By Meghan Richter
The lobby of a mall is one of the last places you would expect to see fine art. However, in Berlin, Vermont, an exhibition of “Big Art” at the Berlin Mall challenges you to reimagine your expectations. Now through mid-to-late-October, the mall’s front windows will feature blown-up images of works by Jayne Shoup, David Smith, Steven P. Goodman and 13 other artists. The installation of these pieces was subsidized entirely by Heidenberg Properties Group, the mall’s owners, in order to stir up more attendance.
There is also an opportunity for children and parents to visit the Berlin Mall and make “Little Art.” It’s another way that the local community can be involved as the space converts from an entirely commercial space to becoming more like a town center.
The “Big Art” pieces are visible both from the front of the mall, and from within, as the sun penetrates the colors of the material used, and light filters through as if each piece was made from stained glass. Near J.C. Penney’s, there is a piece by Rosalind Daniels called “Spring Rain.” Originally constructed of pieced cotton fabric with quilting and embellishments, the texture of the piece is particularly stunning. Even through image expanding and doctoring, the threads and quilted pieces are very visible.
Nearby in the granite-working town of Barre, there are more public fabric works. The layout of the town implies a focus on masonry work, and many of the sculptures are historically relevant, such as C. Paul Jennewein’s “Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial.” These sculptures have been knitted and crocheted around in creative ways by the current public arts initiative started by Studio Place Arts (SPA).
This “Soft Bomb Barre” initiative has enlisted local fabrics artists to knit florae into public gardens, crochet covers for locked up bikes and sew a slip cover for the stone armchair in front of the gallery, as well as many other assorted projects. Activists and volunteers in Barre have been working to keep the town’s blue collar heritage alive with the spirit of camaraderie. In addition to this, the second floor of SPA has several looms to be woven by gallery visitors, allowing them to be a part of the action.
Within the gallery of Studio Place Arts, “Visionary Conspiracy,” an exhibition on fiber arts that will be on view through August 27, contains works from 14 well-known regional artists and contains unconventional pieces using threads, textiles, wool, needles and looms.
Classic granite sculptor Giuliano Cecchinelli’s “Rock Solid XVI” continues the narrative of fine art masonry work in Barre from September 20 through November 5. For more information, visit http://www.studioplacearts.com.
Some pieces, including those by Studio Place Arts founder Janet Van Fleet, are hidden in the windows of local businesses in order to contribute to the community effort. Although director Sue Higby said that, “fiber arts are ephemeral in an outdoor space,” and many of the works have suffered some weather damage, the pieces still serve to add a unique touch to the town.