It’s All in the Making

It’s All in the Making

November 21, 2019

Andy Warhol prescribed: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Easier said than done. But, Vermont’s creative undercurrent remains powerful. Constant output brings art to the surface—to our venues and landscapes—over and over. The Council’s Creation Grant cycle rides this wave. As the application opens again in January, the works of last year’s grantees are being formed. The art of two grant rounds past has come into being, and is highlighted here, through the words of the artists.

Elizabeth Billings, Evie Lovett, and Andrea Wasserman

three collaborative-minded artists from Tunbridge, Putney, and Vershire came together to create a permanent kinetic sculpture in Brattleboro (pictured top left).

“What started as a singular piece of art has now evolved into an endeavor of placemaking and community collaboration . . . We named this endeavor Ask the River. Inherent in the name is the intention to listen to the voices of those committed both to the river and to community well-being.”

“The goal of the art-making is to facilitate community members’ forming a connection to the river through collective art-making, transforming us from observers into activists through art. Informed by the Native American perspective (shared with us by Rich Holschuh) that humans and the natural world are inextricably linked, we are working with Kathy Urffer of the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) and the Community Engagement Lab to design immersive cyanotype-making activities which activate connection to the river.”

“At two community events this summer, participants created twenty-five -foot silk cyanotypes representing their connection to the river. Over the winter, we will work to refine these activities . . . A number of art-making and education activities are planned for Spring 2020 in the context of both the Brattleboro Museum & Arts Center art outreach program and other collaborative events with our partners.

“Receiving the Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant has expanded and empowered our sense of the possible: in us, in our community, in the capacity of art to uplift and transform.”

More about Elizabeth Billings | Evie Lovett | Andrea Wasserman.


Miciah Gault

an author from Montpelier began her second novel, Nobody in Love, as her first novel, Goodnight Stranger, was released.

“I wrote chapters from the beginning, middle, and end of the book, I gained clarity about the book’s structure, which will be more complex than I’d originally envisioned. I also spent time on activities I didn’t anticipate for this project (I dived into reading fairy tales with girl/women heroes, which relates to the book). I don’t have a complete draft of the book at this point . . . but I feel great about the parts of the book that are now finished.”

The grant “basically handed me HOURS of time to write that I would have otherwise spent teaching/planning/grading. I was able to dive into this project in a deep, focused way. I was so grateful to have this kind of uninterrupted time because I’m trying to do new things with this project–I’m challenging myself to explore structure, to layer in fairy tale/legend, and to riff on themes that are of the moment.”

More about Miciah Gault.


Patty Hudak

a painter from Underhill (and Ireland!) used her grant to support the making of a seven-paneled installation of veils to serve as a setting for gestures responding to the natural environment in Vermont.

“The scale of the work is intentionally monumental, to give a sense of the sublime existence of the surrounding forest. The feeling is not only of beauty and tranquility, but also of a kind of impending chaos, reflecting our human anxiety in the contemporary world of the shift in climate change, human impact on our natural environment, and the feelings over what we stand to lose. The message is of our metaphysical relationship to a dynamic environment that mirrors back in unpredictable ways.”

“I want to thank you for taking that risk with me, to support a project that had very ethereal beginnings . . . I have noticed in my life that big changes in my location correspond to big changes in the direction of my artwork, yet often I cannot tell what that direction will be. The Creation Grant gave me a platform to explore these directions within the context of my work as an artist in Vermont.”

More about Patty Hudak.


Laurel Jenkins

a choreographer from Middlebury put together an interdisciplinary collaboration of music and dance called Beacon Fire. She originally described the idea as “An auditory scavenger hunt through a landscape or piece of architecture, inviting audience members to interact across distance and travel between a series of live music and dance etudes. Each etude can be performed individually or as one large cumulative work.”

Laurel says her “artistic career has definitely transitioned with my new(ish) home base of Middlebury, Vermont, not Los Angeles or New York . . . I have a long-term vision to connect dance artists, create performances and performance opportunities for performers in this state, so receiving the Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant has been a wonderful way to start this process of connection and collaboration.”

“In making Beacon Fire, I am able to provide a space for different generations of dancers to gather and share their craft through performance, and this is one of the most wonderful aspects of being a choreographer.”

More about Laurel Jenkins.


Photo by Vaune Trachtman.

Brian Mooney

a writer and teacher from Brattleboro planned to revise a novel titled Everything is Two Things at Once: The Secret Report of Frank Dodge (By Franconia Elizabeth Dodge). The novel is about a young girl whose brother is sent to fight overseas. As he leaves, he asks her to make a “secret list of everything that happens while he’s gone. From memories and experience, she assembles the world for him. As she does, she learns that the list is much more than a list. It’s a ladder she must climb to save him—and herself.” Brian stuck to the plan.

