Richard Brown’s recently published retrospective—The Last of the Hill Farms: Echoes of Vermont’s Past—showcases the photographer’s most cherished subject: Vermont’s hill farmers. This exhibition, which bears the same name, offers the chance to experience the Vermont that Richard entered and began to photograph in the 1970s. On display through July
For nearly fifty years, Ethan Hubbard drove the back roads of rural Vermont in search of old-time Vermonters. In barns and fields, from forest walks to kitchen tables, Ethan’s photographic portraits and audio recordings transport us to rural Vermont and to the moments he shared with the people he met there.
After Minnie Griswold passed away in 1952, her sons locked up their mother’s house in Pawlet, Vermont and left all her belongings in place, unaltered. Thirty years later, Pawlet documentarians Susanne and Neil Rappaport would enter the home at the invitation of one of the brothers, Charlie, and go on to produce a collection of hand-colored photographs of Minnie’s home.
Staged as a part of the Pulp Culture Comic Arts Festival and Symposium, Green Mountain Pulp is an exhibit featuring Vermont cartoonists, comics set in Vermont, and the work of our three Pulp Culture keynote presenters: Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco and Art Spiegelman. On display at the Bailey/Howe Library at UVM through March 11.
Family Traits: Art, Humor, Living explores the creative world of Stanley Lyndes—examining how a family builds identity and makes meaning through the celebration of its quirky characters and the peculiarities of everyday life. ON DISPLAY: Vermont History Museum, Montpelier, VT, through January 26, 2018
Vermont’s environmental movement evolved from a few early 20th century conservationists with the capacity to “purchase to protect” important natural resources—and has since moved through various phases from regulation and litigation to polarization and collaboration.
Today, while Congress is deadlocked and state governments fail to act aggressively on the most pressing issues of the day—climate change and clean energy—Vermonters are not waiting for a top-down solution and are working locally to make a difference in their own towns and communities.
Now Elizabeth Courtney, former director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and co-author with Eric Zencey of “Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State,” raises the question:
“In the second decade of the 21st century, we ask ourselves, to what extent can local actions bring about an economy that is just and equitable, an environment that is healthy and balanced and communities prepared to weather the disruptions of climate change?”
Inspired by the book, “Greening Vermont,” this exhibition invites the viewer to ponder the answer.
"The authors don't pretend to offer a dispassionate accounting, rather their perspective is clear throughout the book: A strong commitment to conservation and environmental protection has been and is of great importance to Vermont, and we must do more to move the state further down the path to sustainability."
Text from the book, coupled with audio excerpts from interviews with environmental leaders and portraits of prominent figures in the movement by Curtis Johnson, are complemented by contributions from Middlebury College Environmental Studies Seniors working with local community partners from around the state on issues as varied as water quality, land use, energy, biodiversity, and climate change.
The book is organized into six chapters, one for each decade beginning in the 1960s. The authors characterize each of these decades with a single word: conservation, regulation, litigation, confrontation, collaboration, and localization. Although the overarching narrative of the book deals with the environment generally, there is a particular focus on land use and planning. In addition to this chronological narrative, there are a multitude of sidebars, on topics ranging from “Four Varieties of Capital” to “Rationing Retail: Who Decides?” as well as a series of interviews with leaders of the Vermont conservation move- ment over the last several decades (including, for example, the late Hub Vogelmann and Governor Madeleine May Kunin). The book is richly illustrated with graphics and photographs.
It is our hope that “Greening of Vermont: A Culture of Environmental Advocacy” will stimulate broad ranging conversations that will move our thinking forward and assist in our efforts to meet the pressing environmental challenges of our era.
We thank the fall and spring semesters’ community partners who included The Institute for Sustainable Communities, Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, Vermont Council on Rural Development, Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center, Rutland Regional Planning Commission, Marble Valley Transit District, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), the Office of the Mayor of Rutland, and the Carving Studio.
In addition to the many enthusiastic community partners listed above, I’d like to thank the Middlebury College Sustainability Director, Jack Byrne for inviting Greening Vermont into the 2013-2014 year of studies and Environmental Studies students, class of 2013.5 and 2014, faculty members, Jon Isham, Becky Gould, Cat Ashcraft and Molly Costanza-Robinson, Coordinator for Community-Based Environmental Studies Diane Munroe as well as Mason Singer of Laughing Bear
Associates, Vic Guadagno of Bright Blue EcoMedia and Greg Sharrow and Ned Castle of the Vermont Folklife Center all of whom have been working to further the goal of reaching a sustainable state.
