At a time when National arts budgets are being slashed, arts programs in Franklin County are growing. We've seen art shows, VSO concerts, plays, concerts in Town parks, musicals, and more. On this page, we profile some of the organizations and places that make these shows possible:
- All Arts Council of Franklin County
- Cambridge Arts Council
- Franklin County Schools
- Island Arts
- Opera House at Enosburg Falls
- St Albans Area CAN!
- More to come
ALL ARTS COUNCILThe All Arts Council is a small, all-volunteer organization that presents "imported" artists and performers while showcasing and developing local talent.
This year, the showcase included Floodstock, a major benefit concert for the Montgomery Flood Fund.
"We developed a new Board in 1995, cranked up our membership drive, and started scads of exciting new projects," said vice chair Natalie LaRocque- Bouchard.
The Summer Sounds concert series enlisted over 50 businesses to present exceptional performers in free outdoor concerts every Sunday evening throughout the summer. Summer Sounds is one of the longest running free outdoor concert series in the state. The AAC is also developing a new county-wide winter performance series for 1998.
The AAC has created a fine arts "Town Hall" gallery which will travel to libraries and Town halls across Franklin County and to area businesses and institutions. Artists in Franklin County wanted an easy way to socialize and to share information. That need grew into monthly "networking" meetings for artists. This web site includes excellent links, current activities, featured artists, and more.
Thanks to the St Albans Rotary, the AAC hosted 12,000 attendees at its second annual 3-day art exhibit; the show featured the paintings, photographs, sculpture and music of 26 artists.
Artists add their scanned art and short biographies to a visual portfolio that is available to promoters and buyers. The Arts in School program has new direction and a fine arts auction coming in December. Workshops for writers, musicians, and artists started this Spring and students joined community service projects such as a mural at the St Albans City Pool.
"Our members come from almost every town in Franklin County," said Rich Serpe. "There are businesspeople, teachers, students, and artists in every media."
The AAC is also one of eight local arts agencies in Vermont (the others are the Arts Council of Windham County, Bennington Area Arts Council, Burlington City Arts, Catamount Arts in St Johnsbury, Crossroads Arts Council in Rutland, Onion River Arts Council in Montpelier, and Pentangle Council on the Arts in Woodstock).
CAMBRIDGE ARTS COUNCILThe Champlain Islands Celebration of the Arts and the Cambridge Arts Council are all-volunteer arts organizations on either side of Franklin County. Both groups produce events, support the development of local artists, offer programs for students, and share resources and information with other groups in the area. Island Arts serves Grand Isle County and the Cambridge Arts volunteers work in the Cambridge/Jeffersonville area.
"We're a budding organization trying to grow," said Margo Rome, president of Cambridge Arts Council, "and entering into partnerships with other community organizations like the library."
They received their first grant from the Vermont Council on the humanities for a Winter Sampling of Vermont's Heritage. This monthly series began with Native American Storyteller Wolf Song and has featured Michael Hahn telling stories of the pre-revolutionary Vermont wilderness and Martha Pellerin.
This is the second season of their Cambridge Coffee House on the first and third Wednesday of each month at Smugglers Notch Inn. Coming Wednesday is an Evening of Jazz with Carl Severance, George Voland, Justin Rose and an exhibit of the art of Genie Rydicki-Judkins. The thrid Wednesday coffee house is always open mike; all feature their Rotating Visual Art display.
Cambridge Arts and the AAC collaborated on an Evening of Ballroom Dance, a successful " evening out" in Fletcher, Vermont.
For information, call or email Margo Rome (802.644.2233)
ISLAND ARTSThe Champlain Islands Celebration of the Arts and the Cambridge Arts Council are all-volunteer arts organizations on either side of Franklin County. Both groups produce events, support the development of local artists, offer programs for students, and share resources and information with other groups in the area. Island Arts serves Grand Isle County and the Cambridge Arts volunteers work in the Cambridge/Jeffersonville area.
The Champlain Islands Celebration of the Arts is an all-volunteer arts organization promoting the arts in Grand Isle County. Island Arts produces events, supports the development of local artists, offers programs for students, and shares resources and information with other groups in the area.
Each year, Island Arts presents chamber quartets, classic and ethnic musical/dance performances, a house and garden tour, plus art and craft shows. They are developing an artists' summer studio tour. The Island Gallery project displays fine art exhibits in the South Hero Merchants Bank and The North Hero House. They also provide annual ArtsBoost Grants to art and music teachers in Grand Isle County schools.
Island Arts also sponsors the County-Wide Student Art & Music Festival with performances by the County Wide Band and Chorus plus exhibits by the art students.
