Vergennes takes steps to introduce arts walk

VERGENNES — June 19 will mark the first of what organizers hope will become a monthly city promotional mainstay — a Vergennes Arts Walk.
Organized by the Vergennes Partnership and city art galleries Creative Space Gallery and Studio V, and backed by more than a dozen businesses and nonprofits, the Vergennes Arts Walk will offer a variety of visual arts and music and try to duplicate the success of similar events in other Vermont towns.
Vergennes Partnership director Tara Brooks said arts walks have proven to be draws to tourists not only in Vermont, but also across the nation.
“Middlebury has a really nice one. Montpelier has a really good one. Stowe has a really nice Arts Walk,” Brooks said. “Tourists, if they see signs for an Arts Walk, they know what it means. It’s recognized all over the country.”
The Bixby Library; Studio V; Outerlands, another downtown gallery; and a dozen downtown businesses have agreed to display the work of local and regional artists or host musical performances between 5 and 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19.
Brooks said organizers plan to stage the Arts Walks every third Thursday of the warm weather months, through October. A committee, organized after Creative Space artist and Vergennes partnership member Eloise Beal approached the partnership with the idea in January, picked the third Thursday for the event. That day coincides not only with the weekly Vergennes Farmers’ Market, but also the Bixby’s monthly Third Thursday evening programs.
“We just decided it would be a really good fit,” Brooks said. “There were already events happening in downtown Vergennes.”
The three galleries and many other venues will offer snacks and beverages, and Brooks said many stores also plan to stay open late. While Arts Walks are cultural events, they can also boost downtowns, she said.
“It’s a really concrete opportunity for tourists traveling to come into downtown Vergennes and see not only the artwork, but the businesses, too,” she said. “It also brings in the local residents and exposes them to the local shops.”
The committee included Brooks, Jane Spencer from the Bixby, Beal and Marsha Chase from Creative Space, Lynne Rappaport from the farmers’ market, Linda Cook from Linda’s Apparel and Gifts and the Men’s Corner, and Sarah Morris from the Basin Harbor Club.
Brooks said she worked to recruit businesses, while Beal and Chase handled much of the artistic end of the organizing chores, including matching artists with host businesses or galleries.  
“They’ve done a lot of outreach to the arts community,” Brooks said.
Artistic media expected to be on display include drawing, pastels, watercolors, photography, oil paintings, jewelry and other crafts, landscapes, portraiture, and several musical styles. Art will remain on display for three weeks after the Arts Walk, and then new work will be installed for the next event.
Artists and performers include Janet Seaburg, Jess Graham, Bethany Farrell, Josh Brooks, Jason Fearon, Vera Resnick, Maxine Davis, Pamela Murphy, Mary Brevda, Matteo Palmer, Brenda Myrick, Cathy Palmer, James Bushey and Erika Martin.
“Vergennes is lucky to have three galleries and many talented artists and musicians eager to share their work,” Brooks said.
Many area students’ work will also be displayed this June, and possibly again once the next school year begins, Brooks said.
The partnership will produce a monthly map to guide visitors to each venue and describe the artists and their work. It may be found online at vergennesdowntown.org/mainstreet/vergennesartswalk.
While the deadline for artists and musicians to sign up for the first Vergennes Arts Walk has passed, Brooks said organizers are interested in hearing from more for future events. The partnership charges a $10 fee to help pay for event promotional and administrative costs.
“We are still looking for artists of all media types. I’d love more musicians,” Brooks said.
Brooks said many in the city’s arts and business communities are optimistic the Vergennes Arts Walk can grow roots.
“The goal is to start out small and grow the arts walk over the year,” she said. “We are excited about the artists and venues that are participating and hope that the event will grow over time.”
 Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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