ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 19 * * All Arts News On the Web * * December 3, 2015


      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.

     Franklin County's arts and music gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and occasional workshops. There are also booked and acoustic Open Mic Nights that feature music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.

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ENOSBURG--Or perhaps "just" a miracle worker.
      The Artist in Residence Cooperative Gallery may close at the end of the month, on Sunday, December 27, never to see 2016.
      The AIR Gallery is one of the high points of the Franklin County art scene. An artists' cooperative, it features paintings, fine art photography, fiber arts, stained glass, sculpture, lamps, pottery, folk art boxes, scarves, hats and more, all by artists who live in and around Franklin County. It is owned and operated by those artists.
      "We don't want to give up on the gallery," artist Natalie La Rocque (Bouchard) said. "It was amazing to discover that there has been visitors from at least 41 States and 14 countries who've signed our guest books." Most visitors don't sign guest books; fewer than a quarter of A.I.R.'s signed theirs.
      Paul Costello, then-head of the also nascent Vermont Creative Economy Project, praised the new co-op for revitalizing the Burg. AIR has been right at the forefront of the creative economy in the county and a vital part of the effort bring visitors -- and shoppers -- to downtown.
      The history: a 2005 fire destroyed much of Enosburg Falls' downtown. AIR rose from the ashes when Nancy Patch gathered a group of over 40 artists to form the cooperative gallery. They opened for business May 2, 2007. Since then, the gallery has visitors from 14 countries and 41 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
      More than 60 different artists have shared their work and experiences at the monthly receptions -- there have been 114 of those gatherings so far. One of the bigger, all-encompassing efforts was the year-long community arts project; the A.I.R. Gallery, Enosburg Falls Historical Society, and Enosburg Falls Conservation Commission collaborated to create a book that profiles the community. Artist members interviewed and photographed 28 local residents. The effort culminated when the final work was introduced at the Opera House. Area art teachers display student work annually. Work study students from Johnson College have learned and grown through internships.
      Sales have been "good to fair" for most members but membership has ebbed and flowed over this last decade and A.I.R. is currently at its lowest number of members, about half what they need to remain open. (Member dues pay the operating expenses and members "work the floor"; members do not pay commission to sell.)
      "I think [A.I.R.] has helped Enosburg," Ms. La Rocque said. "Some of our visitors have stopped at the gallery rather than just drive through. They've told me it's the liveliest place in Enosburg and definitely the most colorful."
      Here's the miracle part:
1. A magician. The gallery needs an area businessperson with fresh insight to help them craft a sustainable plan for the next decades.
2. 30 new members. The gallery needs artists and artisans from Vermont food/wine/honey producers, quilters, antique restorers, furniture makers, and other crafts, as well as the visual artists to share the space and have a presence on a busy Main Street.
3. Marketing. More sales help everyone. The gallery needs a fresh marketing plan that they can afford to attract new and repeat buyers as well as new members.
4. Money. A quick fundraising plan to underwrite the rent for six months would give the gallery breathing space to build up membership, do some marketing, and develop new programs.
      The Artist in Residence Gallery has deep roots in the community and wants to thrive and grow again.
      The community will miss the A.I.R. if it has to close.


ST ALBANS--The Festival of Trees concept is pure poetry: artists, businesses, residents, students, churches and more have created Christmas trees and donate them. No tree is turned away. Each tree is auctioned at the popular Friday night gala. The theme of the Festival is, "It's All About the Lake."
      This column covers the arts events. There is also the Running of the Bells on Thursday, a holiday tractor parade on Friday, activities with Santa and the holiday masquerade party for teens on Saturday, and more.
      Entry to most events is free by donation; a collectible commemorative button is also available by donation. Buttons and Gala tickets may be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce, Imagination, and Bayberry Cottage. All proceeds from the Festival of Trees this year will benefit the Friends of Lake Champlain.

      The "Gala that keeps everyone talking all year long" is the first chance to see the Trees. Cocktails, hors d'oeuvres from Local Fare, live entertainment, and dancing kick off in the Bliss Room on Friday at 7 p.m. The Contois School of Music Band will light the stage all evening with Rosie, Elysia, Kaylee, Trevor, Ian, Robin, Thom, and Dave making great music for dancing. Admission is $30. There will be a cash bar. Tickets are available at the Chamber of Commerce, Bayberry Cottage, and Imagination. Only 150 tickets will be sold.

      The Lake Champlain Art Show and Student Ecology Exhibit will be open in the city space at 10 South Main Street from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The 2D and 3D works by local artists will feature Lake Champlain. Works may be available for sale. BFA students have built a display about the lake and its ecology. Admission is by donation.
      The Showcase & Silent Auction will fill the Bliss Room on Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Live musicians will play amidst the decorated trees. Vermont acoustic duo Chris and Erica take the stage from noon-2 p.m. Calloway Taxi, the a capella jazz quintet, returns to play 2-3 p.m. Twiggs favorites Coon Hill John rejoin the FOT at 3 p.m. There's even a snack bar.
      The Vermont Choral Union will present Heavenly Light in the Bliss Room on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Directed by Jeff Rehbach, the 34-voice a capella ensemble returns to St. Albans for their fourth year with songs and carols for the holiday season. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.

