Virtual Ventures 2: At-Home Cinema, a Symbol of Hope, Writing for the Future | Visual Art | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Arts + Culture » Visual Art

Virtual Ventures 2: At-Home Cinema, a Symbol of Hope, Writing for the Future


Published April 29, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

The online offerings from Vermont's incessantly creative sector continue unabated. Seven Days has reported on many virtual activities, both in print and on our Live Culture blog, since the coronavirus pandemic began and everyone hunkered down. Even with a crack of light in the "reopening" of Vermont, most of us are still keeping our social distance and settling in to month two of staying at home. And by "settling," we mean "going stir-crazy." So we continue to count the ways to keep you occupied and maybe sane.

This week we're sticking with the categories "Watch" and "Do."


Installation view of Hilma af Klint paintings at the Guggenheim Museum, 2018 - COURTESY OF PAMELA POLSTON
  • Courtesy of Pamela Polston
  • Installation view of Hilma af Klint paintings at the Guggenheim Museum, 2018

The Vermont International Film Festival has been branding itself "the only theater in town" and, until we can pile into movie houses again, that is entirely accurate. VTIFF recently launched its Virtual Cinema program, which offers films online for a limited time period. Fifty percent of the purchase price ($12) supports the nonprofit film fest.

One film available for viewing through April 30 is the 2019 documentary Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint, about the turn-of-the-(20th)-century artist and mystic. The long-delayed discovery of her abstract works — created before male artists got all the credit for abstraction — upended some long-held assumptions in the canon. A 2018-19 retrospective of af Klint's paintings at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City set the art world abuzz.

Other films available this month include Erde (Earth), also a 2019 documentary, that explores locations where humans have significantly altered the physical terrain; Thousand Pieces of Gold (1990), about a young Chinese woman sold into servitude in an American mining town in the 1880s; and Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (2019), which is pretty much what it sounds like. See the website for upcoming films. 

The visual arts offer oh-so-many alluring rabbit holes, from virtual tours of 2,500 museums around the globe to the many wee and witty homemade pet museums. (A Yayoi Kusama-inspired room for a cosseted lizard? Oh, yes.) Vermonters are no slouches in the quarantine-era viewing department. This week we bring you Pigment & Paper, from the Highland Center for the Arts in Greensboro, which abundantly manifests the center's declaration, "The show must go online."

The crowdsourced gallery shows work submitted by artists, along with their statements, and an opportunity for viewers to comment. It's not exactly a "talkback," but hey. Click on a work — say, a varnished watercolor of a forest scene by Susan Wahlrab — to find a carousel-style presentation of four paintings. "I have found this pandemic has enhanced my awareness of how grateful I am to live in Vermont," Wahlrab writes, "and have a studio deep in the woods to paint images of the spirit of nature."

The call to artists for Pigment & Paper is ongoing; send "poems, painting, sketches, short stories — all forms of expression." See the website for submission details.


Helen Day Art Center color wheel - COURTESY OF HELEN DAY ART CENTER
  • Courtesy Of Helen Day Art Center
  • Helen Day Art Center color wheel

The Helen Day Art Center in Stowe recently launched a public art challenge accompanied by, of course, a hashtag: #helendaycreates. Its spiffy logo, combining an eight-pointed color wheel inside a black-line graphic of the same shape, is also its "prompt" for creative expression. Helen Day's website calls it "a new symbol of gratitude, hope and unity."

To participate, download the printable graphic (along with activity suggestions), then do your arty thing and share it on social; Helen Day is collecting the results online. For instance, you could paint a rock, chalk your sidewalk, decorate your children/partner/roommate's face, try folding your clothes in interesting new ways or, oh, design a museum for your chickens.

If your current mood skews darker than rainbow hues, just go ahead and make your star in black. No judgment.

Look, this one has nothing to do with the coronavirus! Remember the climate crisis? Remember Earth Day? Yeah, that was last Wednesday. And that's when the Sustainable Montpelier Coalition announced What Comes Next? A Writers Competition for Creative People.

Offering cash prizes for short stories, essays and graphic stories, the competition asks entrants to "imagine what Central Vermont will be like in the year 2047." And forget dystopian fantasies; the organization is looking for innovative solutions to the effects of climate change and the aftereffects of COVID-19.

In 2017, Sustainable Montpelier split off from Net Zero Vermont and established its mission "to inspire and empower the Montpelier community to develop a plan for a climate-resilient, economically sustainable and socially just future that models successful innovation." In the ensuing years the nonprofit has given presentations and sponsored roundtables and community projects, in cooperation with local officials, to address such issues as transit and parking, water quality, housing, and more.

Pretty much everyone on the planet noticed a sharp decline in carbon emissions since we've been staying at home in the pandemic — a fact that underscores the impact of human behavior and wanton use of fossil fuels. While mindful of global phenomena, Sustainable Montpelier is focused on changes that can be made in Vermont's capital city.

That's where the writers competition comes in.

"We're in the interesting position that people know there will be climate disruptions, and now we know [because of the pandemic] there will be economic disruptions," said cofounder and executive director Dan Jones. "What we're seeing with the quarantine is, maybe we need to think differently [about] how to adapt. How do we get the best ideas?"

Why establish the year 2047? "Because it's not 2030," development strategist Elizabeth Courtney said in a phone interview, referring to the multiple-of-10 dates typically used when envisioning the future. "We want people to be as specific as possible ... If the writers are really specific, we think we'll get better ideas." Besides, Courtney quipped, "2047 just happens to be when I turn 100."

The contest is open to youth (up to age 20) and adults, and the deadline is June 23. "We have a very impressive list of judges, who will come up with the best five [entries] in each category," Jones explained. "Then we'll offer those to the public online; the public can read and vote on the winners.

"This is an opportunity to imagine the future we want," Jones continued, "rather than the one we fear." See the website for competition details.

Got a virtual venture of your own? Email [email protected].

The original print version of this article was headlined "Pandemic Pastimes 2 | A weekly roundup of virtual ventures from Vermonters | BY pamela polston"

Related Stories

Related Locations

Speaking of...



Comments are closed.

From 2014-2020, Seven Days allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we've appreciated the suggestions and insights, right now Seven Days is prioritizing our core mission — producing high-quality, responsible local journalism — over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.