Arts & Leisure

Year in Review: Looking back at the arts & leisure of 2021

Arts + Leisure celebrated its fifth full year in 2021. Twelve months, 52 issues, over 800 pages, all dedicated to arts and events going on in Addison County — and everything happened amidst the pandemic.

Yes, most of us have COVID-fatigue, but that didn’t stop our interest in the arts. On the contrary, area art galleries reported that their sales boomed in 2021. Yes!

Not all areas of the arts and entertainment industries saw growth, but it’s an encouraging reminder of the value that creative outlets give us. And, yes, we need that now more than ever.

In 2021, we highlighted the work of more than 59 local artists, actors, musicians and craftspeople; saw more than 31 exhibits and 30 film events; suggested 120 don’t-miss events happening right here in Addison County; learned six valuable gardening lessons from our own Master Gardener Judith Irven and 26 more from the University of Vermont’s Master Gardener Extension, and recommend 52 books (reviewed by Jenny Lyons). Oh, and we hope you’ve enjoyed the 40 sneak peaks into the real estate properties we featured this year. 

Most of us managed to get comfortable with virtual programming as the year began. Then as the weather warmed and the COVID-climate began to look safer… in-person, live events started to come back!

This year Arts + Leisure has introduced people like Katie Runde, who will be unveiling her portrait for the Vermont Statehouse of Alexander Twilight next year; Intuitive Transformational Coach Rebecca Freedner; New York Times bestselling author and Weybridge resident Chris Bohjalian; and the Vergennes duo (Chris Spencer and Erin Wolcott) behind the film “Price of Safety.” The Henry Sheldon Museum provided a series of columns featuring people of color in Addison County’s history and a hand-drawn cartoon series by Kari Hansen that chronicled the life of Henry Sheldon. We also launched our new website this year, which allows readers to easily find all the Arts + Leisure news and archives.

More of our favorite feature stories of 2021 are featured on the next several pages. 

Looking ahead to the New Year, we’re exited to continue publishing the Addison Independent’s Arts + Leisure section, and rely on your support and participation to help make it an engaging, creative and fun companion every Thursday. 

 Elsie Lynn Parini, editor Arts + Leisure

JANUARY

Muse Mentors podcast kicks off new year

Karen Kevra launched a new podcast with Capital City Concerts called “Muse Mentors” a couple months before the New Year. The show, like the title suggests, features interviews with various artists about what inspires them. “A mentor doesn’t just show you how to do something,” Kevra said. “They show you how to live life.” Muse Mentors featured David Dworkin, Bill McKibben, Paula Robison, Eli Newberger, James Pease Blair, Lou Kosma, Kerrin McCadden, Jeffrey Chappell, Rob Mermin, Tony Barrand and others this year. Check it out at musementors.com.

JOHN HUDDLESTON
Independent photo/Steve James

Photo book explores backyard woods in Weybridge

Photographer John Huddleston published “At Home in the Northern Forest” in early 2021 — a book project that has taken him out into the woods of Snake Mountain behind his Weybridge home for the past decade. “The landscapes of the time composites were carefully photographed from the exact same location at different times,” Huddleston explained.

FEBRUARY

IN FEBRUARY WE wrote about Ashley Betton’s community-driven public art installation, Find Your Wings.

Find Your Wings flies into Middlebury

Find Your Wings is an interactive, community-driven public art installation project that Ashley Betton spearheaded this year. The goal is to enhance downtown Middlebury’s beauty and appeal while simultaneously serving as an economic driver. Artists and community members worked collaboratively to create public art for display in various downtown locations by summertime. Find out more at findyourwingsvt.com.

KATIE RUNDE
Independent photo/Steve James

Local artist tapped to paint Alexander Twilight

Middlebury realist painter Katie Runde was selected to paint a life-size portrait of Alexander Twilight (the first Black graduate of Middlebury College) for the Vermont Statehouse. The portrait project, supported by a grant from the National Life Group of Vermont, was completed in November this year. The unveiling at the Statehouse has yet to be scheduled. Stay tuned!

MARCH

SARAH KING
Photo by Arielle Thomas

Ripton artist releases full EP

Ripton singer-songwriter Sarah King released her full EP “The Hour” in mid-March. This album takes King’s big-voiced, soulful country style and tunes it to a little darker path with raw, emotive lyrics that expose trials of King’s life. “What I learned is that it doesn’t matter how good I can sing, people want to relate to something,” she said.