We’d also like to thank the artists whose works appear in this exhibit, Jan Brough, Elizabeth Nelson, Ed Epstein, Gaal Shepherd, Susan Abbott, Bread and Puppet Theater, Curtis Hale, David Brewster, and James Jahrsdoerfer. The collaboration among the authors, educators, students, ethnographers and citizens taking action makes a fertile ground for the real-time content of Greening Vermont: the Search Continues.
- Elizabeth Courtney
This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Greening Vermont as a traveling exhibition.
West Fairlee rug braider Delsie Hoyt was inspired by the unique creative vision that her Great-Grandmother, Annette “Nettie” Nelson, of Ryegate, Vermont, brought to the craft over a century ago. “I seek to challenge conventional notions of what a braided rug can be through experimental designs that range from swirling galaxies to pastoral Vermont landscapes,” explains Hoyt.
GRACE, Grass Roots Art and Community Effort began in the 1970’s when Don Sunseri moved to Vermont to “get away” from the competitiveness and hustle of the New York City art scene. Working as a dishwasher at the St. Johnsbury Convalescent Center, Don had the idea that a “well of untapped creativity might be lurking in the halls and common rooms around him in the nursing home.”
With permission from the center’s administration, he began offering workshops—providing art materials, encouragement and a supportive environment, and letting the residents explore on their own. He describes having “discovered a new sense of authenticity by witnessing the emergence of these grassroots artists.”
His impulse, and those early workshops with residents, formed the foundation of what would become GRACE—a now forty-year effort to discover, develop, and promote self-taught artists throughout Vermont.
Amazing GRACE celebrates the works of more than twenty-five current and past artists supported through GRACE’s hundreds of annual workshops in nursing homes, adult day centers, mental health agencies, or on-site at GRACE’s Old Firehouse facility in Hardwick, Vermont.
While certain elements of continuity run throughout—the role of pattern, a sense of space, a visible joy of drawing—the myriad of styles and mediums employed by the artists reflect the deeply personal, and often autobiographical, nature of the works.
Sunseri believed that each of us is in possession of a well of experience. “To draw from that well is to draw from the source of all art,” he said.
“We feel a sense of common cause with the GRACE philosophy around an emphasis on, and curiosity of, an individual’s personal experience,” explains Ned Castle, the Vision & Voice Gallery Coordinator. “To draw from that well—the knowledge of everyday living—is to draw not only on the source of all art, but on the source of all folklife, too.”
Five years ago, Tropical Storm Irene changed the landscape and lives of many Vermonters. Chris Triebert was one of them—an artist living and working along the Rock River in South Newfane. Vermonters processed the chaos of the storm, destruction, and recovery in different ways—for Triebert, with time, her experience turned to art making as a way to create visual and emotional order from the chaos.
Remnants of the flood’s aftermath – piles of rocks, strewn debris and littered sand – gave form to the close-up and abstract photographs created by the artist following the flood.
“When the storm ended, debris, sand, gravel and rocks were strewn all over our property, which sits along the banks of the Rock River in South Newfane. In the following weeks of clean-up, I set aside some of the objects of the flood’s aftermath and observed them closely. I noticed how the rock surfaces, the shapes of debris, and patterns in the sand seemed to reflect each other in an underlying grid of line, form, color, and texture,” she writes.
Triebert printed these photographic made landscapes on wood panels and arranged the pieces into a quilt-like pattern, called GEOMORPH, which fills the main gallery wall at the Vermont Folklife Center.
GEOMORPH / Things Change and They Change Again is a two-part exhibition showcasing Triebert’s Irene-inspired oeuvre—GEOMORPH—along with an ethnographic case study of sorts that explores her motivations for creating this work in response to the storm.
“The panels offer infinite possibilities of assembling the images into different grid systems, and each new pattern suggests its own universe of endlessly rearrangeable elements. Just as in nature, no form is permanent,” explains Triebert.
