September 26, 2016

PHOTOS: Swim Club places fourth

Aug. 12, 2010

Courtesy photos

Edge Swim Club, which has members from Williston, competed in the Champlain Valley Swim League Championships July 30-31 in Middlebury. The team placed fourth overall and earned Most Improved Team honors.

Road Watch

Burlington

Road construction will reduce traffic to one lane at times on the following Burlington streets:

  • South Prospect from Maple Street to Ledge Drive,
  • Jackson Court,
  • Harrington Terrace,
  • Main Street from Battery Street to St. Paul Street,
  • Pine Street from Maple Street to Bank Street,
  • Pine Street from Pearl Street to Cherry Street,
  • St. Paul Street from Bank Street to College Street,
  • St. Paul Street from Pearl Street to Cherry Street,
  • George Street,
  • Peru Street,
  • Loomis Street from North Prospect to North Willard

Colchester

Work on Holy Cross Road will continue until mid-October. Traffic control will be present when required.

Essex

Sidewalk construction on Route 15 eastbound between Sunset Drive to the Price Chopper Plaza entrance will cause lane closures and occasional traffic delays. Traffic control is present, and this project should be completed by Sept. 1.

Essex Junction

Work on Pearl Street between the main gate of the fairgrounds and the intersection with the post office will last through Nov. 1. Most of the work will be between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. with occasional night work possible. Two-way traffic will be maintained at all times with traffic control present.

Beginning Aug. 12, South Summit Street will be CLOSED from Pearl Street to Cherry Street from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for road construction. Traffic will be detoured and traffic control will be present. To accommodate school traffic beginning Sept. 1, South Summit Street will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., and then from 2:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. This project is expected to be completed by Oct. 5.

On Aug. 12, Pearl Street will be CLOSED to through traffic from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. between the Five Corners and West Street for the installation of a water line across Pearl Street. Through traffic will be detoured from West Street to South Street to avoid this area. Detour signs will be in place and traffic control will be present.

Interstate 89

Drivers should be aware of construction activity near the exit 14W northbound ramp.

Work to improve the exit 15 northbound ramp on I-89 in Winooski may cause traffic delays. Motorists are advised to use alternate routes if possible.

Jericho

Sidewalk construction on Route 15 from Lawrence Heights to Griswold Street will cause periodic lane closures through September.

Milton

Construction of West Milton Road near the Lamoille River will reduce traffic to one lane. Traffic control will be present, and this project is expected to last until the end of August.

On Aug. 12, from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., West Milton Road will be closed for culvert repair by the Patterson Dam entrance. Motorists should follow the signs for alternate routes.

Richmond

Work under the deck of the Interstate 89 bridge over U.S. 2 will reduce the overhead clearance on U.S. 2 to 14 feet and 6 inches. Motorists should also be aware of workers at the sides of the road. This project should be completed by Sept. 1.

Work painting the I-89 bridge over Jericho Road near the elementary school will reduce traffic on Jericho Road in that area to one lane for the next two weeks.

Utility companies working in the area of the Checker House Bridge on U.S. 2 may reduce traffic to one lane at times for the next several months.

South Burlington

Motorists should be aware of construction vehicles entering and leaving the main entrance to the Holiday Inn on Williston Road during the day.

Road construction on San Remo Drive will reduce traffic to one lane at times.

Beginning Aug. 13, there will be no parking allowed on Airport Drive in front of the airport to allow for the delivery of large construction materials. This parking restriction is in effect Monday through Friday until Oct. 8.

Underhill

For the remainder of the week, Pleasant Valley Road north of Mountain Road will be closed for reconstruction most of the day with one lane open from 4:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Westford

Roadwork in Westford Village proceeding to the intersection of Vermont routes 128 and 104 will cause lane closures and short traffic delays. Traffic flow will be maintained with traffic control present. Motorists should use extreme caution while traveling through the work zone. This project is expected to be completed by Sept. 12.

Through Aug. 24, a section of Route 128 will be closed due to a culvert replacement north of the Westford Village “Greens.” Traffic will be detoured onto Cambridge Road, Westford/Toot Road, Fairfax to Route 104 and back onto Route 128. In addition, paving in Westford Village proceeding to the intersection of Vermont routes 128 and 104 will cause lane closures and short traffic delays. Traffic control will be present, and motorists should use extreme caution while traveling through the work zone. This project is expected to be completed by Sept. 12.

