ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 4 * * All Arts News On the Web * * December 7, 2000


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for the AAC CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the first Thursday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the third Thursday come to the Kept Writer in St Albans for acoustic Open Mike Night featuring music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.

Programming note: we are changing the CoffeeHouse to a new date and time in January.
Watch this space for details!


      December 7 is extra special as we celebrate Ed and Alice Astleford's contribution to Franklin County with a "going away party." Ed and Alice are moving.
      The Wildflowers perform an eclectic mix of country and more at the monthly AAC CoffeeHouse at Simple Pleasures tonight at 7 p.m. The watercolor paintings of AAC board member Joy Mashtare (profiled in this column last week) will be on exhibit. Her artwork will remain at Simple Pleasures through December 31.
      The Wildflowers are nurse and Cardiac Caperer Meredith Roberts, music teacher Marilyn Sink, and first grade teacher Jackie Curley. "We sing, play flute, and keyboard together," said Marilyn. They also perform at weddings and parties.
      The All Arts Council sponsors the CoffeeHouse with music, networking time, and "show-and-tell" at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. Admission is always free, but donations are appreciated.


      Northwestern Counseling and Support Services presents Holiday Jazz tomorrow evening. The party includes a holiday cocktail buffet by Jeff's Maine Seafood, the music of Rob Guerrina and Just Jazz, an All Arts Council art exhibit, and a silent auction.
      The AAC display will feature the fine paintings, photography, and sculpture of AAC artists Alice Astleford, Eric Bataille, Diana Herder Bennett, Corliss Blakely, Bob Brodeur, Connie Clay-Bickel, Alan DeMont, Gary Greiner, Mary Harper, David Juaire, Natalie LaRocque-Bouchard, Joy Mashtare, Deb Shell, Wayne Tarr, Lauren Young, and more. Several of the artists will be on site to discuss their works.
      "The artists will also donate 20 percent of any sales to NCSS," said contributor Alice Astleford.
      Just Jazz has Rob Guerrina, keyboard, and Will Patton. bass. Regular horn player Larry McCrorey had an opportunity to go to Antarctica so Tom Steele will sit in with horn, sax, flute and the like. "We'll play a little seasonal music and standard jazz," Rob said. These guys are so good that it's anything but "standard."
      NCSS consumers are primarily children, adolescents, people in recovery, and senior citizens with developmental disabilities. They have transformed NCSS into a Winter Wonderland for the evening with hundreds of unique snowflakes suspended from the ceilings. The flakes are all shapes and sizes and degrees of difficulty just as their creators. "Just as there are no two snowflakes alike, there are no two people alike," said Susan Greiner.
      MVU art students led by Marti Leech painted the front windows on Tuesday (Dec 5). BFA art students as well?
      A silent auction will include an AAC membership, Oak Barrel with Milk Can, a work by popular artist Alice Astleford, and donations from area businesses. The auction also features a Comfort Inn and Suites getaway with swimming and breakfast, activities at the Collins Perley, basket of baked delights from Foothills Bakery, Winter Coming, a photo by Gary Greiner, and a sleigh ride through the snow with Gary Gilmond of Georgia.
      This annual event welcomes the holiday season and helps support NCSS Adult Behavioral Health Services. With complimentary champagne and a dazzling array of Silent Auction items, the party begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 8, at NCSS 107 Fisher Pond Road. Tickets are $20 per person. Call 524-6555, extension 274, for info.


      Community volunteer, AAC artist, and board member Alice Astleford paints popular, incredibly detailed pastoral scenes, does pen and ink drawings, decorates keepsake boxes and candles, and somehow finds time to volunteer around the community, to run a business, and keep the AAC going.
      "I prefer acrylics because of the bright, vivid colors and the easy cleanup, of course, and quick drying time," Alice said. "You can thicken [acrylics] up and use them like oils or thin them down and use them like watercolors." The thicker oils do not lend themselves to the fine details she prefers. "I do so love neatness."
      Alice is also a part time consultant developing mental stimulation programs and continuing education for nursing home residents. She believes in the importance of mental exercise.
      "Some recently published research suggests that intellectual engagement and stimulation throughout someone's life has a tendency to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers Disease," confirmed Dr. William Pendlebury of the Memory Disorder Center at Fletcher Allen. "People with Alzheimers Disease do benefit from continued social engagement and involvement in activities that they don't find frustrating." He emphasizes avoiding baffling or excessively difficult activities for patients and caregivers.
      The program Alice developed in the early 1990s is the first in the country to take place in the nursing home setting. She had discovered that the goal at these facilities was to entertain residents rather than to energize them. "It's not natural or normal to be passively entertained all day. Once that entertainment is finished there is nothing left."
      She describes one of her favorite techniques. "Say someone had been a lifelong farmer, used to thinking in bales of hay or acreage, or bushels to the acre and cords of wood. You put a story problem together around the old familiar things they are used to working with."
      Because most residents have impairments such as arthritis, the program has to be brought to them, akin to creating a high school or college campus within a nursing home. She uses science experiments, craft projects, and more. "I often design a craft that incorporates range of motion exercises," she said. A resident might reach over with the right hand to pick up a cotton ball or take some glue or sparkle with a long, left-handed reach. "Projects are limited only by their own imagination." During or after the lecture, residents can interact with the speakers or share their related experiences.
      Alice trains program directors to implement these activities. It is inexpensive because public and community resources are generally available. "Some people are surprised that nursing home residents are bright, eager, and anxious to learn," she said.
      The self-taught artist won two awards at Champlain Valley Exposition this year, a second place among 468 artists, and Most Popular Artist.
      "I also love to work with children because they are at the peak of their creativity. I think purple trees and orange grass are wonderful." Although I have never seen orange grass in Alice's paintings, telling a child there is no such thing "stifles their creativity," she said.
      Ed and Alice have lived here for 25 years. The St Albans radar site was Ed's last duty station; they retired here when it closed.
      Unfortunately, I am going to have a blank button on my speed dial soon. Ed and Alice are moving to Traverse City, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan, nearer to three of their five children. "This will be the first Christmas we've spent with any of the grandchildren," she said. They also have a great-grandchild due early next year.
      "I have enjoyed our Franklin County experience more than anything else in my life. We never found so many wonderful people in one small area. Everyone has made us feel so welcome."


ENOSBURG FALLS--The Opera House at Enosburg Falls presents a classical performance with Sarah Sheperd, Peter Matthews, Kathleen Evans Oprea and Marcia Perry on guitar, oboe, piano and voice, Saturday at 8 p.m.
      Tickets are $7.50 general admission, $5 for seniors and students, and only $3.50 for children. Save $1 in advance at Merchants Bank and Spear s Pharmacy in Enosburg, and the Rexall Pharmacy in Swanton. Call Jon Scott (933-6171) for info.

HIGHGATE SPRINGS--The paintings of AAC member Connie Clay-Bickel are featured this month at the Welcome Center, immediately south of the U.S.-Canadian border crossing.


      In the real world: art students at MVU and BFA-St Albans have painted the town(s)! An MVU team led by Marti Leech painted the NCSS windows and the storefronts in Swanton. The BFA team led by Dee Christie is painting up downtown St Albans tomorrow.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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Dick Harper, Chair

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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2000 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
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