Samantha Eckert, East Barre, Vt.

August 28, 2019

Play the audio to hear Sam Eckert’s story in her own words.

East Barre artist Samantha Eckert says, “They’re Popsicle sticks that I first lay out, and I scorch them with a propane torch. Before I build the towers or the sculptures, they’re all scorched. … They’re all chaotic, but they do have a sort of symmetry as well.” Eckert’s sculptures are not tabletop miniatures. She says, “The first time I made them for my thesis exhibit, I made 10 and they ranged from about 8 feet to 12 feet, and clustered together they sort of evoke city ruins.” The towers represent ancestors as well. Eckert says, “My older sisters were all artists of some kind. My mom studied art, and she had her degree in art education, so she always used to sketch us when we were little.” She says she can’t help but be conscious of her family and her ancestors’ blood within her, which is why she feels compelled to make artworks. “I’ve always been a maker,” she says.

Visit samanthaeckert.com/

Camera and production by RH Alcott

Xingze Li, Brooklyn, New York

August 24, 2019

Video: Click here bit.ly/XingzeLi to see and hear Xingze Li tell the story in his own words.

Xingze Li, of Brooklyn, New York, was artist in residence during August 2019 with 77Art in Rutland, Vermont. He earned his master of fine arts degree at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. About the process of making his paintings, he says, “Sort of, it’s a torture doing the work. You never know what is the end point, and you never liked it, and also things never did go as well as you planned. There are all kinds of issues or accidents during the process. And when you finish it, you actually are not sure is that actually completely finished, so you’ve left it there in the corner and after a month, and you look back, oh, it actually looks not bad. So then, it’s my work.”

Camera and interview by RH Alcott

Champneys Taylor, Washington, D.C.

August 26, 2019

Video: Click here bit.ly/ChampTaylor to see and hear Taylor tell the story in his own words.

Champneys Taylor, of Washington, D.C., was an August artist-in-residence with 77ART, living, working and engaging with the community from his studio in Rutland’s Opera House on Merchants Row.

“As far as I’m concerned, painting for me sort of runs the gamut of anything involving putting paint on some kind of surface. I very much like to set of some series of rules that I can follow while I’m making a series of paintings. While I’ve been here, I’ve done these monochromes, and then I have these other things that I did where I had a different set of rules, and these just allow handles into the act of painting. It’s kind of through that process that different visual themes or ideas can kind of emerge.”

“The thematic material is color and paint. … I don’t have a polemic as far as what my art is about. It’s not a question that I feel is on me to provide. I’m not saying there’s any great mystery to it. I’m not saying there’s not a meaning there. For me it’s the act of engaging and engaging with color, with paint, with the media and with any sort of array of physical objects out existing  within the world.”

Camera and production by RH Alcott

Lizzy Lunday

See video at bit.ly/LizzyLunday

Originally from northern Virginia, Lizzy Lunday lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. In August 2019, Lunday was an artist-in-residence with 77ART in Rutland, Vermont. Lunday says, “The imagery that I use for my paintings right now for the series that I’ve in for most of the past year … all come from images I take from reality television.” She says, “I’m sort of thinking about how these images … inform and decide how we as a culture view people specifically like femininity, what it means to be a woman, like relationships, etc., we all view through reality television.”

Camera and production by RH Alcott

Sarah Stefana Smith

August 24, 2019

See video: bit.ly/SarahStefanaSmith

Sarah Stefana Smith, from Washington, D.C., was artist in residence in August 2019 with 77Art in Rutland, Vermont. She works in photography, sculpture and installation. In her artist’s statement, Smith talks about how art as a political endeavor enables the creation of possibility in light of inequality and violence.

She uses bird and deer netting on which to project her photographs, adding physical dimension and depth to the presentation. It serves a metaphorical purpose as well.

Smith says “For me, the material that I use functions as a broader set of questions that I get to explore around what does it mean to think about space and place, what does it mean to think about African-American presence in space and place, and kind of what are some of the ways that people think about belonging in community.”

