ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 8 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 11, 2004


      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 live music and more at the Fairfax Music Sessions at the Foothills Bakery in Fairfax most Saturday afternoons at 1 p.m., at ChowBella in St Albans 8-10 p.m. most Wednesday evenings, at the Kept Writer in St Albans mostly once each month, at the Bayside in St Albans Town most Sunday afternoons, and the Cambridge CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month.
     These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and occasional workshops. The booked performances and acoustic Open Mike Nights feature music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      No, this is not my April Fool's column. In fact no one I know named Ed is looking for a job with an Athletic Club.
      The All Arts Council has hired Judith Geer of Georgia as our first Executive Director. Ms. Geer brings significant administrative and technical expertise to the job; she expects to make the AAC more effective and to move the Council into a more professional position in the arts community.
      This is a big change for a community group that has for 20 years operated on volunteer muscle, a shoestring, and some sealing wax. Thanks to hundreds of volunteers over the years, we have staged a hundreds of major and minor events. Now that Ms. Geer can move us forward, we're going to need a lot more volunteers.
      Ms. Geer will work with the members to keep our ongoing art exhibits, concerts, and other projects successful. She will fund raise, recruit new members, retain existing members, find volunteer staff, and keep them all happy. And she will become the "face" of the arts council as the liaison between the AAC and outside agencies, other presenters, and the audience.
      "Part of her job is raising community awareness. Having someone sitting in the 'storefront' makes that easier," AAC Director Tim Stetson said. "The community will also see us as more of a professionally run enterprise, because she will provide continuity in our day to day operations."
      Storefront? The AAC has been homeless since its inception. Ms. Geer also needs to find a home for her desk.
      "I would like to see us build the budget," she said. "In the position we are in now, we have to be able to do some things that we can't afford to do. We need to have a physical presence, whether it be an office or to start to look for a facility. It could even be a house with rooms that could be converted to artists' space. We also need to get in touch with the community to show how people can become a part of the effort.
      "Long term, I'd love to see a facility. I'd love to see [something with] a small performance space, a gallery, someplace that will show off the arts and artists of Franklin County."
      Ms. Geer has begun seeking organizational and operating funding.
      "Judy's enthusiasm and personality and energy level will enable her to help the AAC cross the bridge into a well organized, dynamic group," AAC Director Kate Kinney said.
      Magic happens around the All Arts Council of Franklin County.
      "There are several big events coming this year," Ms. Geer said. "Dick organizes all the continuous live entertainment as well as a fine art exhibit for the Vermont Maple Festival next month. Our Summer Sounds concerts begin June 29 in Highgate. And we will collaborate with the Vermont Mozart Festival for a free concert in St. Albans in July."
      The Summer Sounds series brings touring artists to Franklin County every summer Sunday in one of Vermont's longest running and most popular free outdoor concert series.
      The AAC organized Railroad Days in St. Albans as the only visit the national ArTrain USA has ever made to Vermont. The Artistry of Space collection in that festival brought the best work of the more than 250 American artists involved in the U.S. space program here; the exhibit included Peter Max, Robert McCall, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and James Wyeth. The festival also included a Civil War bank robbery, community events, theatrical performances, the MAEL-Mobile Aeronautics Laboratory from the NASA Glenn Center; a Main Street parade; exhibits of train and model train memorabilia, a Swing Dance, and a major AAC exhibit.
      Floodstock, a benefit concert, was the All Arts Council's biggest single concert undertaking. April Wine headlined the concert along with 17 well known Vermont bands. 400 volunteers, music lovers, high school students, Rotarians, and 50 businesses pitched in. As Sue Wilson said at the time, "That buys a lot of new heaters" for Montgomery Flood Victims.
      Area artists have filled the AAC handball courts at the Rotary Home Expo, exhibiting local art to 40,000 visitors. The AAC has showcased mezzo-sopranos in Richford Town Hall, the Vermont Youth Orchestra in Swanton, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra in many of the sanctuaries and theater spaces around the County. We provide networking and technical assistance to local artists and recently supplied a grant for a local student's musical instrument.
      As Vermont's only all-volunteer local arts agency, we bring all the arts to Franklin County and showcases and develops local artists. The group involves the community with all forms of the arts by offering concerts and shows, festivals, fine art exhibits, arts projects for kids, arts education programs for all ages, and provides networking and technical assistance to local artists. Northwestern Vermont has enjoyed our events such as the Franco Voyageurs, the Ketch dance troupe, McGill Jazz, Vermont Symphony performances, and more, since 1984.
      The AAC also carries out significant promotion for arts and entertainment in Franklin County thanks to a popular website, commercial advertising, e-mailings, radio, television, and these weekly newspaper columns.
      The Opera House at Enosburg Falls has sought a Program Administrator; Ms. Geer will also fill that role as well.
      "We looked for someone with strong business and marketing experience," AAC and OHEF Director Jon Scott said. "Ms. Geer has great project management skills and her very current studies fit precisely with our needs."
      At the Opera House she will work with presenters to assist with their technical and publicity needs, as well as monitoring the use of the facility, and collect the appropriate fees. Dave Stetson is the Opera House Facility Manager. The Opera House and the All Arts Council work closely together.
      "I spent three glorious hours at the Opera House office with a mop and a bucket," she said. This was the Opera House's "storefront," not the production space.
      Ms. Geer is a current Master's candidate in Arts Administration at Goucher College in Towson, MD. "I picked Goucher because it allows me to go to school and still maintain a life here," she said. "It allows me to earn my degree more slowly and not overwhelm the rest of my life. I like the fact that all the people teaching the classes are practicing artists or administrators."
      The program requires only brief campus visits; the rest is done via online classes.
      "I look at Arts Administration as business administration for the arts. This particular program deals 99.9 percent with non-profits."
      The seventh generation Vermonter is graduate of St. Michaels. Her background includes live theater as a lighting designer, director, actor, and stagehand. She has 20 years experience in the travel industry.
      "I love going to the theater," she said. "I love going to concerts. My best times have been sitting in tech rehearsals at a theater. I sit out in the audience and watch them bump-grind through lighting cues and music cues and watch the transformation, how this awful mess and all the screams and yells and things falling, and all of a sudden transformS from a cocoon to a butterfly."
      She lives in Georgia where she "loves to do crafts. I quilt and knit and sew and cross stitch." She "putters around outside" and is learning to kayak. Her family lives within an hour of this area. She has a dog, two cats, and a goldfish.
      Ms. Geer has taken on a lot, much akin to having four full time jobs. The two arts jobs, plus school, plus her life.
      "I think the motives are different," she said of groups like the AAC. "A non-profit in its purest sense does things for people, as a service or education or social service, but a for-profit" needs to make money to distribute to its shareholders.

