Thursday September 23, 2010


What do art and agriculture have to do with each other?

Agriculture is the application of human effort and accumulated knowledge, skills and tradition to produce food and fiber from our environment.

Articulture is the application of human effort and accumulated knowledge, skills and tradition to produce beauty and meaning from our environment.

Our artistic traditions have evolved to take the rough experience of life and find beauty and meaning to feed our souls.

Art is part of the working landscape. As we take deep satisfaction from the patterns we see when our world is shaped by the practices of good agriculture, so our lives and communities are enriched when shaped by the practices of good art.

Good agricultural practices require a profound and intimate relationship to the climate and soul of its place. Just so, art benefits from relating deeply to its place in space, time and community. We believe that our task as artists is to dig deeply into the history, soil and society along the Whetstone and share what we find.

-- Doug Cox


A community of avid articulturists

Reformer Staff / Reformer Staff




Thursday September 23, 2010


WEST BRATTLEBORO -- Antonin Vivaldi wrote a set of violin concertos in 1723 that he called "The Four Seasons."

Doug Cox’s life opus -- making violins which may someday play Vivaldi -- could also rightfully be called "The Four Seasons."

From his Sunset Lake Road studios, Cox looks out the window and takes inspiration from his surroundings -- at present, the gentle glide from summer into fall.

"There are trees turning color ... there are hills in the background. I think that those all affect me in a way that’s difficult to quantify," said Cox. "I take it on the level that it makes a differece in the sense of freedom and direction, and I guess, I would hope, the integrity of my work."

That important intersection of life and work and place has spawned a word of Cox’s creation -- "articulture." It also lies at the heart of an event -- the Brattleboro-West Arts Open Studio Tour, whose second annual edition unfolds this weekend with hours Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Featuring 18 artists in 16 locations, this year’s tour is noteworthy for its diversity. Bringing together artists who live within a six-mile radius along the Whetstone Brook watershed in West Brattleboro and Marlboro, the tour includes a weathervane maker, a rug braider, a wood carver, a stone mason, as well as artists who work with hand-dyed silks, colored porcelain, blown and fused glass and locally harvested hardwoods. Not to mention, landscape artists, portraitists and abstract painters.

Brattleboro-West Arts began last year as something like a prairie dog village. Creative souls who had been doing their own work suddenly put their heads up and realized there was a community of artists on Brattleboro’s western frontier.

"It’s always been sort of the outskirts of Brattleboro, but through meeting once a month, we’ve gotten to know each other. It’s really created a community," said Naomi Lindenfeld, who will be giving demonstrations and selling her layered colored clay work, including seconds, from her studio at 33 Meadowbrook Road.

While sales are helpful, the artists acknowledge that the real joy comes from just having people come to their studios, behold the work and the artists in their natural habitats and maybe develop a deeper appreciation of "articulture."

"The tour is more than retail. We want to show people ‘This is what you get when you buy something that’s made in Vermont," said Marta Bernbaum, who works in glass with her husband Josh at their glorious new studio on Hescock Road, off Sunset Lake Road. "Here, it’s so easy to bear witness to something that’s more than retail. ... It might change the way they consume things in the future."

And it should be a good show. The Bernbaums have just put the finishing touches on their new glass furnace -- the first firing took place this week -- and they should be blowing glass this weekend.

A long time in the making, the opening of the studio is a celebration of triumphant new beginnings for the Bernbaums, who have a 6-month-old son and have been working for years to make the dream of having a studio in Vermont come true.

Their studio represents not only a dream but an ethos. "We have what could be the nation’s greenest glass furnace," said Bernbaum, of the innovative furnace Josh designed and built.

An ethos of reduce, reuse and recycle is also part of another new beginning celebrated on this year’s tour. At 62 Butterfield Road, Kris McDermet, whose art combines the traditions of rug hooking and braiding, will welcome visitors for the first time to the refurbished old house she and her husband rescued from demolition 17 years ago on the site of what is now the discount beverage store in West Brattleboro.

Working paintstakingly over time, the McDermets have saved the early-1800s Cape-style house and fixed up the downstairs to be a studio which McDermet will share with fellow fiber artist Karen Kamenetzky, whose dyed, painted and stitched cotton and silk wall hangings are very different from McDermet’s. Still, the two artists share a friendship, time dyeing their work together and now studio space in the Fiber Arts House.

