The big, red, high-drive barn at Lareau Farm, standing at the edge of fields and against a backdrop of forested hillside, offers about as iconic a Vermont landscape as you can find. The 1895 barn has the clean, elegant lines and proportions of its genre. Inside, its rustic beams, rough boards and soaring hayloft speak to its working past. This landmark barn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is home to the Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition (GMWE). With a recent superb restoration, the barn has fabulous gallery space with high quality lighting, ample walls that provide rich but not distracting surfaces, and lots of atmosphere.
The Seventh Annual Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition opened in the Big Red Barn Gallery at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont on June 17 and runs through July 28. This year’s exhibition features 96 watercolor paintings by artists from around North America. Artwork for the show was selected by a jury of three acclaimed Vermont watercolorists: Annelein Beukenkamp (Vermont Watercolor Society/VWS), Lisa Forster Beach (National Watercolor Society/NWS), and Robert O’Brien (AWS, NWS). Nationally recognized watercolor artist and architect Richard Sneary, a signature NWS member, served as Juror of Awards for nearly $6,000 in exhibition prizes. Award-winning watercolorist Gary Eckhart, curator of exhibitions and vice president of Valley Arts, curated the show.
“There are other New England watercolor exhibitions but none like this, in a historic barn,” said Eckhart, who founded the show. “Watercolor is quickly becoming one of the most popular art forms in the world. Museums are now showing watercolor on a regular basis,” he explained, noting that in the past, watercolor was often underappreciated. “For years, watercolor was considered second cousin to oil painting because paints were not permanent and would fade, but pigments used today are as permanent as any paints.”
Unexpected circumstances launched the Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition. Resourcefulness, planning and community support fueled its success. For over two decades, the Vermont Festival of the Arts, based in the Mad River Valley, has been a thriving celebration of visual and performing arts. In 2012, an artist scheduled for a solo exhibition in the Festival Gallery canceled at the last minute. Eckhart, then serving as president of Valley Arts, quickly organized a show of eight Vermont watercolorists. It was a hit. Viewers wanted more. Eckhart set to work to establish the exhibition as an annual event.
“The overall scope was for it to become a national show in five years. It happened in three,” he said. “Initially, it was predominantly Vermont artists: now it has predominantly artists from outside the state.” It also grew to attract about 3,000 viewers each summer.