Young Tradition kicks off spring tour online 

Young Tradition Vermont typically travels the world each spring to showcase nine months worth of learning. This year the 20-member teen Touring Group prerecorded and produced a series of videos to share with master artists and other youth organizations in Ireland, Cape Breton, Quebec, England, New Brunswick and beyond. The tour this year took place on Town Hall Theater’s YouTube and Facebook Live platforms in early April. Addison County musicians Anya Hardy-Mittell and Ben Munkres were among the 20 teens performing this year. 

APRIL

TRENT CAMPBELL
Independent photo/Steve James

Photo exhibit features the best of Addison County

Former longtime Addison Independent photographer Trent Campbell pulled out some of his best images of Addison County people for an exhibit at the Henry Sheldon Museum in April. The exhibit, titled “The Faces of Addison County,” featured 24 of Campbell’s favorite photos showing area residents of all ages at work, play, parades, Addison County Fair and Field Days and other familiar places.

A SCENE FROM ‘BEST SUMMER EVER’

Feature-length musical makes it to SXSW

“Best Summer Ever,” a film written and produced by a team at Zeno Mountain Farm in Lincoln, screened at the South by Southwest virtual festival this year. The feature-length musical was released for the public on April 27. More than 50% of the cast and crew in this film — both in front of and behind the camera — has a disability, said co-director Peter Halby. “None of our characters talk about their disability,” he noted. That’s not the point. “They are not defined by their disability, it’s just one of the aspects of who they are.”

MAY

A STILL FROM Matteo Moretti’s film about a local man and a family of beavers.

Backyard beavers

A family of beavers lives behind this Addison County resident’s house. They moved in to their watery home in 2016 and the local man has been observing them ever since. The Independent had the opportunity to observe the beavers, too. “I’ve spent five years just watching them,” the man guessed, “probably 2,000 hours…. This is my world — I never tire of it.” The film wowed them at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in August, winning an award.

TERRY RACICH WAS appointed as the new gallery manager at Bristol’s Art on Main.
Independent photo/Steve James

Art on Main brings on new manager

Terry Racich was appointed as the new gallery manager at Art on Main, Bristol’s downtown gallery in May. Art on Main plans to open six days a week beginning in June and Racich hopes to usher in a bustling summer season. Turns out she was right, 2021 was a banner year for Art on Main and other area art galleries.

JUNE

FRANCOIS CLEMMONS AND Joanna Colwell.
Independent photo/Steve James

Singing for the spirit

François Clemmons and Joanna Colwell came up with the idea to offer singing meditation classes at Colwell’s yoga studio in Middlebury. Every Wednesday through June and July, Clemmons sang for anyone who wanted to come, sit, listen and meditate in their own way at Otter Creek Yoga. “Nobody has been in here for 14 months,” Colwell said in an interview a day after the first meditation session. “It’s a way to reemerge from isolation and invite people into the space.”

TREELINE TERRAINS AND folks from MALT hold a carved map.

Treeline Terrains donate TAM map 

The Middlebury College students who founded Treeline Terrains, a company that manufactures 3-D, wood-carved topographical landscapes, donated a scale model of the Trail Around Middlebury to the Middlebury Area Land Trust this summer. You can trace trails and rivers with your fingers and feel the rise and fall in elevation. It’s like reading the landscape with your hands.

JULY

ADAM FRANCO
Independent photo/Steve James

Twisty roads for summertime fun

Adam Franco, a Middlebury software developer and motorcycle enthusiast, created a program called Curvature back in 2012 that “generates a map highlighting the most twisty roads, all across the world.” After a decade of work, Franco has mapped most of the major roads in Vermont. “Many people enjoy riding though curves,” he said. “The fun is acceleration — centripetal acceleration — around a curve.” Check out roadcurvature.com.

YOUNG COMPANY AT Town Hall Theater

Youth perform ‘Newsies’ live at Town Hall Theater

The Youth Company performed “Newsies” at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury — in person and without masks — this July. The cast featured 15 local youth who worked with director Douglas Anderson, choreographer Elisa van Duyne and musical director Jen Allred. THT Executive Director Lisa Mitchell was thrilled to welcome theatergoers back for a high-energy production. “The magic is back — live at THT!” she exclaimed.

