Arts & Leisure

Courtney Allenson captures catches with art

ARTIST AND ANGLER Courtney Allenson is showing her artwork in an exhibit at the Jackson Gallery in Middlebury through April 12. The gallery is open until further notice.

For Courtney Allenson, making art really isn’t an option — it’s something she has to do. 
“There’s not a day in my life that I don’t make things,” she said during a recent interview. “Whether that’s knitting, making quilts, kids clothes, canvas bags, or prints.” 
Not to mention the crafts she might make in one of the many creative classes she leads at The Residence at Otter Creek in Middlebury, where she is the Senior Reflections and Engagement Director. 
“Basically, I do all the fun stuff,” she said, naming a few, “like art, music, exercise, parties and events… The Reflections art group we hold once a week is the one thing I love most about my job,” she continued, explaining that the residents in that class are also in memory care. “The residents have no inhibitions about what they can or can’t do; they just make things and it’s really inspiring.”
So what inspires Allenson to make things?
“I guess it was the way I was raised,” she said. “You just make things.”
Allenson grew up in New Haven on a what she likes to call her family’s “compound” — a bunch of land owned by her great-grandparents that’s interconnected with trails through the woods.
“It was magical growing up here,” said Allenson, who is now raising her own two kids with her husband in a house they built on a corner of the property. 
“Anytime we needed anything growing up, my parents made it,” Allenson remembered.
And she’s continuing the tradition.
Aside from practical things, Allenson makes art, for art’s sake, too.
She’s best known for her woodblock prints that are mostly inspired by fish and fishing these days. 
After graduating Mount Abraham Union High School, Allenson continued to study at St. Michael’s College, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in studio arts with a concentration in printmaking. After graduation in May 2005, her life hit fast-forward — she was married in June and pregnant in July with her son. This slowed her personal art projects down for a few years.
But for the past five years or so, since her kids have gained more independence in their tween/teen years, Allenson has made more space to pursue her own art. 
“My carving style has changed a lot over 15 years since I graduated,” she said. “I used to do a lot of mushrooms, birds and flowers… and now if there’s not a fish involved, I’m not that interested.”
Specifically Allenson likes to carve trout and northern pike. Two fish she also likes to catch when she goes out fishing. 
“Trout are so magical to me,” she said. “One of my favorite things to do is find a mountain stream somewhere and catch a brook trout… I use a worm and slap it on the surface of the water where I think there might be a fish… The sun is setting, there are no cars, no people; I can see the hatch rise on the water… it’s so peaceful and beautiful.”
Plus they taste good. Though Allenson is usually a catch-and-release angler these days, she remembers Sunday afternoons growing up when she and her family would leave church, go to the Grand Union to buy hot dogs and chips, and find somewhere outside by a river. 
“I ate as many brook trout as my dad could put in front of me,” she said. 
Funnily, Allenson doesn’t consider herself an angler, or an artist for that matter. 
“I’m just being myself, enjoying my life,” she said. “A resident once told me, ‘Fish now!’ Saying there’s no point in putting off your dream… That’s really how I feel about life.”
In that spirit, Allenson recently put together an art exhibit that’s on view now at the Jackson Gallery, in the lower level of Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. 
“Aside from my parents Wendy and Randy Butler, my husband Chris Allenson is my biggest fan and advocate,” she said, adding that it’s rare for her to put together a show of her work. “Usually I just post something I’ve made on Instagram or Etsy and if someone wants it they can have it.”
An opening reception was held last week on Friday, March 13, and her exhibit will be on view through April 12. The Jackson Gallery is remaining open to the public for now, so get out and go see her art — no touching. 
Allenson’s exhibit coincides with “The 2020 Fly Fishing Film Tour” coming to Town Hall Theater on Friday, April 10, at 7 p.m. At this point the film showing is up in the air due to coronavirus concerns. Presented by Green Mountain Adventures, the event attracts anglers from Addison County and beyond, with all proceeds benefiting the New Haven River Anglers Association for watershed conservation and free public education programs.
“I’ll be at the film event with a booth of my stickers, hats and other art, too,” Allenson said.
Follow Courtney Allenson @court.sport.fish.prints on Instagram or find her shop on Etsy.com. 

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