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Double Duty

State of the Arts

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Being the director of the South End Arts and Business Association is a big enough job in the winter, but the rest of year it gets really hairy. Especially right about now. That's because the head of SEABA is also in charge of Art Hop. Scheduled this year for September 8 & 9, the annual community arts event comprises dozens of open studios, businesses hosting artworks, demonstrations and other artful activities. Oh, and a juried exhibit, a silent auction and one heck of a Friday-night party on Pine Street with bands, booze and unabashed creativity.

Current director Anna Rosenblum Palmer, 32, says that from June to October, planning Art Hop takes 90 percent of her time. The only other paid (and temporary) staff are Assistant Director Brooke Hunter and Coordinator Danielle Cox. To get a sense of the event's scope, consider this: 300-plus artists; 89 venues; some 60 volunteers (Palmer's still looking to fill those shoes); and upwards of 30,000 attendees. She also has to meet city and police expectations regarding alcohol and entertainment, and get the neighbors on board for a night of noise in the 'hood -- till midnight this year, people! And all this without a fully functional computer system.

Yep, Palmer cites technology as the most frustrating aspect of her job -- and who among us can't relate to that? "I came in with the idea of professionalizing Art Hop," she says, suggesting a website with online registration, a searchable database, links and other interactive features. Is it good to go? "No way," Palmer states flatly. Working through those kinks -- on a shoestring budget -- will take more time, she concedes. But she applauds one tireless techie volunteer, Ben Ipsen of Propeller Media Works, for trying to make it happen.

Palmer also raves about Burlington designer Scott Andre Campbell, who's donated his services -- and a special pigment he brought home from France -- to design a limited-edition print for the event. In many ways, Art Hop is all about the serendipitous collision of talent, passion and volunteered time.

"The push/pull of letting Art Hop be organic and trying to professionalize it" is frustrating, but also sometimes fun, Palmer says. More on the fun side: "Strut," an art-fashion show featuring clothes by local designers (still looking for models, male and female, Palmer notes); a large-scale community art project; some wacky outdoor sculptures; and this year's unexpected "gallery": the former Specialty Filaments building on Pine Street. That is, its northern end, which is not currently being torn apart. Redstone owns the building and just happens to be a major sponsor of Art Hop. The one-time-only venue offers 50,000 square feet, most of which is "one enormous open warehouse room," Palmer explains. "It's the kind of grungy industrial space that has inspired artists across the country." This year, it will house the juried exhibit, normally hung at the Maltex Building, as well as other installations.

The clock is ticking for Art Hop 2006, but Palmer actually has yet another time capsule on her mind. Or rather, in her belly. Leonardo Palmer, her second son, is due September 10. Talk about a heavy load.

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When Bill Blachly got a cease-and-desist letter trying to stop his play, he did what any sensible person would do: ignore it. The way he figures it, Rachel is not the same as My Name Is Rachel Corrie, and the "diaries and emails and various things like that" from which he created his adaptation are readily available online. In the cyberinformation age, the definition of "copyright" is a slippery one.

Blachly is the owner/director of Unadilla Theatre in Marshfield, and Rachel Corrie, as Seven Days theater critic Elisabeth Crean reported last week, was the young activist killed in Palestine two years ago, at age 23, by an Israeli bulldozer. My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a one-woman play based on her prolific writings, developed by British actor Alan Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner for the Royal Court Theatre. By way of previewing Unadilla's current production -- reworked on the fly when permission to stage the original was withdrawn -- Crean explained the transatlantic brouhaha surrounding the controversial play and why someone was trying to prevent Unadilla from hosting its American premiere.

Blachly's letter-writer is a New York attorney claiming to represent some unnamed "copyright holders" of Rachel Corrie's written words. But Unadilla's fearless leader is having none of that. "Seems to me it's public information," he asserts. "Many, many groups across the country and Canada are doing works based on her writings -- using Rachel Corrie's words in one way or another."

Vermonters have just three more chances to see Rachel: tonight, tomorrow and Friday (check www.unadilla.org for schedule). Featuring 26-year-old Montpelier actress Emily Graves, the show "is something that really should be seen," says Blachly. He adds: "I'd be surprised if even the family would be upset by this. On the Internet, her father said he'd be delighted to have her emails disseminated as widely as possible."

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