Winooski

Crews will be working along the eastbound shoulder of Route 15 near exit 15 throughout the week.

County-wide

Motorists should be alert for bridge washing and mowing along all county roads. Minor traffic delays should be expected.

For additional information, contact Administrative Advantage at 802-872-9757. More information on current activities at the Chittenden County Metropolitan Planning Organization is available online at www.ccmpo.org.

Volunteers

The listings below are a small sample of needs from more than 200 agencies, available by going online to www.unitedwaycc.org and clicking on “Volunteer.” If you do not have computer access, or would like more information about the volunteer opportunities, call 860-1677 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

GET ON BOARD

Vermont Kin As Parents seeks board members to serve on the board, be active on a committee and participate in fund-raising events. The board meets the second Friday of each month, 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in Winooski. Board members are asked to provide about 10 hours of service per month to this organization that supports grandparents and other relatives who are caregivers for their young relatives.

SPRUCE UP

HowardCenter needs a group of volunteers to paint and spruce up the hallways and some rooms in their school space. Painters should be able to crouch low and use ladders to reach spots and should be able to paint well. Approximately five volunteers needed for seven hours on one day before Aug. 20.

EDUCATOR

ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center needs volunteer Education Interpreters to help educate the public about the animals, culture and history of the Lake Champlain Basin. Interpreters bring the exhibits alive for visitors and occasionally present live animal demonstrations. Must enjoy working with visitors of all ages. Training is provided. Volunteers serve at least eight hours per month and one four-hour shift per week is preferred.

MENTORS NEEDED

Mentors are needed in several programs, all of which require the volunteer to be at least 18 years of age and require background checks:

>Franklin County Caring Communities seeks volunteers to be helpful friends to children. Volunteer mentors will meet weekly with children and younger teens for about two hours per week in Franklin County. A one-year commitment is expected.

> Sara Holbrook Center seeks mentors for Creating Connections, which matches youths in kindergarten through grades 12 with adult members to develop positive relationships and foster healthy lifestyle choices. Mentors and mentees are matched based on similar interests and meet weekly for two to four hours for a full calendar year.

> Mercy Connections and Vermont Works for Women need mentors to support adult women transitioning from correctional facilities to Chittenden County communities. Mentors help women overcome barriers in finding housing and employment and support them as they rebuild their lives. A commitment of two hours per week is needed and a 12-hour training program is required. The next training programs start in October.

OVERNIGHT VOLUNTEERS

The Ronald McDonald House seeks volunteer Overnight Relief Managers to staff the house for weekends and holidays. Volunteers provide support to guest families, take referrals, handle registration and answer the phone, act as a resource person, sleep on site and manage day-to-day operations during their shift. Shifts run from Friday at 9 p.m. to Saturday at 6 p.m., or from Saturday at 6 p.m. to Sunday at noon. Volunteers are asked to do three or four shifts per year and receive training as in-house volunteers prior to serving an overnight shift.

YOUTH VOLUNTEERS

The Peace & Justice Center has many ways that young volunteers, (age 13 and older) can help including doing data entry, staffing information tables and postering. Training is provided where needed.

GLEANING

The Interval Center seeks volunteer gleaners to help harvest excess fruits and vegetables from Intervale Farms. The food is distributed to local social service organizations serving people in need. May through November, two- to three-hour shifts on a flexible schedule. Must call to schedule a shift.

This Week’s Popcorn

‘Salt’ leaves us thirsting for a better movie

By Michael S. Goldberger
Special to the Observer

Back in the day, before the Women’s Lib movement officially began, a cynic shared a fear. He — I think it was a he — fretted that after the ladies finally won equality under the law, they’d proceed to develop the same bad habits usually thought the domain of their male counterparts. They might even play leads in formulaic action movies like “Salt.”

Since then, there have been all sorts of gal secret agents, police detectives and other defenders of the commonweal bearing deadly arms. But in most cases there has been a feminine hook, a dramatic point made, even if ever so slight, that this one-person killing machine was different by one chromosome. Here, <ITALICS>la difference<ITALICS> makes no difference.

Except for her appearance, there is nothing about CIA agent Evelyn Salt in either modus operandi or manner that bespeaks gender. ‘Tis we who bring preconceptions to the party. When she leapfrogs from the roof of a semi on a bridge to a truck on the span below, we’re much more impressed than we’d be if Daniel Craig’s 007 made the same jump.

