(HOST) Over the years, Vermont has inspired and sustained many outstanding visual artists. Commentator Anne Galloway says that a new exhibit celebrates their contribution to the creative life of the state.
(GALLOWAY) When the Vermont Arts Council was created in 1964, the state was just experiencing the first wave of artsy urban refugees from Boston and New York. Potters, writers, composers, musicians, painters and poets penetrated the back roads in remote Vermont towns in search of inspiration and a little peace of mind.
Back then, Vermont was very different from the state we know now: A place where farming still dominated the economy and the landscape, where shopping malls and art galleries were newfangled notions and the idea of ordering a cappuccino at a restaurant was as exotic as taking a trip to Italy.
Forty years ago, the Council was new on the scene, and the visual art centers that are now an inextricable part of the cultural fabric of the state, like the the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland, Burlington City Arts and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, hadn’t even been dreamed up yet.
These days it seems you can’t walk into a coffee shop without glancing at a full array of caffeine options and encountering local art on the walls. Galleries have proliferated around the state, and area museums are sponsoring shows of big name draws like Rembrandt and Andy Warhol.
The Vermont Arts Council has played a not-always-visible, but crucial supporting role in all this. Over the last 40 years, the Council has distributed $15 million in grants to arts organizations and schools, individual artists, writers, choreographers, composers, musicians and actors.
As part of a nine-month anniversary celebration, the Council is sponsoring a must-see exhibition of works by some of the state’s most distinguished visual artists. For the first time, you can see a Sabra Field woodcut cheek-by-jowl with ink drawings by Judith Brown and Paul Aschenbach, a Wolf Kahn pastel, Karen Karnes’ sculptural “art” pots, images from Michael Singer’s site specific sculptures and works by 20 other award-winning artists – all in the same space.
The show includes work from 1937 to the present and it gives the viewer a sense of how styles of artistic expression have changed. Aesthetically speaking, the 26 artists in this exhibit appear to have little in common, and that’s part of the show’s charm. It features a wide range of media – painting, steel and bronze sculpture, pottery, pastels, drawings and a variety of prints. There are works of pure abstraction, realistic depictions of people and places, and images and forms that ride the line between the two.
What the artists do have in common is residency in Vermont. All 26 of the artists have won awards from the Vermont Arts Council over the years for excellence, lifetime achievement or for service to the arts community.
While “Art of Achievement” doesn’t attempt to encompass all of the state’s most renowned artists, it’s a fitting tribute to the role visual artists have played in the evolution of Vermont’s cultural identity.
I’m Anne Galloway from East Hardwick.
Vermont Arts Council
Anne Galloway reports on the visual arts for The Times Argus. She spoke from our studio in Montpelier.