ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * February 28, 2002


      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 second and fourth Wednesday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the second Wednesday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the fourth Wednesday 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.


      The All Arts Council and the St Albans Messenger present this season's final event in the Concert for Grumpy Grownups series on Saturday at the Opera House at Enosburg Falls.
      Sojourns in The Wild is nature photographer Gustav W. Verderber's visual and musical celebration of nature accompanied by the music of Celtic harpist and composer William Jackson.
      Mr. Verderber returns with the splash a humpback whale makes pec-slapping the surf and the feel of the feet of the spiders and mites in his Montgomery Center pasture. Sojourns is a cinemagraphic slide show with a host of red-eyed frogs, blue footed boobies, giant tortoises, Galapagos sea lions, and perhaps even a puffin. The multiple projectors create a virtual tour of landscapes, wildlife, and marine life in pristine natural areas of Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, the Atlantic, and Vermont.
      Sojourns in The Wild will be presented Saturday evening at 8 p.m. in the Opera House at Enosburg Falls. Tickets are $8/adults, $5/senior citizens and students, children under 12 free and are available now at Better Planet Books Toys and Hobbies, Merchants Bank in Enosburg, the Kept Writer, Spears Pharmacy in Enosburg, and Swanton Rexall.
      The Concert for Grumpy Grownups series is presented by the All Arts Council of Franklin County and the St Albans Messenger.


      Last week we considered how Vermont's full time visual artists stay full time artists. This week we will look at some of the business tricks of art and examine how holding another job helps maintain the artist.
      Graphic artists and illustrators generally work in commerce on assigned projects. Fine artists typically work independently on subjects of their own choosing. Visual artists use oils, acrylics, and watercolor paints, pastels, magic markers, pens, and pencils, silkscreen, plaster, clay, and marble, polyester resin, and practically any other material to communicate an idea, to create an image, to show people or nature or landscape or events.
      This newspaper has rarely carried a job advertisement for a fine artists. Artists today need some entrepreneurial drive to create a living. Otherwise, most take a "real" job in what everyone hopes is a complementary field.
      At the most basic level, artists need to have shelter from Vermont's unusual winters, enough food to survive, and a bit of income to survive the waxing and waning of the market for their work. They need to stay healthy enough to work, and have enough time to participate in their market and in public life.
      "I do almost all my own work at the house," said artist Valerie Ugro who completely renovated her Fairfax home. "I work on my cars. I dug drainage ditches and cleared land for a garage. Most folks choose not to put the time in for those things."
      Time is one of the usual trade-offs. If you have not earned enough to fix the furnace or plow the driveway, you end up spending painting time doing it yourself. Although Ms. Ugro chose to learn to become mechanical and resourceful, and gains artistic gratification from it, there is a down side. "I get to paint very little because I am chasing and taking care of these other things that allow me to have this lifestyle."
      Ms. Ugro views her time spent on framing and selling and teaching and digging "not as a way to solve problems but as the positive result of the choices" she makes. She said she could hire out the matting and the framing but chose to standardize "the sizes that I paint because that way my inventory is only certain sizes. And I stock two different tones of white mat. It's my choice to do it myself" to control the costs.
      Clay sculptor Diana Herder Bennett recently left IBM and now works as a para-educator at BFA-Fairfax. "I sculpt fifty percent of my 'extra' time and whenever we have school breaks," she said. "This whole week we have no school, so I'm trying to get a couple of pieces done."
      She is working toward a full time sculpting career. For now, the adjunct classes at CCV and a potential outreach program Frog Hollow may begin in which local artists would teach hand building in St Albans will do.
      People who love fine arts can also find careers in arts related fields (and occupations that use visual arts skills) include the advertising industry, architecture, floral design, industrial design, interior design, landscaping, and photography. Our local printers employ graphic artists and all Franklin County school districts employ art teachers for grades 1-12. CCV and Johnson State College both have art instructors on their faculty.
      The Compost Art Center in Hardwick needs a general manager right now. This art center, which "provides a fertile breeding ground for ideas and inventions," needs a good administrator with a college degree for public relations and ceramic studio work as well as a Ceramic Studio Manager. (Call 472-9613, Click hereor e-mail for info).
      "I have a painting I started a year ago in January. I haven't picked up a paintbrush since. It's just life. It gets in the way," said AAC member Connie Clay Bickel. "I am working as a VR [vocational rehabilitation] counselor. It's demanding and challenging." She works on a grant between the Vermont Division of Rehab and Social Welfare in one of the only initiatives of its kind in the country.
      These artists offered six tips to making a living as a fine artist.
      Being a professional artist is a wonderfully satisfying career, but on the bad days, you end up 20% artist, 80% salesman and businessperson. On the good days, the percentages reverse.


      The traveling AAC fine arts gallery has five exhibits opening this week. All five exhibits will remain on display through the end of March. Many of the works are available for sale.

ENOSBURG FALLS--The Opera House at Enosburg Falls features new watercolors and prints by Connie Clay-Bickel, Michael Domina, Mary Harper, Helen O'Riordan, and Valerie Ugro. The display of architectural works, landscapes, florals, and modern abstracts fills the downstairs gallery.

HIGHGATE SPRINGS--The AAC exhibit at the Welcome Center at the Highgate Springs Border station hosts fine art photographer Wayne Tarr with the black-and-white Spider Woman, Precious Cargo, and more.

ST ALBANS--Photographer April Henderson, known for her whimsical still life closeups, has some new very large works including Mending a Fence, Webster's Barn in the Fog, a shed door, and more at Simple Pleasures Cafe.

ST ALBANS--Gustav W. Verderber uses a very large photographic "canvas" for his environmental interpretations. His limited edition prints are on exhibit at the Northwestern Medical Center.

SWANTON--Your intrepid reporter's own first one man show is on exhibit at the Swanton Free Public Library. The landscape photography includes Halo (the Stars and Stripes), 'Hays Barn II,' the Mount Washington Hotel II, a reflected sunset, two works of a snow-loving Retriever, and more.


EVERYWHERE--Town Meeting Day is Tuesday and, in many towns, the arts are on the agenda along with other community necessities such as cemeteries, fire trucks, libraries, and more than 200 unsung community members who volunteer their time to serve on the boards and committees that make our Towns better places to call home. Don't forget to vote.


      There are nowhere near a bazillion websites devoted to making a living in the fine arts, but there are some. Here is a sampling of the choices.
      The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod offers through the Making Art and Making A Living program.
      The Washington Semester Program in the Arts and Humanities at American University is an internship for arts majors who want a well-rounded perspective of the arts business in America.
      Sculpture as a Business offers a variety of commercial links to workshops, magazines and marketing.
      Boston University College of Fine Arts is a small conservatory-style school with professional training in music, theater arts, and visual arts.
      Johnson State College has a strong Fine and Performing Arts undergraduate and graduate school curriculum
      The career services library resources at Ohio University has career guides, employment directories, resume writing and interviewing, summer jobs and internships and more for acting, commercial art and graphic design, entertainment and film, museums, music, photography, teaching, theater and the visual arts.


      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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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2002 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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