Smith received her doctorate from the University of Toronto (2016) and her master of fine arts degree from Goddard College (2010). She is a postdoctoral fellow at American University where she teaches in the Critical Race, Gender and Cultural Studies Collaborative and in studio art.

www.sarahstefanasmith.com

Camera and production by RH Alcott

Bob Eberth

August 23, 2019

Bob Eberth, of Whitehall, New York, a U.S. Air Force veteran, a native of Queens, New York, says, “I’ve was writing for about six or seven years, and then I stopped writing for 10 and just picked up two years ago.” He says, “Some bad things happened, and I just kind of got burned out and just needed to get back in a situation where things were right again.” His medium is poetry, the metered line. Many of his poems are about a woman called Matilda, born right around the turn of the 20th century, orphaned at a tender age, living “in a little fishing village somewhere close to the Canadian border but still on this side.” The Matilda poems chronicle her life through more than a century and are framed from her point of view.

o’dark thirty

what happens at o’dark thirty

when midnight is hours past

and save for the light of a single lamp

the house is all dark and quiet

it’s the time when you sit reading long into the night

and the words on each passing page fills your mind

with ideas images & thoughts that will last a lifetime

midnight- it may be the witching hour

but o’dark thirty — at least for matilda

is a time only dreamers know

— Bob Eberth, October 2018, Whitehall, New York

August 17: Last day at Vt. State Fair

Stephanie Wissel, Castleton

Recorded August 17, 2019

We are exhibiting our 4-H members and their equine partners, and their exhibiting in everything from fitting to showmanship, to equitation, to pleasure and other 4-H activities. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had a lot of visitors, and we’re enjoying our new facility.

Kalonna Kantorski, Rutland

Recorded August 17, 2019

For us, it’s going quite well. We’re very pleased, but the weather has a lot to do with it, and there’s a little more activity down at this end, so it’s been very good for us. We’re happy. With the demolition derby, we know it always brings a bit crowd, so that’s very pleasing to us. Everything we do, we time around — especially on Saturday — around the demolition derby, so I would expect a big crowd tonight because it’s Saturday night, and this is a motor sport city or town, or county, however, and I would expect a big crowd tonight. Anything to do with a motor sport, they love.

August 18, 2019

Jay Meyer, Putney

Email Jay Meyer at pinkhealsvermont@gmail.com or call 802 275-7029.

(The firetruck) wasn’t pink when I got it. My 81-year-old father and I drove to Washington Courthouse, Ohio, and bought this truck and drove it home. We paid $2,000 for the truck and $2,300 to fix the radiator. It runs very well for an old girl. PinkHeals was founded by a retired firefighter out of Glendale, Arizona. He got frustrated with the fact that firefighters are always being asked for donations for this, that and the other thing, and he was at a fire one day, and a woman came out to watch the firefighters do their thing, and she (told them) she couldn’t get a wig. And that just really upset him that someone in his community, where he’s giving all these donations away, and she couldn’t get a wig. She was going through chemo. He was at home lying on his couch and he dreamed up these pink firetrucks, driving around the country supporting the women in our communities. … I do home visits. If you’ve got someone in your community who’s going through something, and they’re having a rough time of things, people can reach out to me via Facebook, and I’m more than happy to arrange a home visit, where we go right up to their front door, lights and sirens some of the times, and I tell the people, hey, I’m Jay from Putney. I came up here to tell you I love you. … I don’t get paid to do this, not one thin dime. I get paid by the hugs that people give me.

Jeryn Mawson, Holyoke, Massachusetts

Recorded August 17, 2019

It’s gone pretty well. It was slow the first few days, but it’s definitely picked up the past couple of days. It went well. I liked it. For our first year here, it’s been good. I mean, the people here are nice, the ones that have the buildings that stay around, and they open every year, they’re really sweet, and we’ve traded with a few people and met some nice folks that do the fair every year. The security’s very nice, and the police officers that were here were nice to us. This is our first year here. We usually do music festivals. We sell coffee. We go to New York and Rhode Island.

Randy ‘Pappy’ Rhen, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Recorded August 17, 2019

I met a lot of good people, I had a good time. I enjoy traveling around, meeting new people, doing a lot of cool stuff, checking out the towns. I’ve been doing this for 33 years now. We have a bunkhouse back here, we got a room, TV, a shower unit, yeah, so we’ve got it made, central air conditioning. 

RH: Thirty-three years you’ve been a carney. You mind that word, “carney?”

RR: No, no, no, I don’t mind. Actually, I use the word “showman.” A carney to me is a guy that’s dirty, that don’t respect nothing. A showman has more respect. I go to a bar in these towns, I’ll sit down, have a few drinks and have a good time. A carney, he’ll go in and trash the place.

Krissy Stroud, W. Springfield, Illinois

Recorded August 17, 2019

Krissy Stroud, West Springfield, Illinois

I came out four spots ago, the end of July.

RH: And you’re going to go on from here?

KS: Yup.

RH: Where are you going from here?

KS: New York.

RH: Whereabouts in New York?

KS: I forgot! I forgot the name of the spot!

RH: But you’re going to be there tomorrow.

KS: Yeah. We jump out tonight. 

RH: How do you like this life?

KS: I do. I’ve done it before. But I had a couple of kids to raise, so I stayed home 21 years. This is my first adventure since.

RH: What do you do when you’re not here?

KS: I’m with my boyfriend!

RH: What are your expectations, like, tonight, you’re going to take down this booth.

KS: We’re going to tear this down, and we’re going to get out. We’re going. We’re going to get off this mountain.

Dennis Ward, Granite Falls, Washington

Recorded August 18, 2019

RH: You’ve been traveling around the country, and you just happened upon this fair.

DW: Yes, I saw it on the internet that it was here the 13th through the 17th, and we thought we could make it, and we did. We finally came in Friday night, the 16th, and we got a campsite here for a couple of nights. Saturday we got to see the whole fair, and we thought it was a great fair. We’ve been to bigger fairs and we’ve been to smaller fairs, and this is a great fair. We liked the dairy cows, the cattle, and the horses were nice.

RH: Well, they’re right over there.

DW: We’re right next to them. We watched them, we watched the girls in the 4-H get all dressed up and do their riding. The dog arena was right there in front of us. They were doing herding shows yesterday, and that’s something I’d never seen before. Like I say, we have fairs in Washington, a few of them are smaller, and we’ve got one or two bigger ones. We’ve enjoyed it. We love fairs. 

RH: Where do you head from here?

DW: We’re going over to the coast of Maine. Wife wants to see Acadia, we want to see Acadia, so we’re going to go over to the coast of Maine, and then we’ll be coming back across, I suppose, to New Hampshire and Vermont to New York, and she wants to see Niagara Falls, so we’ll go to Niagara Falls, then we’re headed down to Ohio to see the niece and her husband. We’ll probably head home from there.

William Street, Rutland

Recorded August 18, 2019

RH: William, how’s your summer going?

WS: Excellent.

RH: What’ve you been up to?

WS: Doing a lot of flea markets, and doing a lot of camping and hiking.

RH: Where you been the last couple of months?

WS: On the Appalachian Trail.

RH: How is it up there this summer? Is it crowded?

WS: Not at all because now you’ve got highways going through there, development, so it’s not like when we were younger. 

RH: Is there any place that you haven’t been that you want to go to before the snow falls?

WS: I’d like to go to Ireland.

RH: You think you’re going to get there?

WS: You can always get where you want to go if you put your mind to it.

RH: You ever been there before?

WS: No. That’s why I want to go.

RH: You’re Irish? Your people, your parents, your grandparents come from there?

WS: My grandparents do.

RH: Whereabouts?

WS: They come from County Cork, Ireland.

RH: That’s where you want to go?

WS: If it’s in the country, yes. 

RH: Tell me again what they could do out at the fair to make it better?

WS: Well, they could bring back the (BMX) bike racing, have go-cart racing and bring back the sulky racing. It helps the elderly people with heating and stuff. And like I said, so vendors will come in, they could lower the rent they got to pay. They should have taken the old drive-in property, made it into an amusement park. They could’ve had that going all summer long. But they didn’t. And the buildings are all empty.

Camera and production by RH Alcott

Street Talk: 58th Art in the Park

Click here for audio.
August 10, 2013

Allan Sackey, Pittsford, Massachusetts

I’m not originally from Massachusetts, I’m from West Africa, Ghana. I learned this weaving baskets at age of 7 years, and my grandfather taught me. My grandfather is 125 years old now. He’s still alive in West Africa, Ghana. He taught me how to weave this basket. I use fiber grass. It’s natural fiber grass, and the dye that we use are vegetable fiber dyes. So we use the straw — we twist them to make it double. Some people don’t like weaving double basket because they think it wastes material, but I need the quality of my product. So I always weave double weaving just to make it strong for my customers.

Barbara Mitchell, Guilderland, New York

I wanted to do a mindless hobby. I was teaching and had five kids at home, and I needed something to just relax and be mindless and I found out it’s anything but mindless — but you have to concentrate so hard on it. It’s very relaxing. It was about 30 years ago I started doing it, and then I started taking a couple of classes, too, and I had to sell it in order to make room to make more, so I started doing craft fairs. You’re not going to make a million dollars doing it, but it’s a lot of fun. You’re lucky if you break even, but it’s a lot of fun, yeah.

Sharon Herrmann, Arlington

I’m a silversmith, only silver, and I’ve been doing this for 36 years. What I work with is wire and plate, everything is crafted from that by soldering and hammering and cutting. It’s all basic, everyday wear jewelry. The story of how I started — I had a job, and a silversmith in Manchester called me up and said, “Want a job?” And I said, “I have one,” but I gave notice and started working for her and apprenticed for three years. She said, “Go out on your own, and I did, and here I am, 35 years later. Apprenticing, that’s my education, actually hands on. It’s a full-time business, and I love creating.

Caitlin Gates, Hubbardton

It’s watercolor and I did like a zentangle background — it’s really just Sharpie, but it started out as kind of a project I was doing for a children’s book. It’s sort of at a standstill for the moment, but it’s these really fun illustrations. It’s all about collective nouns, so the parliament of owls, the walk of snails, tribe of goats, colony of bats, that kind of stuff. 

RH: Pride of lions, a murder of crows.

CG: Yes! An unkindness of ravens!

RH: “Un-kind-ness!” 

CG: Yes.

RH: That’s harsh on the raven!

CG: I know! They kind of got demoted from the crows, I feel like.

RH: Well, “murder” is not so great either.

Jameelia Abdullah, Amherst, Mass.

We do handmade jewelry, and we pretty much make jewelry out of anything we can find. We do wire-wrapping, beading, weaving. We use lightweight nickel-free products so that we can make really ornate pieces that are good for sensitive skin, and everybody can wear. It wearable art. We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years, and it just came out of need after economic change. My mom actually started, and I came on after my master’s program. I just look young. 

RH: So it’s a family tradition. You learned from your mother.

JA: Yeah.

RH: How’s it going for you?

JA: Great. It’s very busy.

RH: Tell me a little about technique. Do you make drawings first? How do you do it?

JA: No, we don’t do drawings. We pretty much have the sketch in mind, and then we lay it out. With our necklaces we lay it out before we do it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And we just see what happens.

Peter Huntoon, Poultney

Nature will do remarkable things if I just have the sense to get out of the way. I do invite the universe to conspire with me, and by that I mean encourage accidents, so I have a variety of tools that manipulate paint in certain ways and many ways out of my control. So when I make a mark it’s at best hopeful and at worst  damaging, but I try my best to judge what I put down, make the most of it and most importantly, leave alone the marks that could always be slightly better, but the more you monkey with it, the more the integrity of the paint already on there is compromised. If you look at it in its early stages right now, you can see all the individual marks there. They have integrity, they have personality, they have identity, you know, this one’s green, this one’s orange, this one’s opaque, this one’s transparent. So the more I can leave that integrity intact, i.e., don’t take my brush and smush ’em all together, that just destroys the inherent beauty of this thing. So as the painting progresses, it’s more a job of leaving things alone and gently, gradually building up the surface until it’s a whole painting and things are in their appropriate, organized position, and it works as a whole, and that’s called unity, the most important element of painting in my opinion.

Camera and production by RH Alcott

2019 Vermont State Fair

Tina Spaulding, Royalton

August 14, 2019
Click here for audio.

Taking care of cows at the fair starts long before the fair. You have to try to find the heifers that you feel have the best confirmation, body-wise. You start feeding them a little bit differently before the fair starts to make sure that they’re well-grown. You start washing them and clipping them before the fair starts to keep their hair nice and shiny and white. You train them to lead before the fair starts, and you just start playing with them, usually a couple of months before the fair. And when you get to the fair, you’re feeding them all the time, they take a bath every morning, so we’re usually up here about 5 o’clock in the morning. We’re outside in the wash racks about 6. At 5 we get up, we come in, we feed the cows. We make sure they have plenty of water, we clean out their beds. We get everybody milked. Then we go out to the wash rack, and everybody gets a bath, scrubbed nose to hoof, and during the day we make sure every need for them is met. Their tails are brushed, their bodies brushed. They’re fed constantly. We stand behind them, when they poop we pick it up immediately, wipe their butts off, wipe the noses, just like any other baby. And then on show day, they get a little extra attention, a little more spiffiness, a little more spic and span, a little more shine to them before they go into the ring. Most of them are like big dogs. They follow you around, they want to be patted. They like people. They’ll moo when people walk by to try to get them to come over and scratch their heads. bit.ly/2019VTStateFair

‘Wild Bill’ Bartlett, Proctor

August 13, 2019

“They call me ‘Wild Bill.’ I’m the head of security for the fairgrounds. I’ve been working here approximately 15 years — pretty much making sure everybody behaves and nothing happens here, dealing with people. Not too often, but there are situations that can arise here that we nip in the bud before it gets out of hand.”

Mia Hendricks, Rutland

August 13, 2019

“I’m the grounds superintendent, so I’m trying to get everything that needs to be done for the grounds up and running and make sure everybody has what they need. My phone constantly rings, and I’m getting pulled in different directions by different people. It’ll be five years this year. I’m hoping and praying that (this year’s fair) is going to be a bigger outcome and more people start coming back”

Camera and interviews by RH Alcott