The signature GEOMORPH piece is complemented by materials in the adjoining rooms—then and now photographs, archival footage, candid snapshots of volunteers, scrapbook materials, interviews with Triebert, and an interactive makers component—that invite visitors to explore the progression that lead her to, and through, the creation of this work.
Triebert graciously welcomes this inquiry into her process—and in sharing her own experience, gives visitors an intimate point of reference to reflect on how Vermonters across the state responded to, recovered from, and moved on from Tropical Storm Irene.
A reception and artist talk will be held on October 6th from 5:30-7PM at the Vermont Folklife Center.
The Vision & Voice Gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The program is generously underwritten by the Rotary Club of Middlebury, VT, Cabot Creamery, the Vermont Community Foundation, and our membership at large. The Gallery is ADA accessible on the first floor of the Vermont Folklife Center headquarters building at 88 Main Street in Middlebury.
The Vermont Folklife Center's mission is to broaden, strengthen, and deepen our understanding of Vermont and the surrounding region; to assure a repository for our collective cultural memory; and to strengthen communities by building connections among the diverse peoples of Vermont.
Discovering Community proudly presents a showcase of documentary media pieces produced by students working in collaboration with our educational outreach programs locally and internationally. Let us celebrate their accomplishments with an opportunity to view their work and learn from the young minds behind the projects.
Completed during classes, workshops and after-school programs at schools and non-profit organizations around the state—and beyond—the array of projects in Vermont span from documentary films and photography, to podcasts, and artwork made by students from elementary to undergraduate levels. Stories gathered by youth nationally and internationally enter the conversation through our collaborative working partnerships with the World Story Exchange, Conversations from the Open Road, Stories of Hope, and the Freedom and Unity project.
The Vermont Folklife Center’s Discovering Community model gets students out of the classroom to learn from their diverse communities—using media-making tools to document and ultimately share their experiences. The program supports educators in providing the context for students to achieve required proficiencies through real-life learning, and holds the potential to promote personal growth by deepening students’ understanding of themselves and others. It can also enhance students’ sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and help to ensure their future involvement in its civic life.
Discovering Community Education Sponsors / Bay and Paul Foundations, Victoria and Courtney Buffum Family Foundation, Jane’s Trust Foundation, Walter Cerf Foundation, Orton Family Fund, Robin Foundation, and private contributions of our many members.
Exhibit underwriters / Cabot of Vermont, Rotary Club of Middlebury, VT, Vermont Community Foundation, and the Vermont Arts Council.
For over a decade, the Vermont Folklife Center has been exploring the roots of the environmental movement and renewable energy in Vermont, documenting an evolving course of action that extends from the mid 1960s to the present. Since this arc of activity has occurred within living memory, it has been possible to seek out and speak with the very people whose work has been an engine of change.
Seventy-two interviews later, “Portraits in Action” presents twenty-five Vermont pioneers in renewable energy, environmental conservation, and land use planning. This diverse cross section is intended to be suggestive rather than comprehensive, recognizing that there are many more whose work has also made a difference.
The exhibit pairs portrait photography and interview audio as a way for visitors to thoughtfully connect with each person featured. Image and audio are linked to personal statements written in response to the question: “What will bring us to the next level in meeting the energy and environmental challenges we are facing today?”
In our current political environment, consensus on the defining issues of our era continues to elude us. “Portraits in Action” offers the opportunity to spend time with a group of people who have been thinking hard about many of these issues over the course of their working lifetimes. It is both and oral history and a call to action.
Portrait photography by Dorothy Weicker and Ned Castle; audio by Marty Dewees, Erica Heilman, and Gregory Sharrow; and personal statements by the individuals featured.
“I want to tell a story about me. It’s a true story; its not a story that people write.”
Through the pairing of acrylic paintings and audio excerpts, the exhibit reflects Hom Pradhan’s experience growing up in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal. As a child, Pradhan experienced challenging conditions among 120,000 refugees expelled from Bhutan. Despite these conditions, Pradhan found the incentive to make art, which helped him find and maintain peace and happiness within himself.
