15 Years of Best of Burlington Art Scene!01/05/2022 09:04PM ● By John Gales
15 Years of Art Scene!
We're celebrating with three of our past favorites to showcase the breadth of creativity here in Vermont
Art is a transformative medium through which complex human experiences are communicated. Through that communication, art helps us expand and increase our understanding our world. For 15 years, in every issue, Best of Burlington has shared with our readers some of the best art in the Green Mountain State, showcasing the beauty, complexity, and even whimsy of human experience as presented by Vermont artists. To celebrate this milestone, we’ve selected three featured artists from past issues. To be sure, it wasn’t easy limiting ourselves to just these three!
For Katharine Montstream, the decision to try to make a living from her artwork was an easy one. “It was never scary,” she says. “I was selling real estate and waitressing and I started making little cards, and they were selling really well.”
The cards cost ten cents each and Katharine was selling them for $1.50. In two years she made 15,000 handmade cards. “That worked great,” she says, “but at some point, I kind of burned out. You can’t grow a business if you’re doing it all by hand, so we took a leap of faith to print the cards in 1991.” Mass production required Katharine to visit stationery stores and find representatives who were willing to sell the cards across the country. That year, she also made the decision to open Monstream Studio in a $100 a month space at Main Street Landing. “Even 30 years ago I could afford that,” she says. Soon, adjoining spaces became vacant and Katharine was able to expand. “We just kept paying month to month and it just kept growing.”
Another transition was Katharine’s move from greeting cards to larger paintings. “Someone asked me to make one of my images bigger,” she remembers. “I thought I’d try it and then figure out what to do about pricing.” The larger paintings led to her first show at the Daily Planet with multiple 30x40-inch watercolors of gardens and cityscapes. “People responded to my work,” she says. “I didn’t try to analyze it, but it happened. Thirty years later, here we are.”
Even to the casual observer, creating art out of snow has obvious drawbacks. Both materials and the finished piece are as ephemeral as winter itself, changing with rising and falling temperatures, softened by sunbursts, or made rigid by a freezing afternoon. Much of the artwork’s drama and beauty comes with risk taking...
On a sunny February day at the Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Competition, Team Vermont mapped out their work on a solid block of snow. They laid a crosshatched plexiglass grid over the frozen surface, then began to carve off the edges, working toward the center using ice-carving chisels.
At each competition, the teams lay down their tools at a set time, and then hope their artwork will hold together until the judges walk by. Though Team Vermont has had a few close calls—Rhonda began to shed some of her robotic arms about 30 minutes after the judges assessed her—they’ve seen other teams dodge falling blocks of heavy snow, nearly getting crushed under melting artwork.
Vermont, though, the risks and challenges of snow sculpture are outweighed by snow’s
unique advantages. “It’s the only art where you can make something monumental
but with such detail in this short a time,” explains team captain Michael
Nedell. “You can’t do it in cement or in steel—you’d need more than a chisel.
But with snow you can really go and make something beautiful.”
The detail that’s possible when working in snow has attracted a diverse crowd of artists to snow sculpture. Each year, a creative lineup of wood carvers, clay sculptors, and painters work to solve the fundamental engineering puzzles of building with snow, then leave their masterpieces at the mercy of the weather, walking away with just a few photographs. Standout competitors include a Mongolian artist who spends off-seasons carving mammoth styrene blocks and a Hollywood artist who’s often tasked with sculpting fantastical creatures for films.
Keeping that improvisational spirit alive means that Team Vermont has retained a laid-back approach, and there’s no end in sight. As Team Vermont plans for the future, they’ve got a stack of design dreams and firmly set priorities.
Lyric Theatre Company
Their mission of bringing
Broadway-style shows to the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts is brought to
life by the company’s numerous volunteers and supporters. Going into its 46th year,
the organization still buzzes with “startup energy,” says newly appointed
executive director and Vermont native Erin Evarts.
She credits this energy not only to the general enthusiastic vibe of the volunteers—both those whom audiences see on stage and those who perform the multitude of behind-the-scenes jobs for each production—but also to their new space on Green Tree Drive in South Burlington, complete with a full-size rehearsal stage.
The spacious set-building room initially stood in as a rehearsal space when the company first moved into the building. Now, however, the performers have a brand-new rehearsal studio, designed to be the same size as the Flynn Center’s MainStage. “We have rehearsed over the years in daycares, schools, and gymnasiums,” Erin says, including one space that had support poles in the middle of the room—not very conducive to practicing choreography.
Work begins on a show up to two years before opening night, though auditions aren’t held until about three months out. “It’s funny,” Erin says, “when we cast, so many people are like, ‘Oh, we’re starting the show!’ but there have already been hundreds and hundreds of hours put in by dozens of people by the time we get to auditions.” Once the cast is selected, however, the timetable speeds up. For example, the costume makers may have selected patterns, fabrics, and other accessories, but the real work starts only when the actors are cast and their measurements are known. Then the wall of sewing machines whirs into action.
Some shows require more costume and design work than others, but Lyric volunteers are up to the task. When the troupe put on Les Misérables in 2014, the designers went above and beyond, according to Erin. “They made all of the pants period appropriate, so there were no zippers. Was that necessary? No. Was it authentic? Yes. That attention to detail, those little pieces—nobody beyond the fifth row is going to see that, but as an actor, you know it’s there, and it makes a difference.”
The importance of the company’s volunteers isn’t lost on Erin; she had been a volunteer for Lyric for 20 years. “Every person plays their part,” she says. “That’s one of the beautiful things about community theater—there isn’t a star credit on the marquee. It just says, ‘by Lyric Theatre,’ and in that sense, we all get the same amount of credit.”
Erin’s experience with Lyric over the years has been a positive one, and one that she wants to share with others. “Once you’re part of this community, you want to stay involved. That’s one of the things I want to continue to work on. I’ve always found a home with Lyric, and I want to make sure other people have that same experience.”
129 St. Paul Street
2022 US National Snow
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
February 2–6, 2022
Lyric Theatre Company
7 Green Tree Drive
South Burlington, VT