When Vermonters talk about galleries, we generally think of the more populated municipalities like Burlington, Stowe and Montpelier. While there are numerous venues for art lovers in those cities and towns, there are other, smaller areas which have an impressive array of galleries to choose from, just off the beaten track.
Not far from Burlington
Burlington is Vermont’s largest city and home to an abundance of art, but there is plenty to see beyond the Queen City. In the town of Jericho, just fifteen miles away, is the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery. Opened in 2003 by Emilie Alexander and named after her late father, a noted landscape painter from Gloucester, the gallery is in a renovated 1860s English Sheep Barn at the edge of a local farm. There is a standing collection of Gruppe’s work as well as rotating exhibitions of New England artists. Recent exhibits have included artwork by the Vermont Pastel Society and a show featuring three colleagues from Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation who collaborated on a work-related sketchbook and created individual pieces of art.
Alexander said the most popular exhibits are those of landscape painters, most of whom are based in Vermont. Her father’s work continues to be a major draw, pulling in visitors from across New England, Canada and even Florida. Although the gallery has been host to exhibits in a variety of genres including portraiture and folk art, Alexander admits she favors landscape paintings and shies away from the more abstract genres. The gallery is also the site of the annual Jericho Plein Air Festival.
Just 15 minutes south of Burlington, you’ll find the Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne, located in a renovated Queen Anne Victorian home. The gallery features an ongoing group exhibit of more than 40 artists from across the state, as well as a collection of artisans. Owner Joan Furchgott purchased an existing framing business with some fine art in 1991 and revamped it, placing the emphasis on art. The gallery combines traditional art with more contemporary work and features six-week rotating exhibits of one or two artists for most of the year, with a longer exhibit during the winter months.
“We have some of the most well-respected long-time artists in the state,” said Furchgott, “but we also love to showcase new emerging artists. There are so many good artists in Vermont that it hasn’t seemed worth it to go far outside the state.”
While the art may be local, some of the visitors are not. During the summer months, proximity to the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms means out-of-staters and second home owners often stop by. In addition to art, the gallery is known for its framing and restoration work.
Close to the Capital
Montpelier may be our capital, but it’s not the only venue for art in Washington County. Travel about 15 minutes east and you’ll find the Blinking Light Gallery in Plainfield, so named because it is situated near the only lighted intersection in town. The two-decade-old non-profit is operated by the Central Vermont Artists’ Marketing Cooperative, with a mission to help market and promote the works of members and others from the area as well as to engage the community in the enjoyment of art.
Board President Helen Rabin said the largest portion of the retail gallery is devoted to the work of its 40 members, most of whom are local artists who also double as staff members. There is a juried process for becoming a member. The gallery has additional exhibit space with rotating shows every two months and the art runs the gamut from drawing, painting and printmaking to fiber arts, pottery and jewelry. The gallery also sells the work of local authors and musicians. Rabin’s hope is that people will see Plainfield as more than a bedroom community. “The goal is to have something going on so people don’t just go home at night and shut the door until it’s time to leave again in the morning,” she said.
Other Side of the Mountain Road
Visitors flock to Stowe in droves, but on the other side of the Mountain Road, little Jeffersonville — with a population of less than 1,000 people — draws five times that many people annually to the Bryan Gallery. Founded by celebrated Vermont landscape painter Alden Bryan in honor of his artist wife, Mary, the Bryan Gallery opened in 1984. The gallery shows the work of more than 200 artists annually in a series of revolving exhibitions, with a mission to exhibit and promote American landscape painting with an emphasis on New England. Oil painting is the primary medium, but the gallery recently had exhibitions by watercolor and pastel artists, as well as a photography exhibit. There is often more than one exhibit at a time to take advantage of the three distinct gallery rooms.
Executive Director Mickey Myers said visitors come from as far away as Africa, Australia and Europe. The most popular shows have been the family-friendly ones such as a recent exhibit on trains visited by school groups and later by parents escorted by their newly-art appreciative youngsters. A retrospective of Alden Bryan, featuring works that had never been displayed, was also exceedingly popular. This summer, the gallery will follow up on that with a Mary Bryan retrospective.
Travel north a bit further and you’ll hit the town of Craftsbury, known for its outdoor activities, but also home to the Art House Gallery. Executive Director Sarah Mutrux said the gallery opened in 2009 as a non-profit, which offered a bookstore and gallery with art classes. The bookstore eventually closed, but the gallery remains, overseen by a volunteer board of directors.
The Art House Gallery has rotating shows every six to eight weeks. Most are solo painting displays, but the gallery has had ensemble shows, as well as exhibits which included sculpture and other media. A showcase of handmade felted hats was quite popular. The gift shop sells the work of local artists and artisans. Although a café formerly associated with the gallery has closed, they continue to have coffee service to bring members of the community together. Most exhibitors are local, but the gallery has begun to feature the work of artists from across the state.
Phyl Newbeck contributed this article.