Imagine that the only interruption to creative workflow is the flutter of an oak leaf tapping against your window, or the soft crunch of your footsteps in freshly fallen snow, or perhaps the glint of sunshine flickering off the frozen Gihon River just below your studio. If you are one of the more than 750 painters, sculptors, writers or composers who have attended Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, this past year, you know that this residency experience has offered up the ultimate luxury — the freedom of time.
The VSC is located in the very northern part of Vermont on the fringes of the majestic and remote Northeast Kingdom. The campus is comprised of 30 buildings — reinvested or partly renovated turn-of-the-century homes, barns, churches and some newly constructed spaces for galleries and dining facilities. The early winter day that I drove to Johnson, about 50 miles from Burlington, the air was warm, the skies a bright blue and I left my car window down. I drove past several Victorian mansions, now B&Bs. Occasionally, the scent of wood-burning fireplaces wafted in, and nearer the town center, the sweet fragrance of vanilla, cinnamon and coffee invited me to stop in at The Barrows House Cafe. I’m also drawn to local bookshops, so I stopped in at Ebenezer, a well-curated shop next to the cafe and about 100 feet from the VSC campus.
I had about an hour before my scheduled meeting with residency writers, artists and administration, so I walked the campus. I crossed the bridge that takes you immediately to Mason Green and the long barn-like building running parallel to the Gihon River. Each studio in the building is spacious and airy. The late morning sun was low in the sky and filled the studios with a winter brightness. There were canvases everywhere, many packed up for departing residents who had just completed their monthlong stays. New residencies would begin in two days with most attending for the full month, though two-week time frames are an option.