Jackson Gallery showcases Vermont women artists

MIDDLEBURY — Vermont women artists take center stage at the Jackson Gallery in the Middlebury Town Hall Theater this Friday. Starting at 7 p.m., the Middlebury Studio School will be presenting its third installment in the series of artist talks. The event will follow the Middlebury Arts Walk, which begins at 5 p.m. and features art on display at around 30 downtown venues.
This Friday’s talk will feature the North Chittenden Women’s Art Collective as part of the speaker series “Vermont Women in the Arts.” The event has been funded by a grant from the Vermont Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts to celebrate women artists in Vermont.
The exhibit will include works from a group of 10 women who prepared pieces surrounding the theme “White on White with Touches of Color.” The pieces vary from paintings to charcoal drawings to prints.
Curator of the exhibit and director of the gallery Ellie Friml said she arranged the gallery so the artists appear next to their works to offer information directly to viewers about their art.
Artist and show organizer Bonnie Baird approached Friml with the idea of hosting the event last year. Friml explained that many of the works were especially made for this exhibit. Besides the collection of new art, Friml is most excited to talk with the women about group dynamics and how they support one another.
“I am excited to hear more about how the artists work together for inspiration and advice,” said Friml.
The women who make up the North Chittenden Women’s Art Collective work independently but exchange ideas on their art collectively. Artist Betsy Holland explained the benefits of working and creating with the group.
“Being a part of the North Chittenden Women’s Art Collective provides me with the gifts of friendship, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, practical advice, and the shared joy of artistic pursuit,” Holland said. “Plus, we just have fun.”
The group first got together in 2010 as a casual monthly meeting of a couple of local artists. The group began to realize the large number of women artists in the North Chittenden area and decided to make Grange Hall their official meeting place. One of these women, Jeannie Podolak, said she joined the group to find a support system for the artist lifestyle.
“Being an artist can be a very reclusive lifestyle, you need to have that outer shell to support you,” the Chittenden resident said. “And especially as a woman artist it can be difficult to find a balance between being a nurturer and making art.”
Podolak has been an artist ever since she can remember. Studying printmaking in college she has continued to make art throughout her life. Additionally, Podolak works as an art educator at Otter Valley Union High School. 
Out of the group of 10, six women are displaying their art at the Jackson Gallery. Podolak, who is showing her prints at the gallery, describes her work as organic and influenced by her natural surroundings. Among many things, Podolak is excited to have the opportunity to display her art to more people.
“Personally, I would like people to recognize my style,” she said. “I hope that people will find some satisfaction in viewing my work as I do in making it.”
While displaying her art in galleries is a highlight of her art career, Podolak said being a part of the group is very satisfying, and she greatly enjoys being a contributing member of their special community.
“We all have our own little successes,” said Podolak. “We support each other’s journeys, provide encouragement to one another, and find workshops to attend together. We live in the same town, raised babies together, and attended community events together. We’re neighbors.”
Women in the Vermont arts are gaining more exposure not only at the Jackson Gallery in Middlebury. The WalkOver Gallery on Main Street in Bristol is currently featuring an exhibition on printmaker Carolyn Shattuck, running from now until Aug. 24.
A reception will be held this Saturday, July 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. for the public to meet and talk with the artist. The theme of the show is “Key West: Inside/Outside,” and it features tropical, colorful prints, reflecting Shattuck’s love for her part-time Florida home.
Shattuck uses a variety of materials in her new collages on display in the gallery. Patterns, Japanese papers and dry-point sketches are among a few of the materials that are involved in the artist’s printmaking.
Kit Donnelly of the WalkOver Gallery has known Shattuck for more than 25 years. As a fellow artist, Donnelly names Shattuck as “one of the top women artists in the state.” Additionally, viewers can expect to see that her art is “full of personal imagery and stories.”
The next artist talk in the Middlebury Studio School’s series of “Vermont Women in the Arts” will be held Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Edgewater Gallery and will feature work by Lincoln photographer Victoria Blewer.

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