Index - September, October, 2015

Doreen Kraft – Champion of Burlington City Arts
by Cynthia Close

BCA Director, Doreen Kraft.
Photo: Jan Doerler

Doreen Kraft began her journey in arts administration in 1983, in an office squeezed inside a janitor’s closet in the basement of city hall. She was the first paid, part-time staff person for the Mayor’s Arts Council (MAC), originally an all-volunteer organization established in 1981 by then mayor Bernie Sanders. The mission of MAC was to “make the arts available to all, regardless of social, economic or physical constraints,” which remains a guiding principle of Burlington City Arts (BCA) today.

Early on, festivals and concerts were seen by MAC as a vehicle to bring the arts to the people rather then keeping visual arts, music, and other cultural activities tucked away in the rarified and sometimes intimidating atmosphere of museums, concert halls, and galleries. The Battery Park Free Concert Series was started back then and continues today along with the Discover Jazz Festival, which was initiated through a partnership with the Flynn Center. This year the festival celebrates its 32nd anniversary of bringing jazz to Vermont audiences.

These events reflected a spirit of community that was at the heart of MAC’s original mandate. The building of relationships between artists and the cultural organizations that supported them soon began to catch the attention of the world outside Vermont, and in 1988 the US Conference of Mayors cited Burlington as “one of the most livable cities for the arts.”

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Three Vermont Senior Women Keep Their Art Vibrant
by Cynthia Close

(top) Fay Webern, photo: Peg Tassey - (middle) Alexandra Heller, photo: Kip Ross(bottom) Claire Van Vliet, photo: Todd R. Lockwood

Women in the arts are bucking the widely accepted belief that creativity is a product of youth, and as we age our energy and our ability to inspire or be inspired dwindles. Madonna, 57, and Meryl Streep, 66, are international stars who have not let aging slow them down. They continue to infuse their work with new ideas that keep audiences enthralled, and painter Georgia O’Keeffe was active until she died at the age of 99.

Vermont has its share of women whose creative energy has kept them actively at work well into their 80s, a time when many of us feel we are lucky to be able to still walk the dog. It didn’t take much digging to discover three amazing women: Alexandra Heller, Claire Van Vliet, and Fay Webern—all with long, productive lives behind them and exciting new opportunities and projects still ahead.

It was a June 2015 press release that initially brought my attention to Fay Webern. The release announced that Webern, 88, would be reading excerpts from her soon-to-be released book The Button Thief of East 14th Street: Scenes from a Life on the Lower East Side 1927–1957 at the Light Club Lamp Shop in Burlington.

The accompanying photographs on the release captured the dramatic aura and energy that Webern exudes: her regal, chiseled features and beautifully expressive hands commanded immediate attention. The images suggested that this woman was a natural performer and storyteller, a first impression that was confirmed when I later met her.

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Of Art and Madness: The Story of Camille Claudel

by Kate Mueller

Art Hop Showcases Local Talent and Pumps the Queen City’s Economy
by Gail Callahan

A member of the Noodle Family Traveling Circus, an 18-foot inflatable sculpture by Abby Manock. Photo: Steve Mease

For the last 22 Septembers, Art Hop has brought together a wide range of artists, while drawing scores of visitors to Burlington’s South End. The upcoming Hop will feature 500 artists stretched over more than 100 sites, according to Adam Brooks, executive director of SEABA.

The South End Arts and Business Association, or SEABA, organizes the Hop, and is on the cusp of staging the annual 23rd show. Running September 11 through 13, ground zero for the Hop is the Queen City’s South End Art District. In fact, Burlington’s South End businesses along the Pine Street corridor are reinvented and take on the appearance of art galleries.

“We work on the Art Hop really year-round,” said Brooks, from his Pine Street office. “There’s a lot of planning, research, and marketing, and it takes eight to nine months to really make it happen.”

The growth of the Hop to a year-round event is best exemplified by the time frame in which invitations go out to artists to display their work. The application period for this year’s Hop stretched from February 26 to June 20—a window large enough to ensure that a diverse base of artists and exhibitors would be on hand at the Hop.

Throughout the more than two decades that Art Hop has run, the event has grown, gaining a reputation as Vermont’s “largest and best arts festival,” celebrating the Queen City’s art and unique culture. There’s also the economic boom the Hop brings to Burlington. With upward of 30,000 visitors flooding the area for the event, estimates are that over $1 million is added to local coffers.

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Choreographer Hannah Dennison Continues to Inspire
by Gail Callahan

Celebrated Vermont choreographer Hannah Dennison has, for over 35 years, created and produced numerous dance pieces for stage and selected sites in Vermont, as well as founding a nonprofit arts and educational organization, Cradle to Grave Arts, in 1991. Now 67 years old, the Chelsea resident shows no evidence of slowing down and continues to initiate new projects, such as Threads and Thresholds, which was performed this past summer in Calais.

Cradle to Grave Arts

A key objective of Cradle to Grave Arts is to contribute to the community through both stage presentations and large-scale projects with dedicated themes. Through these productions, Dennison hopes to effect a connection with people who might not otherwise have access to the arts, she said.

One year after its founding, the organization implemented a board of community supporters. By 2010, the creative group had grown into an educational and artistic dynamo with a three-tier mission: (1) support the creative process of the company’s director and participating artists in the field of contemporary dance; (2) promote the art dance form through educational and community settings; and (3) advance the art of dance regionally.

Now, as an established and flourishing company, audiences that come to watch the company’s presentations can best be described as eclectic and diverse. In addition to serving on the organization’s board, Dennison also has danced with the group, and she proudly notes her company has received community, state, regional, and national acclaim.

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(above) Dancer and choreographer
Hannah Dennison
(below) Performance of Dear Pina
at the Breeding Barn at Shelburne Farms.
Photos: Emily Boedecker


Oil Trains Threaten Lake Champlain

by Mollie Matteson

With this issue, Vermont Woman launches a new column dedicated to our environment. We are fortunate to live in a state where protecting our environment is a priority for residents and for our government leaders: this is not a given in other states. But we are affected by other states’ choices and corporate and national policies over which we have little influence.

“Listen to Your Mother” will highlight current topics and bring you the most informed perspectives on issues that concern us all, such as divestment, renewable energy, and carbon pollution tax, and invite experts to write on these topics.

In this inaugural column, scientist Mollie Mattsen writes about the oil trains on Lake Champlain. Vermont Woman is committed to bringing its readers comprehensive, accurate reporting on environmental issues that matter to Vermonters: let us know what you’d like to hear about.

Fracking for oil and gas is banned in Vermont and New York, and both states are among the greenest in the nation. But that doesn’t exempt them from being cogs in the machine of the vast fossil fuel industry. In recent years, the Champlain Valley has become a locus of oil industry operations in a more direct way than ever before. The disturbing face of the global petroleum economy is now squarely in our midst, and our communities, waters, and wildlife habitat are at risk, just as they are in so many other parts of the world.

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Legislator Kesha Ram: Going for the Heavy Lifts

by Amy Brooks Thornton

Rep. Kesha Ram (D-Burlington) Photo: Ryan Mitofsky

In 2009, when 22-year-old Representative Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) first tried to get her ID card at the State House, the administrators behind the desk told her the line was “only for legislators.” Though her soon-to-be colleagues, who were lined up with Ram, confirmed that she had, in fact, been elected to the legislature, Ram still had to sign more paperwork than normal to prove her rightful place.

After relating the story to her chairwoman, Representative Helen Head (D-South Burlington), Head asked Ram “Do you think it’s because you’re young, you’re a woman, or you’re a person of color?”

“All of the above,” answered Ram. “How do I separate these things?”

However, now 29 and in her fourth term, Ram says it’s a “blessing” to be young, female, and nonwhite because she can “find common ground” with and articulate the experience of so many Vermonters in her work at the State House.

When she was just starting out, she asked now former representative and almost 40-year State House veteran Michael Obuchowski for his counsel. He replied, “If you act like the youngest legislator, set yourself apart like the youngest legislator, people are going to treat you like the youngest legislator, and you don’t want that. You want to find common ground with people—what keeps them up at night, what gets them up in the morning, and work on the issues. Keep your head down, and do good work.” Ram says it was some of the best advice she ever got.

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You Do Know How to Moan, Don't You?

by Sue Gillis

I once took a four-day course about straight men. With 275 other women from around the country. For three nights and four days. In a windowless, clockless room. In Buffalo. Taught by one pompous, obnoxious, unbearable man, who was the creator of the course.

Here is how it started. We were all seated in a dimly lighted room by the logistics team, mostly men, and told not to speak for over an hour. This lasted until mostly everyone was sufficiently agitated. Next, the room darkened, and over a loud speaker a man’s voice boomed basic protocols and expectations for the next several days, including strict confidentiality.

Then quite suddenly the room went black, and there he was spotlighted on a pedestal high above us. With God-like intimidation, he formally opened the session with the following statement: Men are simple warriors. Women are neither. Give men what they want for 45 minutes every day, and you will get what you want. That includes praise, food, and, of course, sex.

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Vermont Woman Publisher
Sue Gillis Photo: Jan Doerler