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VSA Arts Seeks Tributes to Alex Chirelstein

State of the Arts


Published January 16, 2008 at 12:33 p.m.

Alex Chirelstein
  • Alex Chirelstein

When devoted local arts impresario Alex Chirelstein died of a heart attack last July at the age of 48, the Vermont arts community was shocked and saddened. But there will likely be more laughter than tears at an upcoming celebration of Chirelstein’s life.

VSA Arts of Vermont is organizing “The Alex Chirelstein Variety Show,” an evening of short performances that will take place on Friday, February 15, at the Main Street Landing Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington. Chirelstein founded VSA Arts of Vermont, and stepped down as its executive director shortly before his death.

The nonprofit, which makes art accessible to low-income Vermonters and people with disabilities, is currently soliciting short performance pieces for the show. All submissions should be guided by a simple theme: “Would Alex Like This?”

Information about the event and performance applications are available on the organization’s website, www.vsavt.org. Submissions from a wide array of genres are welcome, including poetry recitations, Power Point presentations, stunts, mime acts and practical jokes. Each piece should last five minutes or less, and require no more than a minute to set up. Most importantly, says VSA Arts Theater Director Emily Andersen, the performances “shouldn’t resemble, in any way, a eulogy.”

Andersen will host the event with performance artist Peter Burns. She remembers Chirelstein as “gloriously irreverent.”

What would he like? “Alex had sort of eclectic tastes,” she says cryptically, “so you just don’t know.”

The organizers have received several submissions already, and have some of their own pieces in mind. “One is a line dance to a Beyoncé tune,” Andersen reveals. “I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular.”

The deadline for submissions is February 1.

“People should not be afraid to submit something that’s not totally, beautifully polished,” Andersen adds. After all, what Chirelstein wanted most was for everyone to be able to participate in making art.