Wegar collages portray Vt.’s 251 towns
MIDDLEBURY –– From Bristol to Burlington, Greensboro to Granville, Eric Wegar has seen it all.
Wegar, 62, recently finished compiling a set of collages documenting his trips to all 251 towns, cities, gores and grants in the state of Vermont.
A Pittsford resident and retired postal worker, Wegar found inspiration from an older project. He tried to make a large photographic map of the state, but could not find a scale that would fit. During a May 9, 2009, drive to Warren, Wegar noticed a welcome sign for the town of Granville that sparked a new idea.
“I had my camera with me and I got it out and that started it,” he recalled.
Wegar began taking pictures of every welcome sign he came across. His new challenge, he explained, was figuring out how to display and document his travels photographically.
“I had this map of covered bridges, and inside the map they have a little side thing that has the town and county outlines,” he said. “So I got my ruler out and I started measuring and I said, well, if I did it by county it would work. I came up with this idea of doing each county and placing the welcome sign in the appropriate positions.”
Wegar put 15 collages together, one for each county, with two for Windsor, because of its size. Each collage serves as a map of the county, with a “welcome” or “town line” sign placed in the geographically correct spot. He also compiled a binder of photos for each county, with a collage for each town. He finished the project in October of 2010.
His work is currently on display in Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library. He gave a talk to a small crowd on Tuesday, many of whom are working on similar feats.
David Clark, the library director, explained that this exhibit and talk were appealing because so many people embark on similar trips.
“This one just seemed a natural choice; it’s something that a lot of people have done or would like to do,” Clark said. “I think it was fun to sit around and hear what people had to say. I liked the lady who wants to go around to the state parks. Somebody else said ‘going around to the general stores.’ Another one said ‘going around to all the different public libraries in the state.’ You can do it in a lot of different ways.”
Wegar chose to focus on the welcome signs and significant landmarks. He would drive out to an area and spend about five hours there, with an hour in each town.
“If I was going up to Burlington I’d take my camera with me and either on the way up or the way back take pictures on Route 7,” he said. “If I was going down to Bennington I’d take the camera and I’d stop along the way and I’d take some. Then it just got to be a question of you get out the map and say, ‘I’m going to go in this direction and I’ll photograph these.’”
Wegar especially enjoyed getting off the beaten track.
“The fascinating thing was the towns that you go through but you never normally go into the village,” he said. “Locally, Salisbury. You go up and down Route 7 all the time, but how many people take that little side detour and go into the village? The other one that I really liked a lot was Stockbridge on Route 100. There’s a 90-degree turn on Route 100 but as you’re going north instead of making that turn you go straight, you go into this very nice white-clapboard village and all the buildings have these historic plaques on them.”
Once he had the pictures for a town or county, Wegar sat down at his computer and used Photoshop to make his collages.
His work will be on display at public libraries around the state and he is working on plans to have them displayed in the Statehouse next year. He will donate one set of the collages to the Vermont Historical Society.
“I just like the idea of people getting to see what I did,” he said.
Wegar is happy that others are either following in his footsteps or working on similar projects and had some words of wisdom for them.
“Be prepared for a lot of driving, you spend a lot of time in the car,” he said. “Spread it out more than I did, figure on spending a lot of years working on it. Beyond that, just get yourself a good map and enjoy yourself.”
Kaitlyn Kirkaldy can be contacted at [email protected].
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