Calculated or not, it’s the reverse discriminatory built in wow factor. Whether in party dress or jeans, this young lady is as striking as the first pretty tomboy you ever met. But she has come to play. And if that means skinning her knee on the sidewalk, suffering an Indian burn or even a bloody nose, what’s it to us? Make a fuss of it and you’ll be sorry.

As such, it’s a more complicated performance than the copycat first impression might imply. Powerful and single-minded, Salt is a force to be contended with all right. But there’s something else going on inside, a secret about her we’re going to have to uncover. And therein lies the so-so twist upon which director Phillip Noyce hangs his hat.

Sour grapes, you say, because I didn’t figure it out any earlier than the director thought it might take the average dolt? Hey, by the time there was enough info to make an educated guess, one too many convolutions had sent me drifting … to dinner, to next week’s film, to how there seemed to be a lot less Jujyfruits™ stuck to movie house floors these days.

Not that Miss Jolie or her superb co-star, Liev Schreiber, as Salt’s boss, agent Ted Winter, is to blame. They’re the strong points. But save for the title character impressing with her unique variation on a type, at the end of the day it’s the same old, same old. Scratch the interpretation and it’s 85 percent special effects, 12 percent acting and 3 percent script.

The cat and mouser starts off with the potential to be a poor man’s “Charade” (1963), albeit without the lofty wit and Mancini’s great score. Leaving work one night, late for an important date with her bug expert spouse (August Diehl), Salt is called back when Russian agent Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) drops in to defect. Her expertise is needed.

But what’s this? During the interrogation, old Orlov, who was in charge of infiltrating U.S. intelligence with homegrown plants, suggests, for all behind the one-way glass to know, that Ms. Salt is really a Russian mole. Folks start running every which way; steel doors descend; guns start blazing. She’s gone. Well, just another day at the office.

It’s the proverbial spy left out in the cold routine. Now, apparently nobody likes her, except maybe her husband who, alas, has gone missing. In search of him and her destiny, on the run from mysterious loyalties, Jolie’s Salt makes like Mata Hari via Loretta Young, resplendent with costume and hair color changes at every turn. It’s dizzying.

Still, sans a better-finessed screenplay by Kurt Wimmer, the chase scenes eventually run into each other, with all things ultimately hinging on the one trick pony of a plot and its big secret. Dialogue is sultry, quippish or cynical, yet never Bogie and Astor-like. The chemistry between Jolie and Schreiber is OK, but hardly able to save the day.

The story’s biggest flaw is its lack of soul. If it’s the filmmaker’s intention to inform that all this spy business is a big, uncaring, bureaucratic dance, then he has managed it without artistic panache. However, if that isn’t his goal, then he has left us with a rather nightmarish and hollow escapade through the archives of action film clichés.

Which leaves us only to assess how this reflects on that most vaunted of gossip rag icons, La Jolie. While Angelina doesn’t outdo Uma Thurman in the fatal femme department, just as sure as she will adopt another kid, fans and finances will guarantee a sequel. But separating the blabber from substance, entertainment-wise “Salt” just isn’t worth its salt.

“Salt,” rated PG-13, is a Columbia Pictures release directed by Phillip Noyce and stars Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Running time: 100 minutes.

CVU football practice to begin Monday

Aug. 12, 2010

Champlain Valley Union High head football coach Jim Provost is looking for between 80 and 90 candidates when hopefuls report to practice Monday at 1 p.m. for the initial workout of the new season.

Equipment will be passed out at the school on Sunday, starting at 1 p.m.

The first week of sessions will be comprised of two-a-day practices going from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and then 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There will be a single 3 p.m. workout scheduled for Friday.

The annual Red and White scrimmage is set for Saturday starting at 10 a.m. with the public invited to look on.

“We are looking for returning sophomores, juniors and seniors to number in the mid-60s with another 20 to 25 freshmen coming out,” Provost said, adding that a number of upperclassmen might be trying the sport for the first time.

Provost said the first two Redhawks to make the Vermont Shrine football team for graduated seniors played well last Saturday in the Vermont team’s 34-20 loss to New Hampshire.

He said Matt Long played almost the entire game at defensive end and Nathan Mills played many minutes on the offensive line at a guard slot.

“They represented the school and the state very well,” the coach said.

— Mal Boright, Observer correspondent

deGroot nominated as Athlete of Month

Aug. 12, 2010

File photo

Champlain Valley Union High’s Kylie deGroot returns a shot during a match against Colchester High in May.

