Arts & Leisure
For pastel painter, home is where the art is
Home is very important to Judy Albright.
“Maybe my message is really simple,” said the Middlebury pastel painter in an interview last week. “I am drawn to paint the comforts of home and community.”
She not only reflects these values in her art, but also by using her work to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Addison County, which partners with families, volunteers and donors to build highly efficient and sustainable homes for people in the community who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
This year’s fundraiser (Albright’s third), will be an online auction, opening Feb. 5 and closing Feb. 14. There will be 10 pieces available to the highest bidders — a fabulous Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone.
“All the money collected — every penny — goes to Habitat for Humanity of Addison County,” Albright said.
Last year, Albright raised $1,175 and the year before $2,030. This year, she’s hoping to break $2,000.
“Addison Habitat is a 100%-volunteer organization,” explained Blair Kloman, a member on the local Habitat board of directors. “So 100% of all the donations we receive go toward the work we do to build affordable and energy-efficient homes in our local community… Right now, we have homes under construction in the Booth Woods neighborhood of Vergennes, and we anticipate our next site to be in the Gorham Lane neighborhood of Middlebury.”
“At one time I was an interior decorator and home stager,” explained Albright, who also had a 32-year career as an elementary school teacher. “My husband and I have rehabbed two homes together, including this one in Middlebury… Having a home that you love can make a real difference in people’s lives.”
Albright got her inspiration to start fundraising from a junior mentee she was working with through the youth group at the Congregational Church of Middlebury back in 2020.
“Hers was a baked goods fundraiser,” Albright remembered. “She took what she loved and turned it into a fundraiser… I was so impressed. What a great idea to take something that you love to do, try to make a little money, and then give it to charity.”
It didn’t take Albright long to choose a charity of her own to support.
“Addison County, like much of the state and country today, is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis,” Kloman said. “Hard-working people with or looking for stable jobs in the area can’t afford to live here. Habitat for Humanity is working to help families of modest income find communities where they can live and thrive and contribute to the local economy.”
Albright saw a role for herself.
“I’m 72 years old,” she said. “I can’t wield the hammer to help build the house, but I can paint and maybe that can make a difference.”
Albright works in soft pastel. They are sticks about 3 inches long, and fat, made of pure pigment mixed with a little bit of binder, Albright explained. And they’re very soft.
“The colors are really beautiful,” Albright mused. “Imagine the pastels like brush strokes — it is painting, but it’s a dry medium… For me the array of colors in the pastel palette is the hook. With each overlapping stroke of the colorful pastel stick I’m working to bring a sense of place, purpose and joy to everyday things.”
Back in her college years, Albright intended to be an art major, but shifted to her long-time career in early education.
“I was always taking art courses and bringing art into the classroom,” said Albright, who taught in Dutchess County, N.Y. “When I retired, my treat to myself was to take an art class.”
That class brought her up from her home in Connecticut to the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester for a week intensive class in pastels.
“I kind of got hooked,” she said. “I studied with a number of different teachers and just kept painting and painting — that’s how you get better: you just keep doing it and working with people who can point you in the right direction.”
Six years ago, Albright moved up to Middlebury with her husband and she now paints and teaches art from her home studio. She left her retirement to serve as the church administrator for the Congregational Church of Middlebury, and to contribute to the community with her art.
The pieces in the auction this year will be moderately sized (between 5-by-7-inches and 11-by-14-inches) and valued at $500 each. Though Albright likes working on oversized paintings, she kept these pieces “reasonable sizes that can fit most wall spaces.”
“Judy Albright is an exceptional person and long-time friend of Habitat for Humanity here in Addison County,” Kloman said. “The joy and love she puts into her work have created an equally joyful sense of sharing in our community. She has raised awareness for the growing need for us all to participate in supporting and nurturing our neighbors.”
“It makes me feel good,” Albright said simply of her fundraising efforts.
What better reason is there?
Editor’s Note: Find Judy Albright’s auction online at biddingowl.com/hfhac. The auction will be live from Feb. 5-14. For more information about Habitat for Humanity of Addison County visit addisonhabitat.org.
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