ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 14 * * All Arts News On the Web * * July 24, 2010


      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 various restaurants around Franklin County throughout the week, 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.

      Find links to these events and more in our Spotlight!

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      "A successful artist in Vermont has a working spouse."
 ArtBits News Photo     Unfortunately, artistic success with just one paycheck in this economy often means living very close to the edge. Vermont blues singer and songwriter Jim Branca and his family found that out this weekend.
      An apartment house explosion in Swanton Village early Saturday morning left one man in the hospital with severe burns and several families homeless. The other six residents of the four apartments, including the Branca family, escaped without injuries.
      The blast caused the exterior walls of the apartment house to blow out. The second floor "landed on the driveway in front of his wife and mother-in-law" and other debris from the building hit the houses around it. Mr. Branca woke from a nap with the ceiling on top of him but there was clear circle of safety in the debris field around his eight-year-old son, Tommy.
      I caught up with Mr. Branca at the Europa Motel down the road here in Swanton. He says he is "one flat hat away from being an Amish guy."
      Ben Stein spoke about the happiness that "comes to those who pursue careers that define their passions." A writer, actor, and Shaq-twin in the cable ads, Mr. Stein delivered part of the commencement address he didn't give at UVM on CBS Sunday Morning last week.
      "They decided to do what their hearts told them to do, to do what was in them to do. They took risks and they took chances, and they tried a lot of different things until they got to where they wanted to be.
      "This very often means working incredibly hard and living on the edge. But it gets you to where you can look back on your life and say it wasn't wasted."
      Life on the edge. The fire and its aftermath has been an "emotional roller coaster" for the Branca family who lost pretty much everything.
      More than anything else, they need a little boom box for Tommy to replace the one that melted.
      "We don't know the fate of our cat," Mr. Branca said. "She answers to Tooney as much as any cat answers to anything. We're hoping for a miracle." Tooney disappeared the day of fire Saturday. She is a sleek black cat with one white rear toe. She was originally in the vicinity of Canada Street but she could have easily hopped a freight to Burlington, Vermont, or Burlington, Iowa.
      Please call Mr. Branca (802.752.9470) if Tooney shows up at your house.
      The Brancas lost his much-loved reissue of a black Guild Starfire guitar, an instrument he has nurtured and fretted over since the Bloozotomy days, plus other instruments and his extensive collection of albums, a vinyl collection from his dad, and music in the blaze. His grandma's bracelet and a lock of Tommy's hair are gone. And, he said, he "hasn't stopped moving until I leapt out of bed and pulled the ceiling tile off me."
      They are looking for an interim place to stay but long term "we really want a house with a yard." And they will need that microwave and toaster oven you thought you didn't need along with most everything else that goes into making a home. They had no renters' insurance.
      Mr. Branca also leads the Second Sunday Sing-a-long Suppers in the Alburgh Library and teaches music at the Soar Learning Center in St. Albans Bay.
      The Swanton Fire Auxiliary and the Swanton Chamber of Commerce are organizing music benefit concerts for Mr. Branca and the other residents of the building. Swanton Fire Auxiliary President Jackie Corbiere (with some musical assistance from drummer and firefighter Jason Corbiere) is the organizer.
      "There will be two concerts," Jason said. "One in Swanton to help the whole building's occupants and one in Burlington because soooooooo many musicians want to lend a hand." Mark your calendars: the Swanton concert will be all afternoon July 10 and the concert at Nectars on July 11.
      Call Jackie Corbiere (802.370.2609) or Jason Corbiere (802.370.2608) if you would like to join in for the concert or want to donate. Donations can be made to the Swanton Auxiliary at any TD Bank branch.
      The building is a total loss.
      "People I didn't even know I knew have come out of the woodwork," Mr. Branca said. "I've always loved that about Swanton."


     Monday was the first day of Summer and the Longest Day of the year. That means the All Arts Council Summer Sounds series will begin next Sunday, July 4, at Bay Day with Carol Ann Jones and the Superchargers playing into the fireworks. The lineup includes Jim Branca and the Mystic Mojo Band, Flood in the Fizzy Factory, Jenni Johnson, Possum Haw, Uncle Funk and the Heavy Hitters, and more. The entire schedule is online at
      Besides the music, food is a big part of the fun of an outdoor concert. Local community groups will host each event with special activities, family fun, bake sales, grilled hot dogs, and even ice cream socials to make every Sunday a great family holiday in the park. This year, the AAC, Foster Grandparents, Highgate Fire Auxiliary, Highgate Historical Society, and Highgate Library host the concerts.
      "Free" concerts are expensive to stage. The host towns, local business sponsors, and the All Arts Council hire the bands, create the publicity, and set up shows every summer weekend. Summer Sounds welcomes our sponsors of this popular series: Chevalier Drilling, Desorcie's Market, O. C. McCuin & Sons, Ray's Extrusion Dies, and Scotty's Taxi. These businesses need your support to continue. Please remember to thank the hosts and patronize the sponsors.


     The Bryan Memorial Gallery/New England Plein Air Painters exhibit, Paint Vermont, features new work by artists who have painted in and around Jeffersonville within the past year. The NEPAP exhibition with its focus on sites in Lamoille County and Bakersfield draws to a close on Sunday.
      Bryan Memorial Gallery began the NEPAP in 2008. It developed a camaraderie between local visitors and the visiting artists. Thanks to the support of a member of our community, the Gallery has housed artists T.A. Charron, Robert Duffy, William P. Duffy, Michael Graves, William Hanson, Stapleton Kearns, Barbara Lussier, Christopher Magadini, T.M. Nicholas, Tom Nicholas, N.A., Dianne Panarelli Miller, Margaret McWethy, Stefan Alexis Pastuhov, Caleb Stone, Don Stone, N.A., and Eric Tobin in Jeffersonville to paint.
      The exhibit began May 2 and ends June 27.


     MySpace isn't dead. Carol Ann Jones of Georgia uses her site for a blog, bio info, to promote her CD Out Of The Blue, show her performance schedule, and more. She will play at Westford Farmer's Market, Summer Sounds at Bay Day, the Georgia Community Center, and the Fairfax Summer Concert Series, and that's just in the first two weeks of July.


      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 © 2010 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).
      Thanks to recent misuse of copyright material on the Internet by individuals and archival firms alike, we emphasize that your rights to this article are limited to viewing it and printing it for personal use only. You must receive explicit permission from the All Arts Council and the author before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.