“I was able to make the book the #1 priority in my life . . . I can usually only take a couple hours here and there. It’s usually not enough time to really sink into a project and stay in that world. But the grant creates the time. It allows me to inhabit a creative space that’s difficult to access in my day-to-day. And that, of course, plays a huge role in skill development and career.”

More about Brian Mooney.


Brian Murphy

a poet from Bennington penned a full-length poetry manuscript entitled Plaster of Paris that “meditates on entanglements of race, violence, and memory in the United States.” He reports, “I have completed the manuscript, and am seeking some feedback from colleagues on it before I send it to publishers . . . I have been accepted as a participant at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. While there, I will be able to workshop several of the poems from the project, and also meet with potential editors and publishers in one-on-one settings.”

One of the poems from the project, “Of Weapons,” was published in Mississippi Review, whose editors nominated it for the widely-read Best New Poets anthology.

“The Creation Grant allowed me not only to generate a large number of poems, but it also gave me the freedom to experiment with form in new ways . . . Without the grant, I don’t think I would have been as daring in attempting to blend my poetic voice and my prose voice, and I wouldn’t have felt as poised and comfortable while I spent weeks finishing a single piece.”

More about Brian Murphy.


Left to right: Matt LaRocca, Executive Director of Music-COMP; Anne Decker, Music Director of Montpelier Chamber Orchestra; Drew Frankenberg and Anna Halladay, student composers of two film scores on the program; Erik Nielsen.

Erik Nielsen

a composer from Brookfield wrote a film score to accompany a silent film. “The work was premiered in two performances on March 23, 2019 at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. The film, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and two other films were presented in a concert put on by the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra in collaboration with the Green Mountain Film Festival and Music-COMP, the latter for mentoring two students, whose short film scores were also premiered. The results were highly successful both in terms of the quality of the musical performances and also the overwhelmingly positive audience response.”

“I learned a great deal while creating the piece, and the response of the conductor and musicians gave me the positive reinforcement I needed to feel ready to work in this genre again . . . The funding allowed me to create the work without having to worry about taking on other money-making ventures during the same period. This allowed me to fully concentrate on this wonderful but challenging project.”

More about Erik Nielsen.


Angela Palm

a writer from Burlington drafted a collection of essays examining “American malaise, the simultaneity of civic rage and ambivalence, exuberance and depression, and the ways that these cycles are proliferated by consumerism and our current politics.”

“I’ve completed most of what I set out to write, and was able to travel to the locations needed to do research to support the writing of the draft. I also ended up purchasing some research books and visiting a couple of museums with the budget in addition to the original plan to rent work space.”

“Two sections of the book are fully complete and currently in the hands of my agent. Two additional sections need a bit more work, but will round out this new collection for eventual publication (which I’m hoping is 2020 if all goes well).”

More about Angela Palm.


Elizabeth Powell

a poet from Underhill proposed a new publication. She intended to “begin producing a book of poems on opioid addiction in Vermont and the treatment of addicted infants.” The friend she planned to work with, a neonatologist treating such babies, died suddenly. Elizabeth’s poems “are beginning to address that unfortunate outcome.” Pieces for her new book are also exploring reproductive trauma.

“The grant allowed me to have time to write,” she reports. Elizabeth calls this time a “gift” and classifies it as “immensely important.”

Some of the poet’s new pieces have been published in Cortland Review, Electric Review, and Colorado Review.

More about Elizabeth Powell.


Dana Robinson

a musician from Cabot released a new CD inspired by Vermont life, characters, situations, and identity. The tunes on The Town That Music Saved are folk, acoustic-based, and performed by musicians who live in Vermont (Dana and Susan Robinson, Mitch Barron, Lee Blackwell, Katie Trautz, Tom MacKenzie and George Voland).

“Writing this summary now, a year since this process began, I cannot imagine performing a concert anywhere in Vermont without including a handful of the songs written for The Town That Music Saved. The sentiments conveyed in songs “Ripton Country Store” or “Forest of My Heart,” for example, have moved people to tears. Other songs such as “No Billboards or Shine,” have given voice to feelings that Vermonters have needed an outlet for. Without exception, at each concert in Vermont that we do now, there are people that come up to me sharing stories about fascinating people, places and events that they believe need a song written about – so natural is the impulse for people to have stories (and songs) to give voice to the things that move them. I am grateful to the Arts Council for giving me the opportunity to express but a fraction of these.

More about Dana and Susan Robinson.


Susan McDowell with Dominique Gustin
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Tags: Andrea Wasserman, Angela Palm, Brian Mooney, Brian Murphy, Creation Grants, Dana Robinson, Elizabeth Billings, Elizabeth Powell, Erik Nielsen, Evie Lovett, Laurel Jenkins, Miciah Gault, Patty Hudak, Vermont Artists


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