auction, and personal stories of refugee resettlement and adjustment are all promised for the evening’s activities. Click on the link above for reservations, it’s going to fill up.

poetry in action

November 24, 2009

For several days now on the way to work I’ve been driving past the little white sandwich board parked on the lawn of the Richmond library, near the sidewalk. This is all it said:

Poetry in Action
Nov. 23

I realized the reading must be one of the many events planned around the Vermont Arts Council’s (much) larger statewide initiative, The Art of Action: Shaping Vermont’s Future Through Art.

I first heard about the project a little over a year ago, when there was a call-out for visual artists to apply to participate. That was around June 2008, if I recall. The finalists were announced last fall and then this past February the selections were made for the 10 artists who would receive the commissions to be part of The Art of Aciton. All of this taking place, keep in mind, against the backdrop of bank closures, the real estate market and credit crashes, and all of the other dark portents for the onset of the current recession. It was – and is – a bright, encouraging ray of hope that such an ambitious artistic vision could come to fruition at a time when much else in the world seemed to be withering.

The Art of Action is a large effort whose 100+ works have been divided into two concurrent statewide tours. One part of the exhibit opened in Rutland in mid-October and since then the two exhibits have visited Randolph, Montpelier, and Marlboro. The tour is well underway now with the current setup in Richmond, and further stops planned in South Burlington (starting on Dec. 5th), Middlebury, Barre and Winoski.

Tonight’s reading featured three local writers, expanding the creative exploration of the state’s future from the visual to the poetic arts. I didn’t have much of a chance to see the paintings before the reading began, so I’ll have to get back there and spend some time with the exhibit soon before it moves on. The poetry was outstanding, even if it more frequently spoke to past memories and experiences rather than ideas and reflections on the state’s future. In turn, Antonia Clark, Angela Patten, and Daniel Lusk shared their gifts of language in themes of home, grounding, and sense of place.

I’m not sure any one effort, however comprehensive, could hope to fully address the vast concept of “shaping Vermont’s future”. I’m hoping the Arts Council may come to the same conclusion and invite further artistic explorations of this kind, but in the meantime I’m planning on sticking around and finding ways to do that  myself as much as possible when the future gets here. It won’t be long now.

Here’s the complete Art of Action exhibit tour schedule.

the sacred forest

November 14, 2009

The time and place: Saturday night at Burlington’s First Congregational Church

The artists: Banjo/pedal steel player Gordon Stone and his band, with the Senegalese choreographer Elhadji Mamadou Ba

The occasion: “The Secret Forest”, a West African dance interpretation of the worldly music from Gordon Stone’s new recording, Night Shade.

The result: Bluesy, soulful music as a backdrop for unbounded dance energy!

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