BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Last Thursday, Oct. 24, the Rockingham Arts and Museum Project held another of its Artists Town Hall meetings and potluck dinners at the 33 Bridge St. building in Bellows Falls. Area artists, artisans, crafters, local growers, as well as anyone interested in what’s going on with them was invited to attend both an idea sharing session and a potluck meal.
RAMP, under Founding Director Robert MacBride, has been holding these roughly quarterly sessions for over 10 years with the intent of strengthening the local artists constituency. MacBride says, “There is an ever growing community of working artists [and artisans] in our midst, all of whom are contributing greatly to the cultural and economic vitality of our community.”
In other words, local arts collaborating with rural development is a way to create and sustain a vibrant community. A local poet who wishes to remain anonymous said, “All artists should come to these things. You can always get something out of it.”
The Bridge Street building itself is the home of the WOOL Radio studio and the studios of two glass blowers and other artists. Chris Sherwin, glass blower, musician, and brewer; Clare Adams, painter and print maker; and Jeanette Staley, painter and organizer of the annual “Art of Resistance” event were designated as hosting this meeting.
Adams said of the meetings, “I like them. They’re informative. It’s good to catch up with people and make connections.”
Other attendees included Charles Edward Norris, children’s book writer and illustrator; Jean Cannon, a painter who also does murals; Michael Noyes of the Canal Street Gallery; and others. The building also has a large central gathering hall where this and various events and concerts organized by Stage 33 Live are held.
The meeting started with the group, about a dozen mostly artists and artisans, seated in a circle of metal folding chairs in the gathering space surrounded by various paintings, large Charlie Hunter prints, and a collection of painted guitars on the wall. It was definitely a suitable setting for a discussion on the state of local arts.
MacBride started the discussion with a debriefing of the recent fall Artists Open Studio Weekend. Sherwin noted that it “seemed a little quiet,” and some others agreed. MacBride noted that the spring tour is “always more active.” That led to an active discussion of plans for the coming May events that include the spring studio tour. New ideas were floated for a possible group space at 33 Bridge St. as part of the tour as well as having the Flat Iron Exchange gallery for display for the month, and partnering again, as was done last year, with a town celebration of the revitalization of Bellows Falls. Nick, one of the artists said, “Fifteen years ago, when I moved here, it was kind of a dump. Now it’s beautiful.”
With that positive note, MacBride said they could use the coming January Town Hall to further firm up the details for spring.
A number of other concerns and thoughts on related matters were discussed. Connecting and networking was then left to the attendees over a potluck dinner of choices varied as the group itself. Anyone seeking more information can check out www.ramp-vt.org.