The idea of a music hall in Randolph may have started with a conversation between summer residents Albert B. Chandler and R.J. Kimball. Mr. Kimball undertook building a library and Mr. Chandler funded the music hall.
CHANDLER CENTER FOR THE ARTS
Chandler Center for the Arts provides opportunities to the Central Vermont community for art and education by sponsoring and producing programs in the performing and visual arts. Their mission also specifies that the music hall be preserved as a cultural center for the community.
The building came when two churches on Main Street merged to become the Bethany United Church of Christ. Mr. Chandler tore down the other church, built the music hall, and donated it to the combined congregation. The Art Gallery lives in the former Parish House for Bethany Church.
Chandler Music Hall opened, complete with private boxes labeled "C" and "K," in 1907. Architect Ernest Boyden, renowned for the design of posh Beacon Hill homes designed the building. The final cost of the music hall was $25,000 (Dr. B. J. Kendall built the Opera House at Enosburg Falls for $10,000 in 1892). Like the Opera House, Chandler Music Hall hosted plays, concerts, lectures, silent films, political meetings and school events.
The Town of Randolph owns Chandler Music Hall and Cultural Center today.
Chandler Music Hall has a regular annual schedule including the Mud Season Variety Show that celebrates the talent and the spirit of Randolph. The 4th of July Youth Musical spotlights an all-star cast of regional high school students in the culmination of an intensive theater camp experience. The Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival in August brings first class chamber music for a two-week festival bookended by two Saturday evening concerts of music for strings, piano, and winds. They hold a Sunday free Concert at the Inn, a children's concert with up-close-and-personal learning for the children. The New World Festival celebrates the musical heritage of northern New England and Quebec, and the vitality and spirit of a present-day Vermont town.
Chandler Gallery is a year-round art gallery run mostly by volunteers. The Gallery hosts about eight shows each year, exhibiting a range of artists, artisans, and crafters most media. The popular annual Local Artist Show in April coincides with the Mud Season Talent Show. The hold the "Winners Show" in the fall of the following year. Their varied exhibits range from solo artists to traveling shows such as the recent Art of Iraqi Children. They also schedule special talks, demonstrations, and workshops.
Mimi Burstein of Bethel mentors students in technical theater and runs a "techie" apprentice program. The program can lead to college, internships, and, for some, a career in theater.
Executive Director Becky McMeeken talked about selling art, finding volunteers, member benefits, and what they do for money.
It takes cash money to operate the Chandler Center. The budget has grown substantially since 1990. "It's slightly over $391,000," Ms. McMeeken said.
"It started in the 1970s and was entirely volunteer," she said. "In 1990, one of the board members funded a half-time" position for an executive director and the Center has grown ever since. They recently hired a part-time outreach manager but the school series is running into challenges and they have decided to drop parts of it. "We charge usually $4 per student to come to a program. Our local elementary school will not ask families for field trip money." People still volunteer to gallery sit, to usher, and serve on the publicity building committee. The New World Festival is operated by another, separate volunteer committee.
They do not have membership but they do "send an annual appeal and have a good donor base." They rely on donations, business sponsorships, grants, ads in their seasonal programs, and exhibit or performance income.
"When you look at us compared with the Flynn or Lebanon we pull down a very small percentage" of the money spent on the performing and visual arts exhibits statewide. "There needs to be a way to involve the business community in local events."
The Chandler Gallery itself is a year-round art gallery, staffed by volunteers. Their upcoming show, Furnishings, features works by ten premiere Vermont woodworkers, from tables to spoons, lamps to chairs, hutches to mirrors, bowls to coat racks, desks to game tables, benches to unique art-pieces. "We schedule exhibits and if the work is for sale, we take a 30% commission," Ms. McMeeken said.
They offer the Chandler tech apprentice program. "The program is something we're really proud of and a financial boon because we have these well-trained kids. Our tech director is on of those kids who 15 years ago was an 8th grader working behind stage.
"I feel really gratified that Chandler is such a significant part of the community," she said. "It's done great things."
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This look at existing art centers will research locations in Vermont, in New England, and in the Florida Keys.
It is worth remembering that, while these other areas have different and often larger populations than the Franklin and Grand Isle County region, the art centers we visit have similar missions. Their boards have chosen remarkably similar functions--but different implementations--to meet their users' expectations.
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Dick Harper, Chair
P.O. Box 1
Highgate Springs, VT 05460