Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Art of Action

The morning after driving 13 hours back from a Maryland vacation with wife, four kids, brother- and mother-in-law in the car in 95 degree heat with no air conditioning, I arrived at the West Monitor Barn in Richmond for "Bringing in the Suites" -- the official unveiling of the art commissioned for the Art of Action Project.

A cynic might say it was due to the fact that I was back in Vermont in a classic Vermont setting, or that I was not forced to sit for another 13 hours in a car with seven relatives that contributed to my good spirits. But the cynic would be flat wrong.

What was on display took my breath away. From the many small and accessible works by Susan Abbott to the exaggeratedly large comic relief-map creations of Phil Godenshwager to the pensive portraits of Janet McKenzie and so much more, the exhibition--if you could even call it that because most of the work was laid out on tables or balanced on crates leaning up against the roughed-in walls of the barn--was, simply, extraordinary.

Lyman Orton, Janice Izzi, and I welcomed the 150-plus guests and thanked Tom Hark and his crew at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps for the use of their facility. We all talked about the genesis of the Art of Action and we watched as Jeb Wallace Brodeur photographed each work for posterity all afternoon.

It was the first and last time all 103 works created for the project were in the same place at the same time...until next July 17, 2010 when they go to auction. But that's for a later blog...

This blog is to make sure all of you see these works when they come to a town near you during the next 10 months or so. A 24-town tour (including a stop in Washington DC) is on tap for about a third of the works; and the rest will be divvied up among galleries and other alternative exhibition sites.

The first tour stop is at the Hand Chevrolet Dealership in Manchester, Vermont starting September 1 (for a complete schedule of events in Manchester, click here).

Yes, you read it right. A Chevy Dealership.

Why? you might ask.

It was always the intent of the Art of Action project to reflect back to Vermonters what their hopes and dreams and fears about the future of Vermont were. The Vermont Council on Rural Development didn't just ask gallery owners and museum curators or arts philanthropists what their thoughts were during the research project that we now refer to as the Council on the Future of Vermont. They asked 4000 Vermonters from all walks of life--from the brew-pub manager up the street, to the snowplow guy in the next town over; from students in the nearby state college, to campers in the nearby state park. They asked a HUGE cross section of Vermonters.

Where better way to showcase the art that Vermonters helped inspire than to bring it back to the center of Vermont downtowns, where commerce happens everyday, where people have to shop, or grab a quick bite to eat, or--whether they own a clunker or not--buy a car.

We really wanted to be sure that before it went off into private collections, or galleries, or museums, that as many Vermonters could share the same kind of moment that all of us felt a few days ago in the West Monitor Barn in Richmond. It was a special moment, one that had a uniquely authentic "Vermont" feel. It was, for many of us, a transformational moment.

It moves on to Brattleboro in mid-September. For a complete map of the tour click on this tour link.

A final word of thanks to all the artists for their superhuman effort to complete the works in a timely fashion; and especially to Janet Van Fleet whose curatorial skill knows no bounds.

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