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Far from Foolish: Family Fun at the Festival of Fools


Fixed/Fluxed Installation by Thu Kim Vu

By Meghan Richter

Image: “Festival Host BCA’s Current Exhibition: Thu Kim Vu’s Fixed/Fluxed”

Driving through the green mountains of Vermont is always a treat, especially in the summer when the city of Burlington is vibrant with engaging activity. This past weekend’s temperatures were about 75 degrees on average, sunny and breezy — the perfect escape from the sweltering heat of Boston. I arrived in Burlington in time for the Festival of Fools, a yearly event that is produced by Burlington City Arts. The streets were decorated with multi- colored balls that were strung together in a circus- tent formation over the intersecting streets on Church.

Up and down the street, and on the green at the corner of Church and Main streets, there were varied performances ranging from dance to live music and comedy acts. Street performers traveled from all over the northeast to share their talents with festival-goers and those who may have just been passing by. Local businesses found creative ways to get in on the action, and all weekend, everywhere I turned there was something else to interact with. The Bern Gallery had live glass-blowing to compliment some of their local artists’ works. Venues such as Nectar’s had headliner performances at night, but acoustic shows during the day to draw people in to see their exhibition of works by DJ Barry. Restaurants up and down Church Street provided the soundtrack for visitors’ promenade through the bazaar with music by local DJs.

The host of the festival, Burlington City Arts, is a multi-level gallery that is currently home to the exhibition, “Fixed/Fluxed,” until October 1. The concept behind each artist’s different interpretation of this theme is that art can be rigid and fine-tuned, but can be ever-changing and flexible as well. All the artists involved have been installing, reinstalling, adding to, reducing or removing their work from the space between its opening on July 1 and now, and will continue to until it closes.

The three artists-in-residence involved have used “Fixed/Fluxed” as an attempt to de-emphasize the gallery space as a place for final products, and instead, turn it into a space where evolution may occur. Thu Kim Vu’s hanging handmade paper sculptures are slowly being added to with detailed ink drawings. Sage Lewis’s desert images from her fellowship in Qatar are distorted spatially and visually, and use some unfixed material. The third artist-in-residence, Meghan Gordon, is working in collaboration with Cortney Andrews.

I was able to make it to the Vermont Comedy Club for the first of 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander’s four sets. Irony and goofy solutions to political problems lightened the attitude of those still bitter about the upcoming election. His stand-up style, though similar to his character from 30 Rock, is even more absurdist.

The Flynn Center for Performing Arts houses two theaters that are constantly filled with dramatic productions and musicians, both nationally and locally known. The Amy E. Tarrant Gallery, housed in front of the theaters, is currently featuring art curated by Vermont’s Grass Roots Art and Community Effort. This group has developed and promoted self-taught artists for 40 years, and this exhibition holds the work of Gayleen Aiken, Dot Kibbee and Roland Rochette. Joel Bertelson’s courageous use of color stood out, a bright beacon to remind gallery viewers that some talents can’t be taught. These works can be viewed through September 3.

The weekend in Burlington also included its weekly Saturday farmers’ market as well as other music festivals down by the pier. The city is truly a compilation of varied artisans — from musical and culinary, to sculptural, dance and more — that make up the lively nature of the city that draws in visitors from all over. Vermont natives know best that creativity is the heart of their home.