AUGUST

GRACE EXPERIENCE AND Stephen Shore

MACo presents live performance on outdoor stage

Actors Grace Experience and Stephen Shore pose amid the beehives in Charlie Mraz’s backyard in Middlebury. In August the duo performed in Middlebury Acting Company’s first live performance since the pandemic hit. “Constellations” played at the outdoor stage on the Swift House grounds. 

CHRIS SPENCER AND Erin Wolcott

Local film explores ‘The Price of Safety’

“The Price of Safety,” filmed, directed and produced by Vergennes residents Chris Spencer and Erin Wolcott, screened during the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival in late August, at the Middlebury Marquis. This feature-length documentary explores national conversations of over-policing and racial bias as they unfold in the quaint community of Vergennes.

SEPTEMBER

JEFF REHBACH

Chorus director passes baton

Jeff Rehbach will pass his baton as director of the Middlebury College Community Chorus to Jeff Buettner, director of choral activities at Middlebury College. Rehbach has served as the community chorus’s director since 2000. “As a community chorus, we enter into a special communion with one another and with our community at large as we share music that gives voice to light and darkness, joy and sorrow, life and death, hope and remembrance,” he said. “The spirit of music unites us in this dance of life.”

ANNIE ROSEN
Photo by Simon Pauly

Joan of Arc revives live opera in Middlebury

Annie Rosen played Joan of Arc in Opera Company of Middlebury’s production of Tchaikovsky’s “The Maid of Orleans,” which took the stage at the Town Hall Theater in early October. This was the first live production from OCM since 2019’s “Tosca.” The company worked diligently to be able to bring this show safely to a live audience. 

CASSIE FANCHER

OCTOBER

Mount Abe grad wins first book prize

New Haven native Cassie Fancher wrote most of the stories for her prize-winning debut collection, “Street of Widows,” while she was still a teenager. Fancher credits her teachers at North Branch School and Mount Abraham Union High School for helping her early development as a writer.

New film profiles local farmer

Middlebury dairy farmer Doug Butler is the protagonist of the new documentary “Underdog” directed by Middlebury College grad Tommy Hyde. “I think I saw a lot of myself in Doug,” Hyde said. “I’m a dreamer and an extrovert, and in Doug I saw a potential future — one where my hopes and plans didn’t pan out. I wanted to know if that was OK, and how to harvest happiness from the nooks and crannies of a downtrodden life.” The Vermont premier of the film screened at Town Hall Theater in early November.

DOUG BUTLER

NOVEMBER

MIRANDA FERRISS JONES and Vanessa Dunleavy

‘Showing up’ takes the stage in Middlebury

Miranda Ferriss Jones and Vanessa Dunleavy returned to the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury this November to present their musical “Showing Up.” The duo first performed the show in November 2019 for a workshop. The following March, their scheduled performance was cancelled due to COVID. So this fall’s live, in-person debut of the piece felt especially wonderful for these two Addison County natives. “It’s been a joy to watch this develop,” Jones said. “I’m really excited. I think this musical is something really incredible.”

THE CAST OF ‘A Christmas Carol’

Classic Christmas tale plays for everyone

Middlebury Acting Company presented a pay-what-you can production of Charles Dickens’s classic “A Christmas Carol” at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury in early December. Jordan Gullikson stared as Scrooge, Emrys Yarbrough played Tiny Tim, and Tom McElhaney acted as Bob Cratchit. “We look forward to establishing a new tradition in town that families can look forward to,” said Gary Smith, who adapted and directed this show.

DECEMBER

RYAN KIRBY AND Ace Roark

Boutique thrift store struts style

Middlebury College senior Ryan Kirby and Middlebury Union High School junior Ace Roark are the creative minds behind the glamorous photos on Buy Again Alley’s social media feeds. The duo styles and photographs models wearing pieces from the local thrift shop to promote sales. “Fashion should be big and daring,” Kirby said. “Yeah, I’ll say it, I just might be trendsetting in Middlebury.”

A PAINTING BY Sabra Field

Area art galleries paint pretty picture

Edgewater Galleries in Middlebury, Northern Daughters gallery in Vergennes, Art on Main in Bristol and the Brandon Artists Guild all reported stellar sales in 2021. “It’s a very strange thing,” said Theresa Harris, the manager of Edgewater Galleries in Middlebury, “we had a really wonderful year — one of our strongest years yet.” 

“I just hope the buying trend keeps up,” said Stacey Stanhope Dundon of the Brandon Artists Guild. “I am looking forward to 2022, and am going to presume it’s going to be a great year — there’s no reason not to.”

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