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The Color Of Money

State of the Arts


Published June 2, 2004 at 4:00 p.m.

The new American $50 bill unveiled in April features background colors, security thread, color-shifting and watermarks. The website of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing reassures visitors, though, that the note "preserves the distinct size, look and feel of the traditional American 'greenback.'"

Burlington Bread backers proved just as invested in tradition last month, when it came time to update the currency that formalizes bartering within the local economy. Offered eight choices ranging from sleek to a sweet, most of the 100 voters opted for a multi-hued remake of Sarah Ryan's funky original 1998 design.

Bread Board member Todd Taylor is computer-colorizing Ryan's depictions of local scenes, which appear on one-, five- and 10-slice denominations. Acknowledging inflation, the fresh Bread will also include a $20 note. For the new bill, Carol Hinrichsen, a graphic artist and a farmer in Burlington's Intervale, designed a Ryan-esque scene looking down on the Burlington waterfront.

Other updates: The addition of color will make the money, like the new U.S. dollars, harder to counterfeit. The new bills will also be harder to fold, spindle and mutilate -- an issue with the old money, which was printed on a blend of cotton rag and banana leaves. Prototypes of the new slices stood the test even when VISTA Adam Murray wore them inside his shoes. That's because they're printed on "denim blue," paper made from recycled jeans.

It's not clear whether the new Bread will be stonewashed, boot-cut or zip fly. But it will buy you intact recycled jeans at Greener Pastures, or actual, edible bread at Healthy Living. Those are among the 15 to 20 storefront businesses that accept the currency, along with many more home-based businesses. Board members hope that number will have grown by the time the new bills are launched at the Sustainable Communities Conference in Burlington July 14-18.

The dough will have to be paid for with U.S. currency, though. The last batch was turned out at Vantage Press. This time, because the print-run exceeds the Old North End business's capacity, the job of producing 200,000 slices worth of currency will likely be outsourced. Local has its limits.

by the numbers

Twelve hours: That's how long it took Alex Chirelstein, director of VSA Arts Vermont, to pick up 100 4-by-64-foot strips of plastic in the driving rain from three Massachusetts distributors.

Three to four hours: That's how long Chirelstein figures it will take volunteers Thursday evening to trace Brandon folk artist Warren Kimble's painting "Burnt Hills" onto the plastic. A 180-foot crane will hoist the polymer onto the Lake and Main Street construction site, where still more volunteers will color inside the lines using 21 shades of acrylic paint donated by Gregory Supply. Chirelstein figures it will take about 30 gallons.

Last year's Paint-a-thon featured a 2048-square-foot reproduction of Sabra Field's print, "Burlington Lake Champlain." It made the Guinness Book of World Records and raised $20,000 in pledges. This year's paint-by-numbers canvas will measure 3000 square feet. Chirelstein isn't counting on another Guinness mention. He just hopes to raise at least as much money as last year for his nonprofit arts organization, which serves underprivileged children and elders in the Burlington area.

VSA's Paint-a-thon will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 13, on the Burlington Waterfront. Register online at or drop by, make a donation and pick up a brush.

short takes

A birdhouse benefit last month feathered the nest of Town Hall Theater in Middlebury to the tune of $18,229. Proceeds will go towards an $80,000 effort to restore Town Hall's stained-glass windows, says Administrative Assistant Barbara Maloney. Those who missed bidding on the artistic avian abodes can buy bricks, which Town Hall is selling for $100 each. In a reverse of the usual fundraising formula, donors actually get to take the bricks home when they're removed to reveal the windows underneath. . . Dean Pratt of Burlington's Theater on a Shoestring is also bending a do-gooder convention. Alarmed about an apparent decline in local theater audiences, he's staging a raffle. People who attend Vermont shows between May 21 and July 31 and send their ticket stubs to TOAS (P.O. Box 1012, Burlington, VT, 05402-1012) will be eligible to win a weekend for two at Montreal's swanky Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Those stubs won't be coming from a TOAS show -- the 4-year-old company doesn't have its next production scheduled yet. But that's OK by Pratt. "If the theater community is strong," he says, "it benefits everyone."