Yes, like Brigadoon . . .
At Kents Corner, a tiny historic district in the town of Calais, Vermont (pop. 1600), a small miracle occurs nearly every year. Art at the Kent opens with a new contemporary art exhibition and receives visitors for approximately one month only. This year’s opening reception took place on Saturday, September 11, with timed-ticketing and cheerful long lines. The exhibition, 20/20 Hindsight, will run until October 10.
The building is historic, old, with peeling wallpaper sometimes worn to the lathing and spindly stairs, all of which is quintessential Vermont. You’d be forgiven if you expected the exhibition to be a collection of traditional pastoral landscapes celebrating Vermont’s iconic red barns and foliage. Not so.
The art is contemporary, eclectic, incorporating the precision (with whimsy, though) of John Parker’s carefully constructed found art, the deconstructed, much use of negative space water colors by Tom Leytham, and the digital works by Gloria King Merritt. (Upper Valley people may be familiar with Merritt because her work has been on display for some time at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.) Not to mention those red boots (above) by Carol MacDonald, one of a series that speaks to our human footprint through our footwear and with, well . . . a glorious mess of actual footprints.
Heidi Broner has numerous portraits of workers in Vermont. Cindy Blakeslee’s art ranges from beguiling miniatures to large-scale spigots and creative use of multitudes of bent nails. At least 20 artists are displaying their works at this exhibition, many with multiple pieces.
Art at the Kent is a labor of love for curators Nel Emlen, Allyson Evans, and David Schutz , and a group of collaborating partners and dedicated volunteers. They take on the challenge every year of mounting an exhibition with neither the benefits nor constraints of the traditional white cube art gallery, matching individual works to specific sites within the museum. In these pandemic times, they wrangle crowds with sign-in sheets and clothespins (you’ll see) to keep the inside headcount reasonable. For the opening celebration, they secured live music and a photo booth, poured refreshments, and passed platters of fig scones.
For more information, directions, tickets (free, donations gratefully accepted), click here for the Kent website. Individual artist bios and links to their websites are available as well. Remember, though, that Art at the Kent has that somewhat fleeting, Brigadoon-like quality. You’ll want to get yourself there soonest.
(Photos by Susan B. Apel)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.