ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * May 2, 2002

Special to the All Arts Council by AAC & OHEF Director Jon Scott


      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.


      Barely three years ago, The Opera House at Enosburg Falls was a "condemned" building.
      Word had come down from the people in charge of such things in Montpelier that without extensive structural repair, modernization of the fire alarm system, installation of sprinklers throughout, and an elevator, the Opera House would have to be closed to the public.
      Constructed in 1892, the Opera House was a gift to the people of Enosburgh from the Dr. B. J. Kendall Company (of Kendall's Spavin Cure medicinal liniment fame). It soon became the cultural and community center for much of Franklin County. For over half a century, it was alive with varied activities: imported and local drama and musical productions - "medicine shows," town meetings, political rallies, and school and community events such as dances, graduation ceremonies, and even basketball! Of one of the early performances, the Enosburgh News Record reported: "Prof. Bristol's exhibition of trained horses, at Opera Hall Monday afternoon and evening, attracted a large audience, and the entertainment is spoken of as first-class." (February 24, 1893). However, with the advent of the automobile, paved roads, television, and other modern conveniences, activity at the Opera House waned, and by the mid-twentieth century, it was scarcely used except as a refuge for homeless pigeons and other of nature's creatures.
      The building languished until restoration efforts began in 1975 under the leadership of The Enosburg Opera House Association. Community interest was rekindled, funds for urgent repairs were raised, and plays, pageants, and other summer activities returned to the building.
      By 1996, The Enosburg Opera House Association had grown to become The Friends of the Opera House at Enosburg Falls, Vt., Inc., and, in response to the decree from Montpelier, restoration activity intensified under the banner Let's Make It Sing Again. Experts were consulted, engineering and architectural plans were drawn up, and concentrated fund raising began. By late 1999, blueprints for the restoration and rejuvenation were ready, and over $700,000 had been raised from generous community support and government sources. The doors of the Opera House officially closed, and work began. Although not all of the dreams fit the budget, the project encompassed a stabilization of the building's structural elements, complete refurbishment of the electrical and mechanical systems, installation of a state-of-the-art fire protection system, construction of an art gallery, redesign of the backstage facilities for performers, a handicapped accessible elevator serving all three levels, and the foundation was laid for future upgrading of the theatrical facilities.
      Early in the year 2000 the doors re-opened, and the Opera House was Singing Again with a mission more ambitious than ever before. The goal was to provide, on a year-round basis, a broad spectrum of first quality arts education, encouragement, and entertainment to all of Franklin County and beyond.
      That first year saw over 2,000 people attend the Millennium Series: 11 events spread from May to December, bringing to the community not only Rusty Deweese's Logger, but a wide range of performances from evenings of opera arias and classical music to barbershop quartets and beyond. With the success of the Millennium Series behind it, the Opera House expanded its programming to three series of performances. Designed to give talented young people an opportunity to perform 'on-stage', and to display their skills before a live audience, the EMERGING TALENTS SERIES supports and presents young artists drawn from all parts of Vermont in a variety of performance arts events. This series is the Opera House's demonstration of its commitment to encourage and support our youth in the development of an understanding and love of the arts through actual participation. The MENTORS SERIES presents well-established professional artists from a variety of performance arts disciplines. The performances by these successful arts achievers are intended to serve as an inspiration to the young people of our community who may be considering a career in the arts, while at the same time bringing to the community-at-large a wide range of entertainment of the highest quality. Finally, the COMMUNITY TREASURES SERIES encourages the presentation of the traditional Opera House at Enosburg Falls events that have been the mainstay of the Opera House since its early days. These treasures bring together members of the community both as performers and as spectators in productions of 'Broadway' style shows, talent competitions, and holiday concerts.
      The 2002-2003 season has already begun at the Opera House, and the line-up for the year is impressive. The EMERGING TALENTS SERIES will include performances by St. Alban's Champlain Voices! under the leadership of Donna Costes in June, the 10th Annual Opera House Talent Search in October, and a dance recital by an enthusiastic group of MVU students is in the planning stages. Before mid-summer, the MENTORS SERIES will bring the Vermont Opera Theater back with a cabaret evening on Saturday, May 11, and an international Franco celebration combining Vermont's Michele Choiniere and Canada's Barachois on June 30. The COMMUNITY TREASURES SERIES will commence with a gala 110th birthday celebration for the Opera House on July 13. This event, featuring period costumes and music and song, promises to bring back old memories, and to create new ones! Interspersed with the SERIES performances will be other events for all to enjoy, such as the Dairy Festival Scholarship Pageant, the Enosburg High School Alumni Dinner and Dance, and the exhibition of paintings and pictures by All Arts Council artists. It's plain to see that The Opera House at Enosburg Falls is singing again!
      So much so that help is still needed! There are numerous volunteer assignments ready and waiting to be filled. On Thursday, May 16 at 7:00 pm, at the Opera House, there will be a Volunteer Recruitment/Orientation session. If you have a belief in the value of the Arts to your community, and an interest in contributing your efforts to see them flourish in Franklin County, plan to attend the session and learn how you can participate in the mission of The Friends of The Opera House at Enosburg Falls to promote, encourage and assist performers, artists, and the community in cultural and artistic expression and enjoyment by providing guidance, education, and a 'state of the art' facility in Franklin County. You can help make it happen!


Enosburg Falls--The Annual Franklin Northeast Supervisory District Student Art Gala will be held today through Saturday at the Opera House at Enosburg Falls. Artwork by students from Berkshire, Enosburg, Richford, Montgomery, and Bakersfield schools will be displayed.
      The show will be open to the public today from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, tomorrow from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, and on Saturday, May 4 from 10:00am to 12:00 pm.. This is a presentation of an exceptional amount of young talent. Come to the Gala, and support our community students.
MONTGOMERY--At the Montgomery Town Library on Friday, May 3 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, Montgomery resident and artist Bobby Anderson will be celebrated. Call Chris DuRona (326 4368) for directions or more info.


      The Fairfax Community Theater Company will hold auditions for William Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream on Saturday and Sunday May 4-5 at 1 p.m., and on Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in the Binghamville United Church.
      For directions or more information call 849-6638, or e-mail the FCTC at .

      The Enosburgh Town Band is searching for new members. The next rehearsal is on Tuesday, May 7, at 7:30 pm in the Enosburg Elementary School band room.

      The Vermont Department of Agriculture is soliciting submissions for a traveling exhibition of ten major works. Ten Vermont visual artists will be commissioned.
      The works will center on Vermont's agricultural heritage and activities. The Department of Agriculture will also select one artist's work of the ten and purchase rights for the use of that image in print and electronic promotions for as much as the next ten years.
      All visual artists working in two and three-dimensional media are eligible to apply. Digital work printed on suitable substrate for exhibition in a traditional wall hanging style is eligible for consideration. This project open to Vermont residents only; the deadline is May 10.
      A prospectus is available online at Vermont Arts Council.


JEFFERSONVILLE--Book discussion group will discuss The Life and Times of Michael K. by J. M. Coetzee, facilitated by Jules Older, at the Varnum Library on Saturday, May 4, at 3 p.m. Sponsored by the Crecendo Club, Cambridge Arts Council and the Vermont Council on the Humanities.


      Arts sites include performance artists. For a preview of Barachois' performance at the Opera House at Enosburg Falls on June 30, 2002, click here .


      The most fascinating book that I have read in recent months is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.
      The book takes us on an incredible trip though India, teaching us Indian politics, social mores, and more, simply by allowing us to share the lives of several Indian families as they weave their way through society after the separation of Pakistan from India.


      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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