Hom Pradhan began to paint and draw at the age of seven. As a teenager, while still in the Bhutanese refugee camp, Goldhap, he completed the advanced course at the Institute of Fine Arts and Commercial Arts (IFACA). He then became a student instructor at the IFACA, where he taught fine arts, sculpture, and commercial arts to other refugees.
In late 2012 Pradhan was relocated to the United States, which presented a whole new set of challenges, including language barriers and cultural differences. His painting, however, has allowed him to navigate past these challenges as a visual, universally understood representation of a difficult time in his life. He is a resident of Winooski, Vermont, and is currently enrolled in an early college program at Burlington College where he is pursuing a four-year degree in fine arts. He plans to share the peace he has found in himself through his artwork with the communities that surround him.
This exhibit is available to travel! Click on the Exhibit Specifications below to learn more about Life Under the Shadow as a traveling exhibition.
Renewable energy engineer/business pioneer
To reach the next level in meeting our environmental and energy challenges will require an invigorated and deeper Personal Commitment by each of us.
Personal Commitment to do the right thing–in our homes, in our life styles, in the politicians we choose.
CLIMATE DISASTER is what we are facing. Accepting tepid political band-aides and ‘tweaks” to the status quo will not begin to address the magnitude and urgency of the challenge.
The deterioration of our environment can be directly tied to energy use and abuse. We need to scale back our wastefulness and change to more environmentally appropriate sources–societally and individually. Our earth can no longer sustain our current habits. We need to shrink our energy footprints and find ways to source our energy sustainably.
People hope and are willing to wait for technology to fix their problems. That is usually a cop out for not being willing to address the issue and take action. Technology will evolve over time, but it isn’t keeping up with the rapidly deteriorating climate. People need to wake up to the fact that they can do more right now. Personally and nationally.
We have started down this road, but with a timidity well short of the committed action required. To meet our challenge we need to do more and do it faster. The means and solutions exist. The commitment to use them isn’t there. Not yet . . .
Our collective footprint is huge; my personal footprint is too big as well.
Personal change comes hard. The ever-increasing awareness of almost certain climate disaster will spur the conversation. But real changes will only come when we collectively take significant and meaningful action. Let’s not do too little, too late.
So put on an extra sweater, heat and cool your house less, drive less, fly less, stay home more and enjoy where you live. And by all means, avail yourself of the newest energy technologies that you want and can afford. Commit to shrinking your footprint today.
Only support candidates, locally to nationally, who have made this commitment as well.
To have any hope of changing course, we need to demand significant action NOW. That will come as we each make stronger, broader, deeper personal commitments.
Founder and President, Vermont Environmental Research Associates, Inc
Exciting improvements to our electric, transportation, and home heating power systems in the coming decades will most assuredly evolve from societal pressures to integrate these sectors and improve their carbon footprint to improve air quality. Implementing these changes will inevitably be a bumpy ride as they affect all sectors of the energy industry; power generation, transmission and delivery, and importantly, consumers. In the electric sector this evolutionary trend is rapidly accelerating as new smaller and local generation sources are more frequently added to our electric system at the same time as new load is added by the electrification of the transportation and space heating sectors.
Substantial new investment in sustainable renewable generation sources is needed to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction objectives. If we set our clean air goals carefully and implement them pragmatically these changes will occur naturally, albeit at a slower pace than many would like.
Much of the work in my career has been focused on participating actively in this evolution by supporting the commercial scale renewable energy development. Because local renewable generation systems are usually visible features in the community, we can expect our working landscape will continue to evolve as the transition to clean energy expands along with the public dialogue as to need and societal benefits.
As in centuries past, communities will be able to see and identify with where there power is made. It will be on our rooftops, in our fields, and on our hilltops. The transition is underway now and will continue for generations. I can’t wait!
Owner, Wolfe Energy LLC; Co-Founder, groSolar
Senior Vice President of Business Strategy, Just Energy; Co-Founder, groSolar
We pray it is not true, but “crisis” may be the only tool powerful enough to evoke the change needed to conquer the environmental and energy challenges we are facing today. We can’t see parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so when we hear we need to be at 350 ppm, but are now over 400 ppm, it fails to instill enough action. We can’t feel on a daily basis how 2 degrees Celsius would affect us, so it is an ineffective motivator to encourage us to change our ways.
