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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Kick-off of second Arts Walk season draws crowd despite rain

Downtown Middlebury played host to the second annual Arts Walk this past Friday. It was the first of seven nights, one a month, in which galleries, businesses and restaurants will display local artists’ work. The Arts Walk was created last year by the Arts Connect Committee, a group of townspeople, College employees, workers in the various galleries and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce to establish a showcase for local art.


Despite the rainy weather, which led to a smaller-than-anticipated turnout, the success of the Arts Walk’s first year has already carried over to the second.

“The committee was formed to find a way to promote local artists and identify events and venues they could become a part of,” said Sue Hoxie, member of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce. “This year we have a total of about 38 venues around downtown Middlebury that plan on displaying art at various points over the summer.”

All of the artists are from Vermont, with about 95 percent coming from Addison County. Many of them operate small galleries or studios in Middlebury or Brandon, making this sort of showcase ideal for exposing their art to more people at once. While the event was not originally planned to be a locally dominated display, to Hoxie it seems natural that it turned out that way.

“The goal was not necessarily to find local artists,” said Hoxie. “It came down to the fact that these were the people the members of the committee knew. Everyone reached out to their networks and found someone or somewhere to host their work.”

It is easy to see why many of the local restaurants and shops were more than happy to take part in the Arts Walk. Many showed art that complemented the unique atmosphere at their establishments and flowed seamlessly into the usual Friday night activities. For example, at Two Brothers Tavern singer-songwriter Jim Scouten played music to a mix of students and townspeople enjoying a Friday evening drink or meal.

“This is a really good way to get people to come out and see some of the local art that Middlebury has to offer,” said Ashley Cheung ’11. “I knew there were a few galleries in town, but I was surprised to see this much going on.”

At Noonie Deli in the Marble Works, an interesting fusion of painting and photography by Stephanie Larsen hangs on the walls. In her second year in the Arts Walk, Larsen has found at least a few fans.

“I remembered seeing something similar to this last year,” said Robert LaMoy ’12 as he enjoyed a Purple’s Pleasure. “When I saw the name [Larsen], I knew it was the same person from last year. When you see this kind of thing, where the businesses and the artists from around town come together and put on this kind of display, it’s something I feel like doesn’t happen too many other places outside of Middlebury.”

While there were a number of works presented by professional artists whose art is their livelihood, other displays were also prominently featured. The exhibit at the Vermont Folklife Center, titled “Invisible Odysseys,” focuses on the Mexican immigrant population in Addison County and its experience coming to live and work in Vermont. Students from the Lincoln Community School contributed the prose, poetry and collage work they created while learning about the migrant worker population that staffs many of the dairy farms in the area. Additionally, artist B. Amore brought art supplies to the workers, and their own portrayal of their experiences and lives is also a part of the exhibit.

The exhibit was not put up expressly for the Arts Walk, but the Vermont Folklife Center stayed open for two extra hours to take advantage of the increased art-hungry traffic downtown.

“This is something we were planning on displaying regardless of the Arts Walk,” said Joan White, developmental coordinator for the Folklife Center. “We really enjoy being a part of this as well. It spreads awareness of what we have on display and brings more people in our doors.”

The exhibit, like many of the other displays featured in the Arts Walk, remains on display to be enjoyed by local patrons beyond the scope of the Walk. Other showings like the folk paintings at 51 Main or the wooden sculptures at the Middlebury Inn were taken down at the end of the night, but do not miss them at the next Arts Walk on Friday, May 14.