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A few questions for Christophe Gagné and Avery Schwenk

Written by Melissa Pasanen on . Posted in Q&A, Taste of the Landscape 1 Comment

Co-owners of Brattleboro’s Hermit Thrush Brewery, a recent entrant onto Vermont’s sizzling craft-brew scene

Avery Schwenk (left) and Christophe Gagne, owners of Hermit Thrush Brewery in Brattleboro. Photo by Bear Cieri.

Avery Schwenk (left) and Christophe Gagné, owners of Hermit Thrush Brewery in Brattleboro. Photo by Bear Cieri.

VL: How did two Swarthmore grads with degrees in music and psychology end up starting a brewery in an old car dealership in Brattleboro?
AS: We’re just too creative for our own good (chuckles).
CG: I started home-brewing after graduation and quickly grew to love drinking and making sour beers. It’s very satisfying to see people really enjoy something you’ve produced. I think there’s been a resurgence in our generation of appreciation for craft-made things, a trend for jobs that are more real. You can stand at the computer all day and do a lot of work but not be able to hold it in your hand.
AS: I was working as a paramedic 
in Philly and looking for a change. I’d been drinking Chris’ beers since he started brewing. I wanted a stronger community and more independence. Vermont had community, a

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Q&A: Charlie Hunter

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Q&A, The Arts

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 11.29.52 AMIn the Autumn 2015 issue of Vermont Life, we featured the work of Bellows Falls–based painter Charlie Hunter in a piece called “Rail Town Noir.” Hunter’s work is monochromatic interpretations of rail yards, bridges and other industrial scenes. He also leads plein-air workshops here in Vermont and around the country. 

VL: What have you been creating this summer?
CH: The major thing has been the Eyes on the Land triptych, which is now done and — slowly — drying. I deliver it to the Shelburne Museum in mid-September
, and it goes up at the end of the month.

VL: What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever tried to paint? 
CH: The ineffable loneliness of existence. That, and boats.

VL: Is asking you to talk about your favorite pieces like asking you to choose a favorite child?
CH: No, one vomits these forth (laughs). One of the musicians we managed, Chris Smither, he wrote a song Bonnie Raitt does called “Love Me Like a Man,” that’s done really well for him. He says, “People say, do you have a favorite song? And you answer them, they’re like your children. You love them. However, some of the children grow up and get a job at Circle K. This one went to Harvard and became a doctor.”

VL: How is your Bellows Falls Workshop (Sept. 23–27) taking shape?
CH: Right now, we have one room at the inn left. So it’s like nine folks for the full whack, and a few day students. My friend and fellow Putney painter John Smith — I tell him he needs to get more creative in his aliases — will be serving as water boy. He knows all about the technical aspects of art supplies, so he’s really useful to have around.

VL: What will you be painting?
CH: We’re going to paint at the railroad yards for sure, and then also down by the abandoned paper mills. It’s like a Piranesian cathedral of decrepitude down there. It’s wonderful.

Q&A: Mary Powell

Written by Sky Barsch on . Posted in Q&A, Web Exclusives

Editor’s note: The following is the extended version of an interview with Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell. A version of this interview appears in the Autumn 2015 issue of Vermont Life.

Mary Powell, 54, is the CEO of Green Mountain Power, a role she never envisioned for herself as a young, outdoorsy New York transplant. Today she’s one of the most influential Vermont voices in energy, leadership and workplace issues.

Mary Powell at Green Mountain Power in Colchester. Photographed by Gary Hall.

Mary Powell at Green Mountain Power in Colchester. Photographed by Gary Hall.

VL: You left a corporate gig in Manhattan to move to Vermont. Why Vermont?
MP: My dad’s grandfather purchased a piece of land on the lake in Colchester, I think in 1910. So the family has always come to Vermont, in fact, my family still has that same cottage. Vermont was always my second home, and I usually spent at least half of my summer here. When my parents retired, they retired to Vermont. My sister and her family moved to Vermont, and Mark and I had the opportunity to transition up here — and it was for a lot of the same reasons, I think, that I love Vermont 26 years later; which is, it’s an amazing quality of life. It’s an amazing place to live in.

VL: You’ve worked in business, banking and utilities. What would you tell your younger self who thought these fields were “stuffy”?
MP: I would still say to my younger self, “Don’t work for stuffy, bureaucratic organizations.” Actually one of the lines I like is “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” I think while I ended up in these situations I never thought I’d be in, obviously, I was open enough that at the end of the day I did try (them). So I think staying open and being willing to try different things is really important.

VL: It’s worked out.
MP: It has. It really has. I would also say, adding to that, I would say a huge part of why things have worked for me is that I was always willing to bring my authentic self to wherever I went. That is something I would probably encourage even stronger in my younger self, and I encourage in others, is tap into those wonderful, authentic qualities that you have and figure out how to bring them to the situation and leverage them in a way that’s positive for whatever organization you’re working for. Don’t try to conform. So many times I hear people when they’re going for interviews, they want advice, they’ll research exactly what [the companies are looking] for, and exactly what the

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