Arts & Leisure

Learn more about Middlebury Art Museum

ARTIST WILL KASSO Condry will be a featured speaker at the Middlebury Art Museum’s Annual Meeting, which is free and open to all via Zoom this Sunday, May 16, at 5:30 p.m. The evening will also highlight the work of 10 students in the studio art and architecture programs.Photo / Alexa Herrera Condry

The Middlebury College Art Museum has friends. Good friends, too. They throw two parties every year, take trips together, buy gifts and have been supporting the museum for 51 years. These, of course, are the Friends of the Art Museum, or FOAM — “an association of alumni, community members, faculty, staff, and students of the college who, through their annual dues, support the acquisition program and the educational mission of the museum.”
Typically the Friends pay dues, which fund the purchase of artworks for the museum’s permanent collection. They vote on which works to acquire at the annual Purchase Party in November and then celebrate at the Annual Meeting in the spring (typically by presenting awards and highlighting the work of graduating seniors).
This year … is different.
Because the museum has been closed to in-person visitors, FOAM decided to make all memberships free, which includes access to the upcoming Annual Meeting on May 16 at 5:30 p.m., via ZOOM.
“Anyone from the community could become a member and attend the event,” said FOAM chair Glenn Andres, who is an emeritus professor in the History of Art and Architecture. “We are hoping to build awareness of events that go on at the museum and involve more of the Middlebury community.”
At this Sunday’s annual meeting, students from the studio art and architecture programs will present their academic and studio work. Featured students include: María Ramirez, Charlie Rouhandeh, Rayn Bumstead, Jenny Tan, Olivia Weisel and Rebecca Li from the Studio Art Department; as well Benjamin Johnson, Meagan Tan, Rachel Jeong, Arthur Furniss and Justin Morande from the Architecture Department.
Johnson is a senior architecture major from Boston who said he’s “passionate about designing infrastructure that uplifts marginalized urban communities.”
“My thesis prompt was to respond to Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va. The controversy revolved around Monument Ave. and its incorporation of Confederate monuments,” Johnson explained. “Throughout the summer of 2020, demonstrations occurred that protested the racist statues. At the end of the summer, the statues were all either removed or slated to be removed. My concept was a genealogical research center nestled within an outdoor community space… Giving the (majority Black) residents a genealogy research center is important because many Black Americans lack clear knowledge about their ancestral history. The research center will give the residents ownership over their history and their place within Richmond. The community space surrounding the center draws people in towards the site and further uplifts the residents. This project is designed to uplift Black residents and give them a sense of belonging. This project demonstrated architecture’s potential for driving tangible social change.”
Arthur Furniss is a sophomore Architectural Studies major who designed two houses for the Addison County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. 
“The objective of this one-year project, encompassing two semesters and our winter term, was to design high-quality, affordable and energy-efficient housing for lower income families in the area,” Furniss explained. “I remember getting to visit one of the homes built by a previous class, now inhabited by a family of five, and having the privilege of hearing the mother explain how difficult it has become for lower income families in Vermont to find housing with the bare minimum of necessities. Though we did not yet know what the family we were designing our own house for would look like, my peers and I took many of these lessons to heart, endeavoring to create housing that served not only as a source of shelter, but also, thanks to energy efficiency, insulation and solar power, as a resource and an asset for its inhabitants.”
These are just two samples of the incredible work these Middlebury College students are going to share with the Friends on Sunday evening.
Will Kasso Condry will also join the students in presenting at the Annual Meeting. Condry is a renowned Vermont-based visual artist and educator who lives in Brandon with his wife and creative partner, Jennifer Herrera Condry, and their daughter, Alexa Herrera Condry. Together the family team forms Juniper Creative Arts — “a Vermont-based BIPOC family collective with a mission-driven practice of creating art that both involves and celebrates historically excluded communities,” reads their artist statement. “They facilitate community mural projects with colleges and universities, K-12 schools, and community-based organizations, and educate on the history of muralism in the United States and the value of community murals and graffiti as forms of democratic art.”
“The hardest part was trying to narrow it down to a core subject as far as my body of work,” said Condry in an interview earlier this week. “I’ve always been called a graffiti artist, but it’s all about reinvention. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself as an artist and to use your work to make people’s lives better in some way.”
Condry, affectionately known as “Kasso” to many, has lots of stories to share and they’re valuable for all of us — whether we’re budding artists or community members.
“You have to have confidence around your work,” he said. “It’s simple but not easy. You gotta commit regardless of the peaks and valleys that you’re going to endure.”
Condry said he’s excited to see the reconceptualizing and reorganizing that the Middlebury College Art Museum is doing.
“Jason’s a cool dude, he gets it,” Condry said, referring to Jason Vrooman, the museum’s chief curator, director of engagement and one of the leaders of the museum’s reinstallation. “I definitely think that with people like Jason around we’ll start to see good change — we need young people leading… so why not in institutions like museums?”
“The goal is that a work of art becomes something of a catalyst,” said 40-year-old Vrooman in an interview back in February. “It was made by a particular person in a particular time and place… We come to it with our own personal stories. A work of art takes on new life each time someone today engages with it… I hope in the grand balance of things museums can be help people move to global citizenship.”
Yes please. 
But there’s a catch: museums like the Middlebury College Art Museum need a public. Does a bunch of really cool art make an impact with no viewers? Hmmm.
The museum is always free and will hopefully reopen to the public soon. For now, jump on the opportunity to connect with what the students are doing, what the museum is doing and consider joining the Friends of the Art Museum. 
Visit museum.middlebury.edu/support/membership for more info and to sign up. Zoom links for the Annual Meeting will be emailed to all Friends.

Share this story:

More News
Arts & Leisure

Have a good time line dancing at Woodchuck Cider

You might be surprised to know that every Thursday evening, the Cider House at Woodchuck C … (read more)

Arts & Leisure

Leigh Harder exhibit: ‘The Blue Between Day and Night’

‏Leigh Harder was “initially inspired as a young artist to try to catch the particular blu … (read more)

Arts & Leisure

‘Beyond Utopia’ to screen in Middlebury

Next Thursday, April 18, Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival Select Series will present “Be … (read more)

Share this story: