Wes and I just returned from both a stressful and exciting adventure in Bennington, VT. For the past four years, the Society of Animal Artists (SAA), for whom Wes works as the Executive Director, has been in negotiations to accept the gift, and assume the management, of The Bennington Center For the Arts. The center is 36,000 square feet and encompasses a 316-seat theatre, seven art galleries, a covered bridge museum, and a variety of offices and workshop spaces. Included in the large building are two apartments, which will be used to house visiting artists and guests. The center will become the permanent home of the SAA, but this will only be a small part of the art and activities planned for the future.
Wes is currently one of the Board of Directors for this new center, so we flew up to assess the condition of the building, meet with multiple repairmen, and generally start the reopening process. It was a gigantic task indeed, but since we recently went through two building inspections with both the sale of our home in Townsend and the purchase of our home in Grandview, inspection terms and concerns were fresh in our minds. We both have history with construction as well, so Wes was able to keep abreast of what was being addressed as concerns and in need of repair.
Currently two of the galleries house an array of wonderful Native American art, consisting of paintings, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, fetishes, drums and so much more. This collection is on loan to the new center.
If you have ever seen the movie “Night At The Museum” then you can totally understand how my imagination went into overdrive each night, as I imagined the various characters portrayed in the art collection springing to life! The Native Americans, cowboys, Bison herds, and the hundreds of other animals and birds represented in the vast collection of wildlife paintings and sculptures, all roaming about the museum and doing who knows what each night! There were a couple of times whilst laying in bed, I could’ve declared I heard the call of a warrior or the thundering roar of a herd of bison fleeing!
I thoroughly enjoyed working with one of the co-founders Elizabeth, inventorying the amazing collection of Native American pottery, Katsinas, jewelry and more. I must admit the highlight of the day for me was when she carefully took out a gorgeous silver, turquoise, and bear claw necklace and placed it around my neck. I felt like royalty and was amazed at how heavy the beautiful piece was! Another unforgettable treat was when she took one of the drums off of the wall and played it for us! I couldn’t believe the amazing sound that resonated and filled the room, literally rattling the rafters at times! The beat could be felt inside of us as it vibrated through the space.
Fellow SAA artists Kelly Radding and Jim Coe spent two days helping me sort through and inventory the art. It was a huge job, as we also curated a show which can be hung at a later point. It was like Christmas as we pulled out painting after painting, and sculpture after sculpture, from inside the many closets, and placed them around the circumference of the rooms. That evening, the four of us enjoyed a relaxing dinner of pizza and time of conversation and laughter.
Fellow SAA artists Jim Coe and Kelly Radding doing the art inventory along with me
Wes spent his spare time searching through files and looking for historic records to be kept, as well as cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning about the building. Since it has set vacant for two years, there was so much that needed to be done. Mostly he spent his time meeting with what seemed like dozens of electrician, plumbers, soundboard technicians and more often at the same time!
Since several of the HVAC systems weren’t running when we arrived, it was extremely cold in most of the gallery spaces, and absolutely frigid in the section housing the covered bridge museum! So as you can imagine, I spent as little time in there as possible, while trying to capture several photos showcasing the amazing collection.
Although the model railroad isn’t currently working, we plan to get it up and running again in the future.
I absolutely love the rock sculpture of a miniature “stone henge” on the property!
Another highlight for me was getting to spend a short while playing the lovely grand piano on the stage of the theater, and I was thrilled to play for a sold out audience . . . of invisible people, Ha! The acoustics in this gorgeous theatre are amazing, and the sound of the ivories being tickled sounded simply divine!
I was on stage many times as a ballerina and tap dancer whilst growing up, but had never had the opportunity to go up into the catwalk section above the stage. So I jumped at the opportunity and Wes and I just kept climbing ladders until reaching the top!
Snow was forecasted during the week and I must say I was delighted to be able to venture out for a few minutes and capture the front of this beautiful museum surrounded by snow.
Wes and I enjoyed a delightful end to our week there at the art center, as Elizabeth asked us to join her for dinner at a local restaurant. We sat in a warm cozy back room which overlooks the river, as we dined on scrumptious food, whilst enjoying many laughs and sharing stories.
Afterwards I had the opportunity to play the most beautiful piano I’ve ever had the delight of playing, and I can’t express what a thrill it was for me to serenade Wes and Elizabeth for awhile, whilst making a memory I’ll never forget! It was a full week consisting of lots of hard work, but so much was accomplished and we made sure to squeeze in fun with those there whenever we had the chance. We can’t wait to see the amazing opportunities that arise for our organization with this incredible gift!
LOL…. The look on my face sums it up! . . . “Ooooooo, it sounds and feels so beautiful!”
IN THE STUDIO
SEE OUR PAINTINGS IN PERSON
Our touring exhibition Exquisite Miniatures is currently at The Evelyn Burrow Museum, located in Hanceville, AL, where you can see it now through April 21st, 2022. So if you’re in the area, plan a visit to the museum, grab a magnifying glass and be “Wowed” in person!
To see our available miniature paintings as well as some upcoming shows, please
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Until Next Time ~ Rachelle