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'Courageous Conversations,' With Art, Launch in St. Johnsbury


This month Catamount Arts begins a series called "Courageous Conversations" that will address somber issues "facing the nation in general and the Northeast Kingdom in particular," says an announcement from director Jody Fried. Poverty, mental health and disabilities are the general topics for June, July and August, respectively.

So what's the art part?

Artists have long tackled weighty topics using a variety of media, and the "Conversations" series follows suit. Catamount is augmenting its live community/panel discussions with relevant films on Monday evenings and visual-art exhibits in the organization's Eastern Avenue gallery.

For the discussion about NEK poverty on Thursday, June 14, the panel will include Melissa Bourque from the Vermont Workers' Center, Greg MacDonald from the Agency of Human Services, Northeast Kingdom Community Action executive director Joe Patrissi, Pru Pease from Bridges Out of Poverty, Wilhemina Picard from the Department of Corrections' Community High School and local resident Margaret Drew. Facilitator of the discussion will be Steve Gold, former interim president of Lyndon State College.

In the gallery for the month of June is an exhibit called "Parallels" featuring photographic portraits of local residents (one of them is shown above). Photographer Libby Hillhouse suggests in her artist's statement that there is a "slim margin" separating any of us from the "world of the poor," and that for society to denigrate those living in poverty is to devalue all of us. With her portraits, Hillhouse aims to illustrate that "everyone deserves to be respected and to maintain his/her dignity."

"Parallels" opens with a reception on Friday, June 8, 5-7 p.m.

June's Monday-evening film series, free to the public at 7 p.m., includes the following:

June 4: Precious

June 11: Winter's Bone

June 18: American Violet

June 25: Frozen River

For more information about the "Courageous Conversations" series and the rest of the summer's schedule, visit Catamount's website.