"We are so excited to be part of the tour and we’re excited to part of Brattleboro West-Arts," said McDermet. "The little house is happy, too."

Along the tour, artists hope people linger at their studios, chat about their work, watch demonstrations and engage meaningfully with the artists and their lives. Cox’s studio will feature live music. On Saturday, from 1 to 3 p.m., Michelle Liechti and Peggy Spencer will play violin duets on some of the new instruments in the shop. On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Laurie Indenbaum and Jill Newton will play fiddle tunes.

It’s a good weekend to be out on rural roads, visiting artists’ studios. The tour coincides with the beginning of the fall foliage season as well as the peak of apple picking and the fall harvest.

Tour maps to get you on your way are available at C.X. Silver Gallery, 814 Western Ave., which features a sampling of work by many of the artists on the tour, as well as the paintings of Xi Cai and a new, exciting addition to the tour -- a video by Xi Le.

For more information, visit





Brattleboro-West Arts hosts open studio tour this weekend

By Jeff Potter/The Commons

WEST BRATTLEBORO—A group of artists and craftspeople from the West Brattleboro and Marlboro area will open their studios en masse this weekend.

Douglas Cox of Sunset Lake Road, who makes violins, violas and cellos used worldwide by professional and traditional musicians of all genres, has coordinated a tour of 18 studios within a six-mile radius for the second annual Brattleboro-West Arts Open Studio Tour.

“The weekend features some work that responds directly to the Vermont countryside, like landscape paintings, figured stoneware, and blown-glass flowers,” writes the group’s publicist, Paula Melton. “Other artists offer a contemporary twist on a traditional local art form, such as quilting, fine cabinetry and wood-fired clay vessels.

“Still others incorporate trees or stones from their own property, or take inspiration from the ripples of the Whetstone Brook, the brilliant autumn leaves or the geometry of a freshly mown hayfield.”

The tour also provides an opportunity for artists to expand their markets, said Cox, who estimates that the group collectively brought gross sales of $750,000 into the local economy last year, approximately 80 percent from out-of-state.

Cox describes the group’s economic focus simply, as two questions.

“How do we help each other be more successful?” he asks. “How do we bring a better return?”

But the tour provides return beyond dollars and cents, in the form of exposure to potential customers and clients and the joy of sharing beautiful objects with local people who might not fully be aware of the creative lives of their neighbors.

“It’s a convenient opportunity to visit,” Cox said. “I’m not expecting everyone to show up and buy a violin.”

“Our goal is to share the place and the process from which our creativity flows,” Cox says.Previous page

Visitors on the tour can stop at the C.X. Silver Gallery at 814 Western Ave. (Route 9), and while there, pick up brochures and maps to the individual galleries.

On Saturday, from 1 to 3 p.m., in Cox’s studio, Michelle Liechti and Peggy Spencer will play classical works from Bach and other composers. On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Laurie Indenbaum and Jill Newton will play fiddle tunes. All music will be performed on Cox’s instruments.

In addition to Cox’s studio, the tour includes the work spaces of:

• Josh and Marta Bernbaum, glass (West Brattleboro).

• Stephen Lloyd, architecture/painting (West Brattleboro).

• Matt Tell, wood-fired ceramics (Marlboro).

• Xi Cai, painting (West Brattleboro).

• Michael Weitzner, dry-stone masonry (West Brattleboro).

• Janet Picard, painting (West Brattleboro).

. •Michelle and David Holzapfel, Applewoods Studio and Gallery, woodworking (Marlboro).

. •• Naomi Lindenfield, layered colored clay (West Brattleboro).

• Jim Giddings and Petria Mitchell, painting (West Brattleboro).

• Cathy Osman and Tim Segar, painting and sculpture (Marlboro).

• Kris McDermet, hooked and braided rugs (Dummerston).

• Karen Kamenetzky, fibers (Dummerston).

• Ron Karplus, sculpture and painting (West Brattleboro).

• Jason E. Breen, woodworking (Brattleboro).

• Xi Le, video and drawing (West Brattleboro).

Visitors can also see work from other members of the consortium on display at American Traders Retail Store and Showroom at 257 Marlboro Rd. (Route 9).

 Economic and social support

The artists joined forces in 2009 after a meeting of the West Brattleboro Association that featured a talk by Jeff Lewis, executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.

Lewis’s suggestions left an impression, