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Decent Exposure

State of the Arts


Published July 26, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

While Burlington strives to balance a big-ass budget, the Queen City's arts agency has come up with its own creative financing scheme. Burlington City Arts is contracting out curatorial services to anyone who believes beauty is compatible with business -- and will pay a small fee for someone else to embellish their establishment with paintings, sculptures and photographs. Where there's a wall, there's a way.

City Arts has long been in charge of the art at the Burlington International Airport and the Maltex Building. But in the last six months, the nonprofit has more than doubled its corporate-art client list and extended its geographical reach. Jessica Dwyer and Cynthia Newton keep things hanging at Seventh Generation, National Life of Vermont, Office Environments and the law firm of Paul, Frank and Collins.

"Instead of the owner having to organize it, we take care of all that," Dwyer says of the traveling shows, which hang for two to six months. Drawing from a large non-juried database of local artists, "in some cases, they choose; in other cases, we make recommendations," she explains. "We try to get as many artists up and installed per year as we can."

The larger goal, of course, is to get Vermont-made artworks before as many eyes as possible -- including bleary ones. Now on display at the Bar Antidote in Vergennes, Craig Wiltse's neo-surreal landscapes could be just what the doctor ordered. Sure beats a glowing Miller Lite sign.

If a piece happens to sell, City Arts gets 30 percent of the purchase price. Seventy percent goes to the artist. Insurance, installation and transport all fall on City Arts. "Knock wood," Dwyer says, "we've never had anything stolen or damaged."


Seven Days photographer Matthew Thorsen wasn't as lucky at Red Square in Albany. You read that right; after former owner Jack O'Brien sold Red Square in Burlington, he went south and started another bar with the same name in New York's capital city. Describing it as a "combination of Red Square and Metronome together," O'Brien claims it's "a beautiful, beautiful spot -- more of a performance venue than a comfortable neighborhood bar." The place was recently selected as Albany's "best urban club" by the local alternative weekly.

Another distinction? Red Square South might be the easiest bar to break into. Without forcing a lock or breaking a window, someone stole four Thorsen photographs from his provocatively titled show, "Rats Worth Crucifying." Puzzlingly, Thorsen notes, they took the "most hated" images, including one of a mouse-head Jesus on the cross and a shot of Osama bin Laden's head in a urinal. Thorsen practices equal-opportunity irreverence.

He may be looking at a short-term loss, but he'll make up for it down the road -- literally. Before they were ripped off, Thorsen's Red Square photos caught the eye of a curator who runs a professional photo gallery in the Albany area. Owner Mark Kelly put Thorsen on the regular roster of photogs at the Exposed Gallery of Art Photography, then gave him a show. "The Magical World of Matthew Thorsen" is up through September. By then, O'Brien hopes to have sold his bar -- again -- and be running a new food-delivery business in . . . South Burlington.


Our collective "hair-itage" is evident in the huge bags of human locks curators have been collecting since May at the Hood Museum of Art. The raw material -- mostly from Hanover, New Hampshire, salons -- is bound for Shanghai, where artist Wenda Gu plans to craft it into a major artwork to be installed next summer in Dartmouth's Baker Library.

So far, the Hood's got 20, 45-gallon bags ready to ship. But Gu needs more, so the museum is hosting a community hair drive Friday afternoon on the library lawn. Need a haircut? You can get one for free -- and know your locks will crop up in the site-specific work that is part of the avant-garde artist's larger long-term "united nations" project.

The Hood's Juliette Bianco notes the work will be installed in the same library as Dartmouth's last big art commission: Jose Clemente Orozco's 24-panel fresco "Epic of American Civilization," begun in 1932, is required viewing in the reserve book room.


When she illustrated a book about Pompeii, Colchester artist Bonnie Christensen duplicated the colors, style and technique of the frescoes unearthed there. This weekend, she's pulling hundreds of etchings, woodcuts and monotypes out from under her bed for a first-ever print sale. Expect a range of inventory from the award-winning Christensen, who now spends almost as much time in Venice as she does at her Fort Ethan Allen home. She promises everything from abstract pigment monotypes that reflect the colors and textures of "La Serenissima," to realistic woodcuts of figures from her books, including the Folio Society's limited edition of The Grapes of Wrath and her picture-book bio Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People. The sale is Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. at 601C Dalton Drive. Whatever's left will be back on the block the following week.

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