Kylie deGroot, who led the Champlain Valley Union High girls tennis team to a second straight Division 1 title and an undefeated season this spring, is one of 12 nominees for the June Vermont Girls Athlete of the Month.

The monthly award for boy and girl athletes is sponsored by the Vermont Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, whose members nominate and select winners.

deGroot, in a meeting of the teams’ number one players, defeated Burlington High ace Madison Hartley 6-0 and 6-2 in pacing the Redhawks to a 5-2 triumph over the Seahorses in the championship matches. Hartley had recently captured Vermont’s individual girls crown.

Among 12 nominees with deGroot are Rice Memorial High track star Brittany Pfaff, Mollie Gibbon of South Burlington High track and Essex High softball pitching ace Alexis Perry.

McMannon recognized by Principals Association

Aug. 12, 2010

Champlain Valley Union High School Principal Sean McMannon was honored by the Vermont Principals Association earlier this month.

Champlain Valley Union High School Principal Sean McMannon was one of seven school administrators to be recognized as distinguished principals by the Vermont Principals Association earlier this month.

McMannon was chosen as the Robert F. Pierce secondary principal of the year. Each winner was nominated by peers and selected by a committee of VPA staff and past winners for outstanding educational leadership, according to a VPA press release.

McMannon was surprised to receive the award, but said it was “nice that there were some of my colleagues from Chittenden County and other principals who had nominated me.”

“It was really good to be recognized, because I think I, and principals across the state, work really hard, and we’re in some challenging times right now,” he said.

McMannon said the award was a “reflection of the continued support of the community,” and CVU’s teachers and administration.

“People consider Sean a really visionary leader,” VPA Executive Director Ken Page said. “He’s taken a great school and made it even better … in particular his work with technology has really been exemplary.”

McMannon, who lives in Colchester, has been CVU’s principal for six years. He said the school is “part of a community that puts students first and makes it a real pleasure to lead the work at CVU. People are so focused on doing what’s best for students.”

—Stephanie Choate, Observer staff

Everyday Gourmet

Shortcut to heaven

Aug. 12, 2010

By Kim Dannies

Right now there’s a lot of great fruit just waiting to be served up into something special — but who has the time? I love making this quick tart (20 minutes tops) as a base for a creamy mascarpone or lemon curd filling. The tart can be baked three days ahead, as long as you wrap it in foil. The fillings can be prepped ahead as well, so all you have to do is spend five minutes putting it all together for a gorgeous and professional looking pastry.

Almond Shortbread Tart

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

8-inch tart: Crush 4 ounces of salted, roasted almonds. Add them to a mixing bowl along with 1.75 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of sugar. Melt 1 stick (4 ounces) of butter; add to flour mixture. Mix lightly with a fork, then add 1 egg, mix well. Press the pastry dough into an 8-inch removable tart pan that has been sprayed with Pam. Cover tart with foil and set heavy spoons or baking weights on top. Bake 15 minutes.

10-inch tart: Use 6 ounces of salted, roasted almonds, 2.25 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1 egg.

Tart Fillings

Mascarpone: Beat together 2 8-ounce containers of Vermont Creamery mascarpone cheese with 1 tablespoon vanilla and 1/3 cup confectionary sugar. When ready to serve, fill the tart with mascarpone and top with fresh blueberries, cherries, peaches or caramelized apples.

Lemon Curd Filling: In a metal bowl combine 5 egg yolks with 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice. Fill a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water. Simmer over medium-high heat. (Metal bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, 8 minutes (mixture will be light yellow and coat the back of a spoon.) Remove from heat and stir in 4 ounces of butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Cool to thicken. To serve, fill the tart with the lemon curd and top with seasonal fruit.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.

Vermonter at Large

A little exam for those angling to be governor

Aug. 12, 2010

By Mal Boright

For years, economics has been known as the dismal science. Well, move over economics. Politics as practiced in Washington is taking dismal to a new low in the realm of utterly depressing practices.

Just two years ago, voters in the federal elections opted for change. Instead they got even deeper ideological divides, more money into campaigns, more corruption and more evasion of serious legislative work on immigration, energy, campaign finance reform plus a myriad of other issues.

A list as long as Father Time’s beard can be hauled out to note the reasons for the problems on the Potomac, but careerism of elected office holders and the money required to maintain their hold on offices through several elections cycles go to the top of the charts.

