Hanging It Up | Back Talk | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published May 1, 2002 at 4:00 a.m.

Museum directors are a rare breed — in fact, a nationwide shortage has plagued cultural institutions from coast to coast. But at Burlington’s Fleming Museum, it’s been steady-as-she-goes for a dozen years under the competent steerage of Ann Porter. At the end of June, the 59-year-old redhead is retiring. Along with gardening at home in North Hero, “I look forward to coming to Fleming Museum events without having to worry about anything — just enjoying it,” says Porter, an anthropology major with a master’s in museum studies from the University of Vermont. When she took over as “interim director” in 1990, the Fleming had a budget deficit. “She got rid of it,” says assistant director and curator Janie Cohen. “She’s really provided stability for the museum through some difficult times.” Bringing a small museum into the 21st century — “staying up-to-date with the new technologies coming in” — has required a little creative navigation. On Porter’s watch, half the collection of 20,000 objects has been digitally catalogued. Five years ago, the Fleming received official accreditation from the American Association of Museums. “It was a seal of approval,” Porter suggests. “We had to get a long-range plan approved, put together a portfolio of exhibits, and organize focus groups in order to evaluate our community programs. It was an enormous effort on everyone’s part.” Credit for the content of the exhibitions goes to Cohen, 45, who is Porter’s logical successor. In the 10 years she has served as assistant director, she has maintained a national curatorial profile — a Picasso print show, for example, came about as a result of her scholarship. She’s also been involved in myriad community arts efforts, such as the Firehouse Gallery, the Renaissance Project and the former gallery at Jager DiPaola Kemp Design. The two major exhibitions Cohen has lined up for next year demonstrate her versatility: Look for soup cans next spring, courtesy of Andy Warhol. In the fall, the Fleming goes Dutch with a show of Rembrandt prints.

inn style The Gershwin Hotel in New York City defines “checking out” a little differently from its competitors in the hospitality industry. The complex in the Flatiron District accommodates guests and art. The paintings over the beds are actually good. “Particularly in the ’80s, that became their selling point,” says Pascal Spengemann, who is putting together an exhibit there that includes a number of Vermont artists. The curator of Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery was invited to assemble a “room” at the Gershwin as part of an annual art fair that moves in for four days next week. Since the Gershwin eschews typical hotel conveniences — no doorman or room service — Spengemann pitched the idea of referencing the missing “amenities” in the form of an art installation. Missy Bly is supplying soap and homemade toilet paper. Jeff Feld is commenting on the “hygienic part of the hotel experience,” with shrink-wrapped towels, sheets and pillow cases. Lars-Erik Fisk is crafting a sculpture that doubles as a room-service cart. Former UVM grad student Michael Oatman, now based in Troy, New York, is working on a multi-media sewing kit. And dancer Selene Colburn is contributing a piece called “Return to My Chambermaid” that will be performed live and shown on video back in the room.

in brief: Ari Fleischer is not the only Middlebury alum in the news these days. CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel — daughter of Ted — made headlines last week for anti-Israeli comments she allegedly made to an American businessman. David Blumberg says Koppel likened the deaths of Palestinian civilians by Iraeli soldiers to the murder of Iraelis by suicide bombers. When he asked about the source of her Middle Eastern political history, Koppel allegedly responded, “Middlebury College,” according to The New York Post. “Our professor assigned five books on the conflict… So I read a book written by an Israeli, and I thought all the land belongs to the Israelis. Then I read another book by a Palestinian, and I thought all the land belongs to the Palestinians.” Deep . . . O goodie. As of next Friday, there’ll be two more places to get dinner in the Queen City. Encouraged by the success of her Starry Night Café in Ferrisburgh, restaurateur Fleury Mahoney is opening “O” in the space formerly occupied by Isabel’s on the Waterfront. Coincidentally, A Single Pebble will also start dishing it out in time for the Mother’s Day weekend. Cosmic convergence or ripple effect? . . . The Bessies are back. After three biannual takes, Burlington City Arts is reeling in the local talent for another production of Vermont’s Stage and Screen Awards. Rusty DeWees has signed on as emcee, but organizers are still waiting to hear from potential presenter Michael J. Fox. You’ve got to have a pretty good memory to recall the 33 theater productions in the running for recognition on June 15 at St. Michael’s College. But the film nominees will be screened on northern Vermont cable-access stations over the weekend of May 17. All but The Year That Trembled, that is — the latest from Jay Craven is still showing in Burlington . . .