Vermont Arts Council

A Community Takes a Curtain Call

An audience packs the Wardsboro Town Hall awaiting a performance by a local folk duo. Red velvet curtains glow. When the curtains part, the crowd  is transported to a shaded country lane lined with leafy trees.

Just over a year ago, audiences were greeted by a dingy beige theater curtain with a huge grease spot. “The curtain was so discouraging,” said Karen Davis, project manager for the Wardsboro Curtain Project. “The biggest function for the stage was to store extra folding chairs, broken furniture, and all kinds of odds and ends. It was hard sometimes for the performers to find room to  stand on the stage!”

Davis wanted a change. She and others were sure that new curtains would  help to revitalize the Town Hall. But for a volunteer group, the cost of acquiring new drapes seemed insurmountable.

A chance meeting with Chris Hadsel, an expert in historic painted curtains, offered a potential solution. Hadsel secured the donation of historic painted curtains that had been moldering in the basement of a grange in Maine.  And so, the Wardsboro Curtain Project was born.

Two women working on curtainCurtain Party!

With procurement of the curtains assured, the newly formed Wardsboro  curtain call committee got serious about fundraising. They applied for, and received, a Cultural Facilities Grant. “We realized that with the help of the grant, we could not only conserve and install the painted scenic curtains,  but might also be able to add new front stage drapery,” said Davis.

A multi-day work party brought the community together to mend, repaint,  and restore the original beauty of the century-old paintings on muslin. When the refurbished curtains were first unfurled in their new home, spontaneous applause broke out among the volunteers.

A Domino Effect

That spirit has carried forward. “The Curtain Project has had a domino effect  in our community,” said Davis. “Since the curtains were installed, a local person donated the refinishing of the stage floor and parents from the Wardsboro  Elementary School successfully petitioned to have graduation ceremonies moved to Town Hall.”
detail from painted curtain
Now when the community gathers for an event they are greeted by the rich glow of the front drapes and a beautifully restored set of curtains.  There is not an extra chair in sight.

Read other stories about community in the Council’s FY2015 Annual Report
Other projects funded by FY2015 Cultural Facilities Grants

top left image: local folk duo Hungrytown performs at the Wardsboro Town Hall
top right: Lise Fortin and Carol Steiner work on curtain restoration
lower right: detail from one of the restored curtains

This story taken from the Council’s FY2015 Annual Report.