      I will interview Ms. Geer on Neighbor to Neighbor on Adelphia Channel 15 starting Thursday evening, March 11, at 9:30 p.m. The interview repeats Friday, March 12, at 2:30 p.m. and the following Thursday, March 18, at 2 a.m.


CHANNEL 3--The Croppies, a "not even close to traditional" American-Irish band, will perform Friday morning at 7 a.m. on the WCAX-TV Music Showcase. They will play a song and chat about the band. This outing marks their third year of doing the St Patrick's Day show.

CAMBRIDGE--The Cambridge Arts Council presents the Nobby Reed Project in a concert and dance tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m. in the Cambridge Elementary School Auditorium.
      Nobby Reed has shared the stage with Blues Traveler, Dickie Betts, James Cotton, Delbert McClinton, Buckwheat Zydeco, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Roomful of Blues, and The Neville Brothers. Refreshments will be provided by the Cambridge Teen Coalition.

ST. ALBANS--The First Congregational Church presents a Community Dance with New England contras, squares, and Circles on Sunday, 3-5 p.m. The caller is Mark Sustic, with Jim McGinnis, fiddle, and Michele Choiniere, piano.
      Admission is $3/person or $10 for the whole family. Be sure to bring non-marking, soft-soled shoes to preserve the floor. There is parking on Church Street or behind the church and the courthouse. Call 524-0044 for information.


      Ever wonder Minnesnowtans do in the winter? Taken during the 2004 St Paul Winter Carnival, this image from the southeast corner of West 7th Street and Kellogg Blvd looks up toward St Paul's Cathedral. My correspondent "thought the 2004 castle looked like a bunch of prettily-lit farm silos (not the old classic silos, but the newer squatty prefab aluminum ones)."


      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 © 2004 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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