An Exciting Weekend at the Opening of the 53rd Annual SAA Exhibition!

wes and rachelle siegrist at the SAA opening in Bennington
Wes and I by his miniature painting during the opening of the 53rd Annual SAA Exhibition

We left one week ago today, as we headed to Wes’ parents home in Jeffersonville, IN. The next morning, the four of us loaded into his parents van and began our long journey to Bennington, VT. The drive was quite challenging at times, as we drove through several bad storms and torrential downpours! At one point water was spraying completely over the van, when we suddenly came upon a spot where the water was across the interstate, and we could do nothing but barrel through it! I stated . . . “Wes was submarin-ing with the van” and was sure happy we made it through that adventure! Thankfully Friday’s weather was a bit more conducive for the remainder of our trip. We arrived at the Paradise Motel later that afternoon, and grabbed a quick supper before heading to the beautiful, Bennington Center For the Arts, where the opening for the 53rd Annual Society of Animal Artists Exhibition was taking place that evening. It was an especially nice show this year, featuring a wide variety of beautiful works on display. I personally enjoyed lots of fun conversation intermittent with laughter, with fellow artists and patrons attending. Those attending were treated with a tantalizing assortment of hors d’oeuvres and petite desserts.

rachelle siegrist at the SAA opening 2013
George and Jeanie with me standing by my miniature painting during the opening

The next morning Wes and I attended the annual members’ meeting in the auditorium of the art center, where I enjoyed sitting between Wes and one of my favorite artist buddies, Allen Blagden. After the meeting adjourned, Wes and I met up with his parents and we went to a local pizza place where Wes and I enjoyed a delicious pizza topped with so many jalapenos, you could hardly see the cheese . . . and it was delicious! Leaving there we went to see three of the beautiful covered bridges nearby, and get a few photos. Even though it was cloudy and raining, it was still quite lovely. Then we enjoyed a nice little drive to Robert Frost’s Stone House Museum. Once there, we enjoyed a small but very enlightening display about his life and literary work, and a very informative history on one of his most famous poems “Stopping By the Woods”, which I personally really like. Since I remember reading a book, belonging to my mom, containing a collection of his poems when I was a little girl, and having enjoyed reading them every since, this was a real treat for me!

covered bridge in Vermont
George takes a photo of the covered bridge in the rain
the robert frost museum
The Robert Frost Museum in Shaftsbury, Vermont

That evening we attended the SAA awards dinner, which was held at an interesting restaurant called The Depot, deriving its name from the fact that it was once the old railroad station. It was a lovely and delicious dinner, and most enjoyable, as we sat with artists friends at a large round table, and were well entertained and treated to many laughs, by artist France Tremblay’s guest, Jean Francois! The next two days, while Wes was in meetings, meetings . . . and more meetings, or as what he calls the “Great SAA Meeting Marathon”, his parents and I saw the sights. Our first stop Sunday morning was at a delightful country store, where they had freshly picked Honey Crisp Apples . . . my personal favorite . . . as well as an amazing assortment of other locally made and themed treats. We decided to take advantage of the freshly made apple cider doughnuts, each enjoying one, still nice and warm, while relaxing in a quaint dining room setting.

the siegrist family at the SAA dinner
George, Wes, Jeanie and I during the SAA awards dinner

Leaving there, we drove along the winding road lined by trees displaying their finest fall colors in bright oranges, reds and yellows, it was quite stunning to say the least! We arrived at our destination, the temporary gallery displaying a small selection of the permanent collection from the Clark Museum in Williamstown, MA. Imagine my delight when I realized one of my favorite paintings done by John Singer Sargent was on exhibit! There were also a couple other paintings of his, as well as those of Renoir, Monet, Remington and several other of my favorite artists there on display, creating a real visual treat! We then drove to downtown Williamstown, Where we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a restaurant called Thai Garden. I choose a melon curry dish, featuring a delectable assortment of winter squash cooked to perfection, with the right amount of spicy kick to it! We were given the perfect table, tucked away into a picture window where we looked out onto the picturesque downtown setting with trees showing off their fall splendor.

fall leaves in vermont
A lovely setting along the drive
rachelle with old tractor in vermont
Oh boy . . . another great old tractor and a Ford at that!