      The Lake Champlain Art Show and Ecology Exhibit will be open at 10 South Main Street from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission is by donation.
      Free entertainment and the Festival of Trees Showcase continues at the Bliss on Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
      Call Pauline Cray (802.309.4487), email, click here, or find them on Facebook.


ENOSBURG FALLS--The Artist In Residence Gallery features different artists each month. This may be the final month for the gallery with the spotlight on photographers Cassy McDonough and Frank McDonough and painters Natalie La Rocque (Bouchard), Pat Murphy, and Martha Ohliger.
      The A.I.R. gallery hosts a free meet-the-artists reception on Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. The artists will discuss their recent work and refreshments will be served. In addition, the gallery will raffle art and sap buckets painted by various artists will be sold as a fundraiser for the gallery.
      The exhibit continues through the end of December.
      The Artist in Residence art cooperative features paintings, fiber arts, stained glass, sculpture, lamps, pottery, folk art boxes, scarves, hats and more. The gallery, located at 321 Main Street, is open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus the first Sunday of each month, noon to 5 p.m.


ESSEX JUNCTION--On Tap offers Blues Night with the Nobby Reed Project tonight at 7 p.m. Vermont's own blues trio includes Eric Belrose, percussion, Ray Bushey, bass, and Mr. Reed on lead guitar and vocals.
      On Tap has music every night of the week. Call 802.878.3309 or email for more info.

Friday and Saturday
ST. ALBANS--Twiggs presents Close to Nowhere on the Main Stage on Friday and Justin Panigutti on Saturday. Both shows begin at 7 p.m.
      Rich Furniss, vocals, and Mark Hagerstrom, guitar, of Close to Nowhere play "bluesyfunkrock with a dash of punk." Formerly in the Burlington band Bearquarium, Mr. Panigutti is a solo singer/songwriter whose shows display his eclectic musical interests.
      Call 802.524.1405 or click here for more info.

ESSEX JUNCTION--The 23rd annual Vermont International Festival will showcase the diversity of Vermont with arts, crafts, food, dance, and music at the Champlain Valley Expo starting tomorrow and continuing through Sunday. The festival will be open Friday evening 5-8 p.m., Saturday 10-6, and Sunday 10-5.
      Friday Children's Day when busloads of children can experience having a passport stamped by all of the countries represented at this celebration of the arts. There will be an Instrument Petting Zoo with Addison White and others from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
      The two entertainment stages feature the St. Andrew's Pipe Band, Jeh Kulu, Lokum, Grup Anwar, On the Border Morris, the Vermont Chinese School, the Akoma Drummers, Reynaldo Gonzalez, Congolese musical group, Vox Disposa, and more.
      Admission is $7 for adults; $5 for children 6-12; $5 for seniors (65+); or a $20 family pass; children under 6 are FREE. Admission is good for the entire weekend. Tickets will be on sale at the door. There is unlimited free parking. CCTA provides public bus service to the Expo grounds.
      Click here for more info.

MORRISVILLE--River Arts presents the Festival of Lights on Saturday from 10-5 p.m.
      There will be live music with Phil and Pati Kirk, The Nutcracker, lantern making and felted bead making, the Artisan/Farmers Market, and more.
      The Kirk duo plays a mix of Irish, Scottish, French Canadian and Appalachian music on the mandolin and baritone ukelele. They have played together and with the band The Parsnips for more than 20 years. Ballet Wolcott will perform The Nutcracker with shows at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
      Admission to all events and activities is free.

CRAFTSBURY--The Music Box features live music with the Missisquoi River Band on Saturday at 7 p.m.
      Joining Pat Murphy and Jim and Cindy Weed are string wizard Will Patton on mandolin and National Steel tenor guitar and Neil Rossi on fiddle.
      Admission is $10 with kids under 16 free. Call 802.586.7533, email, or click here for more info.

ENOSBURG--The Opera House at Enosburg Falls rings in the holiday spirit with a festive tradition: the Enosburg Town Band and Town Chorus Christmas Concert on Sunday at 2 p.m.
      Call the House (802.933.6171) or click here for more info.


ST. ALBANS--The Eloquent Page Book Store will host two readings and book signings on Saturday. Al Blondin and Anastasia Pratt from 10 a.m.-12 noon and Megan Price from 12-2 p.m.
      Mr. Blondin and Ms. Pratt, working with the Winooski Historical Society, wrote Winooski (Images of America). The Images of America series chronicles the history of small towns and downtowns across the country. Winooski features more than 200 vintage images, capturing bygone times and bringing to life the people, places, and events that defined the community.
      Ms. Price, the author of the wildly popular Vermont Wild series, will introduce her newest book, Vermont Wild Adventures of Fish & Game Wardens - Vol. 4. Retired Vermont game wardens Eric Nuse of Johnson, John Kapusta of Hardwick, Ken Denton of Cabot, Norm Brown of Wells and Bob Lutz of Fairfax, along with deputy wardens Walt Ackermann of Cabot and Terry Williams of Poultney contributed their stories to the new book.
      Call 802.527.7243 for info about the Eloquent Page.


      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 © 2015 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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