The Island Arts Board meets at the Grand Isle Courthouse in North Hero, VT on the second Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. from April to November. The public is always welcome to attend. For information, call or email Jill Brown (802.372-5017)
THE OPERA HOUSE AT ENOSBURG FALLSThe opera house was once the cultural center of many Vermont counties. Dr. B. J. Kendall built the Opera House in Enosburg Falls for $10,000 in 1892. Until the early 1950s, the Opera House featured traveling and local entertainment, hosted meetings, and served as the home for prominent school events. The stage is intimate and the acoustics match any of the great music halls.
When Vermont's recreation focus shifted to school gymnasiums, outdoor tourist activities, and television, opera houses fell into disuse. The Enosburg building was mostly ignored for two decades; that neglect led to problems from the foundation to the roof.
"The first real restoration started in the mid-1970s," said Lou Hill, "with the founding of the Enosburg Opera House Association." Their efforts returned plays, pageants and other summer activities to the building.
In 1993, the Selectboard appointed Harry Benoit, Linda Eppley, Janice Geraw, Evelyn Stanley, and John Whiting to form a restoration committee. Anna Taylor Caleb and Lou Hill later joined the committee. "This committee has written the grants that repaired the roof and foundation, and painted the exterior of the building," said John Whiting.
Most recently, the committee has painted the auditorium and installed accessible bathrooms (they flush!) thanks to a significant grant from the Vermont Historic Preservation Trust.
Architect Roland Batten found the ravages of time and inattention were greater than paint and shingles could resolve. His initial renovation design include the ground floor improvements and an accessible elevator. The restoration committee has now grown into the non-profit Friends of the Opera House.
The Friends capital campaign began during the Festival of Friends October 9-11, 1998 with the theme, Make it Sing Again. The Festival began with $170,000 pledged against a goal of $350,000 to complete the restoration.
The Opera House hosts the annual Talent Search, Opera House Association plays and musicals, concerts such as the recent Constitution Brass, local variety shows, the Ground Hog Opry, the Dairy Princess Pageant, performances by Vermont Symphony Orchestra ensembles, and the Champlain Chorus. It has become the home of the Miss Vermont Scholarship Pageant, theatrical productions of the Enosburg Elementary School, The Middle School and EFHS, special performance of the Enosburg Town Band as well as being the alternate site for the Enosburg Town Band concerts, Summer Sounds and Movies in the Park.
"The Friends of the Opera House plan to expand the activities there with a regular series of interesting programs starting next summer," said Anna Taylor Caleb.
Anyone interested in using the Opera House for weddings, performances by theater groups, or other community activities can call or email Lou Hill (802.933.2119)
"We want everyone in the County to use the building year round," said John Whiting.
ST. ALBANS CAN!Building audience participation and integrating the arts into community life is the goal of the St. Albans Area Community Arts Network, Franklin County's newest cultural group.
The St Albans area was chosen for a project with Burlington's Flynn Theater to expand active community participation in the arts. Thanks to a generous grant from the Lila Wallace Readers' Digest Fund, St Albans CAN! has developed a series of residencies, workshops and seminars in dance, theater, and music.
"We want to build a participatory, self-sustaining arts program," said Joan Schnell. "It will nurture lifelong learning and strengthen the collaborations between the arts community, our schools, businesses, and the audiences."
In November, 1997, St Albans CAN! and the Flynn Theater presented Liz Lerman, reknowned for bringing people of all ages into dance, in a series of workshops and seminars. Then the Rythym in Shoes community residencies early next year will feature a company of dancers and musicians skilled in the traditions of American, English and Irish step dancing, under the direction of Sharon Leahy and composer Rick Good. All the workshops will include feedback from the audience about how the project works for the community.
St Albans CAN! is here for the long haul. "We are working with the Free Libray and the All Arts Council and other area artists to improve programming," said Bilijean Smith, steering committee co-chair.
FRANKLIN COUNTY SCHOOLSArtists document the human search for meaning and identity. They use dance, digital graphics, language and literature, music, paintings, photography, sculpture, and the theater to demonstrate their findings.
Although art begins with fingers swirling through colored mud or voices raised in chords, Franklin County schools have given many local artists the grounding they need to improve technique and expand a vision. We enjoy a rich artistic heritage here because residents, tourists, businesses, schools, and governments support the arts.
The four Franklin County supervisory unions have fine arts programs that cover two and three dimensional art plus concert, band, and choral music. Prose, poetry, and literature are taught as individual courses and integrated throughout the curriculum.
Thanks to Vermont's "gov.net " and the statewide Web Project, most of our schools are online; many have art projects up and running.
Dick Harper, Chair
P.O. Box 1
Highgate Springs, VT 05460