We might not have a ruling class per se, but over time we have allowed, as syndicated columnist George Will has written on many occasions, the creation of a Political Class that has become highly protective of its position, powers and privileges.

High priority goes to the raising of campaign funds, party loyalty (for more campaign funds) and, in some cases, preservation of a lavish lifestyle away from voter scrutiny.

While we here in our little state have generally escaped the more serious ramifications of political class, thanks to our small population, two-year election cycles and part-time Legislature, voters need to stay aware and discourage some of the more nefarious political practices that are common elsewhere and occasionally here.

Thus this multiple choice test for the major party primary candidates for the state’s top political job.

There is no interest here in finding differences on issues. In the Democratic primary, the fightin’ five appear to have few wide variations on responding to the challenges facing the state. Listed alphabetically, they are state Sen. Susan Bartlett, former Sen. Matt Dunne, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and Sens. Doug Racine and Peter Shumlin.

Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie is unopposed on the Republican side.

So in the belief that big career plans, big bucks and, not least, big egos tend to be the culprits, here is the test for our gubernatorial candidates.

You each have a half hour to complete. This is a multiple choice exam. One answer per question. No peeking at others’ answers.

1. My campaign funds will be used to: (A) Bury the opposition any way I can because, as Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest may have once said, “Get there fustest with the mostest;” (B) Buy short, simple commercials and print ads that put me in the most positive light and raise deep concerns about those poor schmucks running against me; (C) Turn serious issues into ideological warfare so as to turn out “the base;” (D) Try to promote serious thought and ideas for solutions among the electorate.

2. In public appearances, I will: (A) Take the temperature of the audiences and then tell them what they want to hear; (B) Get a little goofy and have a slew of memorable one-liners that linger on afterward while taking absolutely no positions (i.e. “I’m for good jobs.”); (C) Stay solidly on the side of safe and secure orthodoxy while painting opponents as extremist fools; (D) Show leadership qualities by advocacy of thoughtful and persuasive solutions to current and future problems.

3. Regarding out-of-state donations to enlarge war chests in the campaign, I will: (A) Encourage with every breath I take ever more greenbacks from those national deep pockets including but not limited to promoting self as having national potential; (B) Make associations with — and take money from — national lobbying organizations with an eye on possible lucrative future employment; (C) Remain mum on the subject and hope it goes away again; (D) Turn it all down and emphasize that the governor’s race is the business of Vermonters only and no outside money and/or manipulation is desired.

4. Upon assuming office in January, your first order of business once seated in your fifth floor office will be: (A) Make sure that loyal, paid campaign staffers get high government positions; (B) Seek ways to stick it to opposition party office holders and legislators; (C) Open the process of drafting legislation to meet the wishes and desires of major campaign contributors to assure they and their dollars will be there in the next election cycle; (D) Assemble a list of priorities for addressing the needs of the state, putting politics aside for at least the next year.

Good luck.

Williston resident Mal Boright has been an editor, columnist and reporter for several Vermont newspapers. He covers local sports as a correspondent for The Charlotte Citizen and the Williston Observer.

Little Details

Time, space and the quiet to create

Aug. 12, 2010

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Some of the best kept secrets are worth sharing. I believe Vermont Week at the Vermont Studio Center is one such secret. Founded in 1984, VSC hosts the largest international artist and writer residency program in the United States. Creative types from all over the world descend upon Johnson, a small college town, to ply their craft amid the tranquility of the Green Mountains.

During Vermont Week, VSC opens its residences and studios to approximately 50 Vermonters. For seven glorious spring days, local artists and writers are invited to forget their day job and simply create with pen, pencil, paintbrush, camera, chisel or keyboard. Each resident is provided room and board and a key to his or her very own studio. The cost of attendance is largely underwritten by anonymous donors. I share notes from my experience, offering encouragement to aspiring artists and writers to investigate the program.

That monastic feeling

The writing studios are concentrated in the Maverick Building — an appropriate name given folks’ efforts to distinguish themselves as writers. Each tidy room offered a desk, chair, bookcase, comfy chair, reading lamp and a view of the Gihon River.

We were obliged to work quietly — no cell phones, minimal conversation and careful opening and closing of doors. True to my introverted nature, I relished the peacefulness and the enormous gift of time to simply read, think and write. It reminded me of previous stays in convents and monasteries while travelling in Europe. VSC aptly acknowledged the sanctity of the creative process.

My studio offered a second story view of the wending river. A plaque on the door indicated the space was named in honor of poet Maxine Kumin. She graduated from Radcliffe (B.A. 1946, M.A. 1948) — before women were allowed to attend Harvard. She was a friend of my favorite poet, Anne Sexton. Kumin lives in a farmhouse in New Hampshire where she produces verse often compared to Robert Frost’s writings.

The plaque further identified Kate Chappell, painter and co-founder of Tom’s of Maine personal hygiene products, as the donor. I informally christened the space “the studio that toothpaste built.” It’s amazing the things I learned conducting research to avoid staring at a blank computer screen.

Among fictional characters

As a nonfiction writer, I found myself a distinct minority among the 13 writers present. As folks wrestled demons of plot development or poetic verse, I aspired to tell true stories … with finesse. I planned to prepare a book proposal, but my muse had other ideas.

Swirling in a sea of MFAs — several residents possessed advanced degrees in the arts — I felt a little unsure. What was I doing there? I felt a bit like an imposter. Was I a “real” writer or simply faking it?

I spent Day 1 in a desk chair leaning precariously forward. As I was adjusting its height — to minimize indentations forming from the desk above my knees — the seat slid downward suddenly, angling itself like a dump truck preparing to unload its wares — ME. I eventually figured it out, but not until Day 2.

Artful eating

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided in a former mill overlooking a gushing waterfall. Artisan breads, colorful salads and artfully presented entrees of wild rice and hearty vegetables register in culinary memory. We were there to create, not cook. We were well fed and well cared for.

Artist colonies are not about cliques. I opted to sit with different people at each meal to spice up the experience. Since there were far more visual artists present, I typically broke bread with painters, photographers, sculptors, printmakers and textile artists.

It was at these tables that I learned I was not an imposter. Many shared my excitement of, “Am I really here?” and “Did I really get picked?”

Most of my fellow residents juggled their creative pursuits with “day jobs” — as teachers, massage therapists, IT specialists, engineers and administrators. They too recognized the enormity of the gift we received.

Putting on my interviewer’s hat, I did what I most enjoy: I asked people about themselves. “Tell me about your art.” “When did you first start writing?” “Which artist do you most admire?” “Who encouraged you?” Stories spilled forth. I ate it up.

Tom, a well-known architect, was there to paint. Relegated to bed with an extended illness as a child, his mother bought him a set of watercolors and he learned to paint. Gary was handed a camera along with his uniform when drafted for Vietnam as teenager from rural Vermont. He earns his living in commercial photography; he pursues his passion photographing nature’s awesome beauty. Holly, a former congressional aid, conjured poetic descriptions of flowers, trees and sunlight. Jim, an inventor and engineer, created sculptures of stone and steel evoking his family’s Greek heritage. I met people who weren’t simply multi-taskers, they were multi-talents.

The writing process

I brought a bag full of books, a laptop and my journal. I read poetry, essays and history, moving from desk to cushy chair in my small studio space. I took walks and tanked up on coffee only to return to my writing nook.

I felt a particular affinity with the nonfiction writers. We shared our personal stories as well as our words.  Peter wrote whimsically of the long-abandoned home in Tuscany he and his wife are restoring. Ted’s story of his childhood experience in Nazi Germany left me wondering about the American GI who handed him a peppermint patty near war’s end.

Spending eight to 10 hours each day reading and writing was a gift, a luxury. I committed words to paper and found an unexpected surprise pointing me toward a larger writing project.

Vermont Week is a gift to passionate artists and writers seeking the time, space and quiet to simply create. If this opportunity speaks to you, check it out.

For more information on Vermont Week at the Vermont Studio Center, visit www.vermontstudiocenter.org.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at Editor@willistonobserver.com or LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com.

8/12/10

Little details

Time, space and the quiet to create

Aug. 12, 2010

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper

Some of the best kept secrets are worth sharing. I believe Vermont Week at the Vermont Studio Center is one such secret. Founded in 1984, VSC hosts the largest international artist and writer residency program in the United States. Creative types from all over the world descend upon Johnson, a small college town, to ply their craft amid the tranquility of the Green Mountains.

During Vermont Week, VSC opens its residences and studios to approximately 50 Vermonters. For seven glorious spring days, local artists and writers are invited to forget their day job and simply create with pen, pencil, paintbrush, camera, chisel or keyboard. Each resident is provided room and board and a key to his or her very own studio. The cost of attendance is largely underwritten by anonymous donors. I share notes from my experience, offering encouragement to aspiring artists and writers to investigate the program.