Leaving there we enjoyed a pleasant drive through the countryside, before arriving at our next destination, which was a little, quaint store and museum called the Sugar Shack nestled between several large maple trees,. The extremely friendly owners, holding trays containing assorted edible treats to taste, met us as soon as we entered the inviting front door. Then we were immediately given some interesting tidbits of history on the place and sent to watch a most informative short film about Norman Rockwell’s history and use of many of the local people from the Arlington area in his paintings over the 15 years that he lived there. We ended up spending an hour or more inside the quaint museum, which featured numerous Rockwell prints, many with photographs of what the models for the paintings looked like as grown ups. The previous owner, Rich Mears, gave us a most informative and enlightening tour, while sharing many stories about Rockwell’s past and the local people he used in his paintings. I was thrilled when Rich told us that it was his dad, who was the model for the boy scout on the right side of the painting, which Rockwell did for the cover of the 1943 Boy’s Life magazine. Moreover, he shared that the boy on the left was Rockwell’s son, Peter. What a treat to meet someone with such personal ties to Norman Rockwell, especially since the artist has always been an absolute favorite of mine, since admiring his paintings on the covers of my grandparents copies of the Saturday Evening Posts, as a little girl. If you’re a fan of Norman Rockwell and you’re ever in the Arlington, VT area, I highly recommend a visit to this delightfully quaint museum store! Besides, they have the best pumpkin walnut cookies I have ever tasted! After an enjoyable dinner, we went to see the Bennington Battle Monument lit up at night, as well as to see and photograph the Old First Church of Bennington, where Robert Frost is buried in the nearby cemetery.

the Sugar Shack in Arlington
The great little Sugar Shack
norman rockwell museum
Rich Mears points to his father featured in the painting
norman rockwell's studio
Norman Rockwell’s studio located nearby the Sugar Shack in Arlington
the old first church in bennington
The beautiful Old First Church of Bennington at night

Sunday we set out for a drive along the scenic Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive, which leads up to what was the historical Equinox Inn, now called the Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center, located on the very top of the mountain. As we began our ascent, the views were simply stunning, filled with vast forests in a full array of reds, oranges and yellows! We pulled off at several different scenic overlooks to take in the amazing views! As we got closer to the top however, we found ourselves engulfed in the clouds, covering the top of the mountain. Slowly we went along the curvy road until just as we reached the top, the clouds parted and we were offered an amazing 360 degree view of the surrounding mountain ranges and farms scattered about below! Mere minutes after we took our last photo of the stunning view and stepped into the historical building, the clouds returned almost at once, completely engulfing the mountaintop! Shortly after beginning our decent, we left the clouds behind, and enjoyed the spectacular views the rest of the way down, as well as seeing the Carthusian Monastery, which is nestled in the woods some distance below.

 Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive
Stunning fall colors along the Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive
Mt. Equinox Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center
Jeanie and I with the beautiful view from the the Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center
view from the summit of Mt. Equinox
Another stunning view from the Mt, Equinox Skyline Drive
the monastary at Mt. Equinox
The Carthusian Monastary at Mt. Equinox
stand of birch trees on Mt. Equinox
A gorgeous stand of Birch Trees along the scenic drive

We then made our way to downtown Manchester, where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch of homemade, spiced pumpkin bisque and salad topped with maple balsamic vinaigrette, at the Spiral Press Café. What a neat café it was and it had a delightful book store located inside to boot! Leaving there, we drove to the Lincoln family home, known as the Hildene House, located nearby. It’s a gorgeous home, situated right atop a mountain, affording stunning views of the surrounding mountains and beautiful formal gardens in front from almost every window in the house! Every room was a historical treat filled with the family’s antique furniture, art and informative reading about the room. The kitchen houses the largest wood burning stove that I have ever seen, as well as an egg scale and a European knife cleaner, which looked like a beautiful piece of small furniture as well. The rain subsided long enough for us to slip out and see former owner, Robert Todd Lincoln’s personal telescope, and gave us just enough time to run back into the large house, before the BIG storm hit! It looked like a hurricane as the winds howled and blew the rain horizontally past, occasionally pelting the windows. Finally it subsided long enough for us and the remaining group of people to load the shuttle to enjoy a dry ride back to the gift shop.

the Hildene House
The Hildene House or Lincoln Family home built by Robert Todd Lincoln
The Lincoln gardens
A lovely view of the formal gardens form an upstairs window
fall foilage in vermont
Another gorgeous view!

Returning to Bennington that evening, we picked up Wes and enjoyed eating dinner with the SAA board members. Thankfully we were blessed with a beautiful day and no rain for the drive back to Indiana. This morning, after eating a yummy breakfast and saying goodbye to Wes’ mom and dad, we drove back to Townsend, and started catching up on everything, so we can get back to the easels!

Fresh off and on the easel ~ Wes finished two miniature paintings before we left for Vermont last week.  one of a beautiful White Egret and another of a Little Green Heron.  I’m still currently painting on my dog painting, which I hope to finish this week.

egret miniature painting
“Fishing the Shallows” by Wes

Little Green Heron miniature painting
“Stealth” by Wes

dog painting i
My painting of Sugar Lily in progress

~ To view all our upcoming exhibits visit~

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Until next time ~ Rachelle

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