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Three Things to See in Vermont This Spring (Including Baby Lambs!)

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"Dance of Love, Dance of Life" by Bob Wilfong - COURTESY OF SOUTHERN VERMONT ARTS CENTER
  • Courtesy Of Southern Vermont Arts Center
  • "Dance of Love, Dance of Life" by Bob Wilfong

Stroup Family Sculpture Park

Southern Vermont Arts Center, 930 SVAC Dr., Manchester, 362-1405, svac.org.

From indoor art galleries to 120 acres of forestland with trails flanked by the Green and Taconic mountains, the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester offers plenty of eye candy. Perhaps the most unique sightseeing option on this campus is the Stroup Family Sculpture Park.

In 1956, sculptor Simon Moselsio showed some of his works in a meadow along the center's winding driveway. Today the park has grown into the largest sculpture garden in Vermont, with approximately 40 artworks, said executive director Anne Corso. In May, "Force" — an exhibition in partnership with Salem Art Works featuring progressive contemporary art — will add even more.

"With such a large and expansive campus, people can really create their own experience here," Corso said. "You could hike up the driveway; you could hike through the trails; you could sit at any of the picnic benches and bring your own lunch ... We see people of all ages and abilities of activity coming out and walking."

While there's an admission fee for the indoor galleries, which in April showcase student art from southern Vermont, as well as member works, it's free to stroll the grounds — and dogs are welcome.

Among the park's most notable sculptors are Kenneth Noland and Pat Musick, said Corso. Nearby trails connect to Nature Conservancy paths, making a loop to Equinox Pond or a hike to Equinox Mountain possible. And a family-friendly story walk, installed last summer to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, features books highlighting the experience of women and girls.

"It was part of our ongoing effort to create more outdoor programming so that people could participate if they didn't feel comfortable coming inside the gallery," Corso said. "These days, people are outdoors and enjoying the fresh air and the safety of being in the fresh air."

in the area...

Billings Farm & Museum

69 Old River Rd., Woodstock, 457-2355, billingsfarm.org. Opens for the season on April 9; see website for season schedule and special events.
Norman, a 2020 lamb at Billings Farm & Museum - COURTESY OF BILLINGS FARM & MUSEUM
  • Courtesy Of Billings Farm & Museum
  • Norman, a 2020 lamb at Billings Farm & Museum

If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, April means it's time to meet those lambs! Billings Farm & Museum is just the place to commune with fuzzy baby sheep — not to mention calves, steers, goats, chicks, bunnies and Mother Nature.

As an operational dairy farm dating back to 1871 and a modern-day nonprofit focused on education and sustainable agriculture, Billings and its 200-plus acres of cropland offer an experience of rural Vermont farm life steeped in history.

Visit on opening day, April 9, and get free Vermont-made ice cream. The Baby Farm Animal Celebration follows on April 10 and 11 — the babies will be in the barn, ready for up-close viewing, and families can get ready for gardening season by planting heirloom seeds in cups to take home. Sheep Shearing & Herding is on April 24 and 25, with demonstrations, hands-on crafts and sheep's-milk chocolate caramel made by chef Emery Gray.

"Last year, we made these two events an online celebration because we were not able to hold them in public" due to the pandemic, noted Marge Wakefield, Billings' community relations coordinator. While safety protocols will be in place this year, she continued, "If people can't come, or choose not to, we'll have lots of pictures on our website and some videos, as well."

On quieter days, explore Billings' walking trails, which wind about a mile along the Ottauquechee River. A children's story walk will be set up along pasture fences. As the weather warms and the crops grow, guests can explore a quartet of themed gardens — heirloom, victory, pollinator and pizza — and, in late summer, the Sunflower House, a maze-like creation planted annually by the Woodstock Inn & Resort's master gardener.

Return throughout the year to watch both plants and animals grow.

In the area...

Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, 257-0124, brattleboromuseum.org. Five new exhibits on view through June 13.
"On Reflection" (installation detail) 
by Adria Arch - COURTESY OF WILL HOWCROFT/BMAC
  • Courtesy Of Will Howcroft/BMAC
  • "On Reflection" (installation detail) by Adria Arch

From the outside, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center looks deceptively small. But visitors will find a spacious, high-ceilinged lobby with open exhibition areas on both sides; additional shows are tucked into a warren of rooms in this former train station. The architectural details of the historic building, refurbished in 1972, compellingly frame the contemporary art it now houses.

The BMAC opened five new exhibits in mid-March, and their diversity is typical of the nonprofit's mission to both serve the local community and bring in engaging artists from the region and country.

A group exhibition titled "All Flowers Keep the Light" was postponed for nearly a year because of the pandemic, but given the heartbreaking human toll of COVID-19 it feels even timelier. Works by seven artists focus on the symbolism of flowers to represent loss. That original intention was expanded to acknowledge ruptures in society, as well. Inspired by a line from poet Theodore Roethke, "Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light," the exhibition could be seen to represent the hope of spring — and vaccines.

The prints in Jennifer Mack-Watkins' exhibition, "Children of the Sun" draw from a groundbreaking magazine for Black children of a century ago, The Brownies' Book; and from accounts of Vermont storyteller and poet Daisy Turner (1883-1988). The baby doll faces in Mack-Watkins' prints are more than cherubic.

If the title "Palm Oil, Rum, Honey, Yellow Flowers" suggests "island," that's no accident. Artist Kenny Rivero's autobiographical drawings reference Afro-Caribbean "ancestry, spirituality, and matriarchy," according to his artist statement. His works also address everything from masculinity to sexuality to cosmology, yet, casually rendered on found paper, manage to look lighthearted.

Visitors to BMAC will find utter joy in "Glasstastic." Now in its 10th year, the annual exhibit features glass creations by professional artists based on drawings by K-6 students. Expect new fantastical creatures as well as "some familiar friends" in a Blast From the Past gallery.

Adria Arch found a more fluid inspiration — the Connecticut River — for her kinetic installation titled "On Reflection." A roomful of tumbling, swirling, gently curved shapes might be just what you didn't know you needed. Curator Mara Williams invites viewers to "experience it with the unfettered wonder of a child."

In the area...
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