That monastic feeling

The writing studios are concentrated in the Maverick Building — an appropriate name given folks’ efforts to distinguish themselves as writers. Each tidy room offered a desk, chair, bookcase, comfy chair, reading lamp and a view of the Gihon River.

We were obliged to work quietly — no cell phones, minimal conversation and careful opening and closing of doors. True to my introverted nature, I relished the peacefulness and the enormous gift of time to simply read, think and write. It reminded me of previous stays in convents and monasteries while travelling in Europe. VSC aptly acknowledged the sanctity of the creative process.

My studio offered a second story view of the wending river. A plaque on the door indicated the space was named in honor of poet Maxine Kumin. She graduated from Radcliffe (B.A. 1946, M.A. 1948) — before women were allowed to attend Harvard. She was a friend of my favorite poet, Anne Sexton. Kumin lives in a farmhouse in New Hampshire where she produces verse often compared to Robert Frost’s writings.

The plaque further identified Kate Chappell, painter and co-founder of Tom’s of Maine personal hygiene products, as the donor. I informally christened the space “the studio that toothpaste built.” It’s amazing the things I learned conducting research to avoid staring at a blank computer screen.

Among fictional characters

As a nonfiction writer, I found myself a distinct minority among the 13 writers present. As folks wrestled demons of plot development or poetic verse, I aspired to tell true stories … with finesse. I planned to prepare a book proposal, but my muse had other ideas.

Swirling in a sea of MFAs — several residents possessed advanced degrees in the arts — I felt a little unsure. What was I doing there? I felt a bit like an imposter. Was I a “real” writer or simply faking it?

I spent Day 1 in a desk chair leaning precariously forward. As I was adjusting its height — to minimize indentations forming from the desk above my knees — the seat slid downward suddenly, angling itself like a dump truck preparing to unload its wares — ME. I eventually figured it out, but not until Day 2.

Artful eating

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided in a former mill overlooking a gushing waterfall. Artisan breads, colorful salads and artfully presented entrees of wild rice and hearty vegetables register in culinary memory. We were there to create, not cook. We were well fed and well cared for.

Artist colonies are not about cliques. I opted to sit with different people at each meal to spice up the experience. Since there were far more visual artists present, I typically broke bread with painters, photographers, sculptors, printmakers and textile artists.

It was at these tables that I learned I was not an imposter. Many shared my excitement of, “Am I really here?” and “Did I really get picked?”

Most of my fellow residents juggled their creative pursuits with “day jobs” — as teachers, massage therapists, IT specialists, engineers and administrators. They too recognized the enormity of the gift we received.

Putting on my interviewer’s hat, I did what I most enjoy: I asked people about themselves. “Tell me about your art.” “When did you first start writing?” “Which artist do you most admire?” “Who encouraged you?” Stories spilled forth. I ate it up.

Tom, a well-known architect, was there to paint. Relegated to bed with an extended illness as a child, his mother bought him a set of watercolors and he learned to paint. Gary was handed a camera along with his uniform when drafted for Vietnam as teenager from rural Vermont. He earns his living in commercial photography; he pursues his passion photographing nature’s awesome beauty. Holly, a former congressional aid, conjured poetic descriptions of flowers, trees and sunlight. Jim, an inventor and engineer, created sculptures of stone and steel evoking his family’s Greek heritage. I met people who weren’t simply multi-taskers, they were multi-talents.

The writing process

I brought a bag full of books, a laptop and my journal. I read poetry, essays and history, moving from desk to cushy chair in my small studio space. I took walks and tanked up on coffee only to return to my writing nook.

I felt a particular affinity with the nonfiction writers. We shared our personal stories as well as our words.  Peter wrote whimsically of the long-abandoned home in Tuscany he and his wife are restoring. Ted’s story of his childhood experience in Nazi Germany left me wondering about the American GI who handed him a peppermint patty near war’s end.

Spending eight to 10 hours each day reading and writing was a gift, a luxury. I committed words to paper and found an unexpected surprise pointing me toward a larger writing project.

Vermont Week is a gift to passionate artists and writers seeking the time, space and quiet to simply create. If this opportunity speaks to you, check it out.

For more information on Vermont Week at the Vermont Studio Center, visit www.vermontstudiocenter.org.

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at Editor@willistonobserver.com or LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com.