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The Arts | Summer 2012

Written by Bill Anderson on . Posted in The Arts

Chatting while the artist performs? Egregious. But a confab before the concert, with the star right there to take questions? Now we’re talking. One of the delights of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is its “meet-the-artist” series, the remarkably intimate and informal discussions, usually held at 5:30 p.m. in the artsy confines of FlynnSpace. Grammy-winning jazz critic Bob Blumenthal hosts the talk-show style format, interviewing the musicians and fielding audience inquires. This year, some of the headliners scheduled at “meet-the-artist” sessions, which are free and open to the public, include Donny McCaslin, Dianne Reeves, Lee Konitz and Christian McBride. For more on the festival (June 1–10), which also includes performers such as Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Cliff, Vijay Iyer and more, visit

May 26 – 27
One of the jewels of the Vermont arts scene, Open Studio Weekend offers the chance to see hundreds of Vermont artisans practicing their craft in their real workspaces. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event, which thrives as the perfect excuse to ramble around Vermont and revel in its ceaselessly creative character. Maps widely available, or visit

Midway Lawn at Champlain Valley Expo
Essex Junction
June 15

Is Michael Franti really 45 years old? It hardly seems possible, but there it is: Born in Oakland in 1967, he emerged in the late ’80s and has been leading Spearhead since 1994. A rare combination of talents, Franti has succeeded, according to the allmusic guide,  “through his use of his own raw power — charisma, sex appeal and sense of social justice — and he carries out in his music a community-generated passion in much the same way as Gil Scott-Heron or Marvin Gaye.” Franti’s soulful gumbo pulls in a wide range of influences, from rap to jazz, but his popularity only seems to grow, perhaps because, as he told Rolling Stone magazine recently, “the way people collect music through the Internet has broadened their taste.” After a summer tour that stops in Vermont, Franti plans to release a new studio album with Spearhead this fall.

Stratton Mountain Ski Resort
June 21-24
Tapping into what it calls “the surging cultural importance of a conscious lifestyle,” Wanderlust Vermont returns to Stratton for a second year. The idea for the festival was hatched by a New York couple — he a music industry honcho, she a yoga studio owner — who saw the possibilities of a Bonnaroo-style event enriched by the subculture of yoga. Music and yoga have been gradually drawing closer in recent years, with celebrity instructors releasing mix CDs of ambient electronica, so Wanderlust takes it to the ultimate level with a multi-day immersion that offers yoga in a mountain setting, meditation hikes, kids’ programs, organic food, lectures, art, performers such as hoop dancer Shakti Sunfire and reggae star Ziggy Marley, and DJs spinning after midnight. For a certain type, it’s utopia.

June 22-23
A relatively new event in Vermont — it began last year — the Woodstock Digital Media Festival leans heavily on education and networking opportunities but boasts a strong arts component. An exhibition at Artistree Gallery gets the festival rolling on opening night, and a panel is scheduled the next day on “Issues in Digital Media Art.” Participants in the festival include Annie Correal of the online storytelling platform Cowbird, and Dan Archer, a “comics journalist” who, the festival says, was the first such artist to be awarded the John S. Knight Fellowship for Professional Journalists at Stanford University. Various locations around Woodstock. Most content free; paywall (ticket required) at the Saturday night soiree.

2012 Season
When Tropical Storm Irene struck on Aug. 28, the Weston Playhouse was hit hard: an estimated eight feet of water roared into the basement, the orchestra pit was flooded and damage totaled about $500,000. The next day, mirroring events across the state, volunteers emerged en masse, without being asked, to begin the cleanup. By September, some of the theater’s friends in New York put together a highly successful benefit concert in Manhattan, and the playhouse had turned the corner in a remarkable recovery. On June 26, the esteemed summer theater open its 76th season with “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” one of seven productions this season. Resident producing director Steve Stettler, reflecting in the Burlington Free Press, called the outpouring of support for the Weston “evidence of the sense of community, the appreciation of art as a quality of life, and the ‘can-do’ individualism that we love about this state.”

Through Oct. 28
Renowned for its sturdy collections of premodern Americana, the Shelburne Museum also has a cheeky streak that admires a good Flash Gordon puzzle as much as a Colonial-era quilt. There’s always room for pop culture, in other words, and this year the new exhibit that puts the ephemeral on a pedestal is called “Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk.” The idea is to look back to the golden age of sci-fi, roughly the ’30s through the ’50s, when “travel into space happened only within the realm of the imagination.” Steampunk, an aesthetic trend inspired by the sci-fi visions of Jules Verne, began in the ’80s as cult fantasy literature and then dispersed into art, fashion, set design and other hipster redoubts.

In a Vermont vein, the museum’s other new pop-cult offering is “Snow Mobiles: Sleighs to Sleds,” focusing on the progression of motorized snow travel. Many of the vintage vehicles are on loan from members of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, and the machines hark back to the beginning, when snowmobiles were conceived of as workhorses rather than the recreational and racing steeds they have largely become.

There are more new goings-on for 2012, and then there is the museum itself — 39 buildings on 45 beautiful acres, an eccentric wonderland that has to be experienced to be believed. As Edward Rothstein wrote last year in the New York Times: “Each building incubates another set of obsessions. The effect is unrelenting, lovely, perverse. I know of no other museum like the Shelburne. It doesn’t tell you what to think; it doesn’t present a systematic survey. It simply shows you things. And you gasp, again and again, because you are never allowed to settle into familiar expectations.”

“Time Machines” opens June 16. For other exhibitions, events and admission information, visit

• Folk-pop artist Sarah McLachlan, a multiple Grammy Award winner, performs with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, June 24 at the Shelburne Museum.
• The Bennington Museum opens “Rockwell Kent’s ‘Egypt’: Shadow and Light in Vermont.” The exhibit focuses on the painter’s work done between 1919 and 1925 on a property in Arlington he called “Egypt.” June 9 – Oct. 30.
• Artisans and farmers join forces throughout the Champlain Islands for the Open Farm and Studio Tour, July 14 – 15.
• The Valley Stage Music Festival has quietly built a following in Huntington. This will be the seventh year for the event, which offers roots music, most of it during the daytime, in a beautiful natural setting. Aug. 4.
• Art, food, farms, forestry and Vermont culture in general intermingle at the inaugural Celebrate Vermont Festival, running Aug. 23 – 26 in Stowe.
• Big-name music stars are part of the package at the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, Aug. 9-12 in Burlington; the Champlain Valley Fair, Aug. 25 – Sept. 3 in Essex Junction; and the Vermont State Fair, Aug. 31- Sept. 9 in Rutland. Visit their websites as announcements are made through the summer.

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