In addition, for over a century we have allowed the industrial revolution to use the atmosphere as a free dumping ground while we become ever more addicted to fossil fuels. It is incredibly hard for a civilization to break the habit of high profits, power, and convenience afforded by cheap energy. Where education is abundant and forward-thinking citizens harken to scientists’ warnings, change can and is happening. But not fast enough nor among a broad enough base of citizens.
Can devastating floods such as Irene and Sandy, long-lasting droughts as experienced in California, and other environmental crises provide the catalyst needed to inspire us to reach the next level? We hope we can change sooner, as happened with the ozone layer, for with crisis comes high casualties, especially to those most vulnerable in our society. For that reason, Jeff and I have long worked to bring renewable energy to the fore, effecting change now for a better future.
President, Shelburne Farms
I believe that providing young people opportunities to engage in learning that is relevant to living in the 21st century is an essential component of what is needed to meet the environmental and energy challenges we face today. It is equally important for land owners and farmers, consumers, government, and business leaders to pursue and support economic development that advances social and environmental values.
At Shelburne Farms, our work revolves around educating for a sustainable future and practicing community-minded stewardship of natural, agricultural, and cultural resources. By supporting educators we extend our impact throughout Vermont, nationally, and internationally as well.
Beginning at an early age, we encourage lifelong learning and offer personal experiences with nature and agriculture. We build connections to place and community and give young people the sense they can make a difference in the world. And beyond our home working landscape and campus, our vision is that every young person, wherever they live, will have access to education for sustainability opportunities in their own schools and communities.
What we are cultivating is a conservation ethic and culture of sustainability. At the heart of that is the intention to become more aware about and responsible for the impact of the choices we make on our own health, the health of our communities, and the health of the natural world.
Founding Executive Director, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board
Since the Vermont Countryside Commission’s report more than 80 years ago, Vermont has continually recommitted itself to compact settlements surrounded by the working landscape. Across generations, through policy and increased investment, Vermonters have stated their desire to protect the values reflected in our landscape and for our villages and downtowns to be vital places where the people in our communities connect with each other.
Vermont’s decision to bring together housing, conservation, and historic preservation provides the opportunity to look holistically at development, conservation, social justice, and displacement of natural systems and people.
A globalizing economy requires both the agricultural and forest economy to innovate and change. Suburbanization and sprawl continue to challenge Vermont whether in Chittenden County or through large lot subdivision of farmland and fragmentation of Vermont’s forests. Our growing understanding of climate change and the health of our waters adds new dimensions to the urgency of our work. Homelessness scars our sense of justice.
Whether it is economic forces driving Vermont’s economy or the expectation that our grandchildren will experience North Carolina’s climate in Vermont, we need to step up our efforts investing in and building vibrant communities while protecting our landscape. Seeking a “sustainable future” will require reinventing our economy and forcefully addressing social equity.
To succeed we will need a greater commitment working together and investing in our collective future.
Renewable energy consultant
Founder, Solar Works, Inc
Forty-five years ago, I came to Vermont as a young man disillusioned by the pace of environmental destruction in this country and the human destruction being wrought by the Vietnam War. I wanted to drop out, escape, and retreat into the hills.
Instead of retreating, I ended up reconnecting. I reconnected to community life and came to understand that most, if not all Vermonters have a sense of shared community, guided by certain touchstone values–protecting our land, promoting social equality, and serving those in need. And when this community is threatened, it can come together quickly and act in a unified, powerful way. In 1969, the threat was shoddy development and land speculation. It took Vermont only one year to reach consensus and pass Act 250, a landmark vision of regional, citizen control over land use.
Today, the threat of climate change imperils Vermonters and all of earth’s species. Again, we have stepped up to the challenge by creating state policies that are promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. The goal is to transform Vermont into a renewable energy economy by 2050. While Vermont’s energy leadership will not end global climate change, it can and will serve as a model for other states and countries. And it is a model that will be attractive to others because Vermont’s efforts will boost our economy, keep energy affordable, and protect our environment.
As a renewable energy engineer, I know we have the technology and skills today to proceed with this energy transition. But it is not technology that underpins the path that Vermont has embarked upon, it is our shared sense of community and our deep desire to leave Vermont to the next generation a little better than we found it.