by Elayne Clift
It’s always a good idea to spend time perusing the art scene in Brattleboro, Vermont. For an especially serendipitous stroll, pay a visit on the “First Friday” of every month, when the town is alive with artists and aficionados and numerous galleries and cafés are even livelier than usual. Here’s a sample of venues on Main Street alone, along with featured artists during June’s First Friday.
Starting at Main and High Streets, a first stop is Mitchell-Giddings Fine Arts. Opened four years ago by the husband-and-wife team of Petria Mitchell and Jim Giddings — both painters — the gallery began with works by seven local artists. Today it features contemporary art and sculpture by more than two dozen artists who reside regionally and beyond. A solo artist is usually featured for six weeks. June’s exhibition showcased Bruce Campbell’s kinetic wire sculptures, inspired, the artist notes, by Alexander Calder. Wires are joined, bent and twisted into imaginative shapes that move with the gentle turning of cranks. Campbell’s profile notes that he strives, “to represent … how the universe might be visualized if moved by gears, levers and basic mechanics.”
Nearby is Gallery in the Woods, opened in 1998 by another husband-and-wife team, potter Suzanne and furniture maker Dante Corsano. The gallery offers an eclectic range of art and artifacts from places near and far. Eye-catching pottery, pillows, and whimsical creations — like Massachusetts artist Gwen Murphy’s “Shoes with Faces” and Arizona artist David Adix’s “Native Figures,” constructed from random bits and bobs bound by wire — put a smile on visitors’ faces. So, too, do the Mexican folk art and Haitian tin carvings on display, along with prints by William Hayes and paintings by Nancy Hayes, whose work is reminiscent of aboriginal art.
The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, located in Brattleboro’s restored historic train station, hosts wonderful exhibitions in its large main space, which still has the station’s original marble floor and tiles along with the 1917 ticket booth. Here, on display until September, reside Steve Gerberich’s amazing installations. Described as a “pack-rat extraordinaire, artist and inventor,” Gerberich transforms everyday objects into elaborate blinking, whirling, humming, buzzing sculptures, all of which are set into motion by the push of a button or the gentle winding of a gear. Smaller gallery shows in June included Alfred Leslie’s photographs from “200 Views Along the Road,” Gloria Garfinkel’s “3D Color” wall reliefs, and glass works by Richard Klein.
A stop at Vermont Artisan Designs & Gallery 2 is a must. A Brattleboro institution for over 40 years, Greg and Susan Worden have established an eclectic gallery for fine art and American craft that features the work of New England artists as well as artists from other parts of the country. On the art scene for over 40 years, functional and decorative work from well-established and emerging artisans includes a wide range of paintings and sculpture, colorful and clear blown glass, pottery, jewelry, hand-painted silk, woven chenille and velvet scarves, carefully crafted salad bowls, fine furniture, photographs capturing the essence of Vermont, and more.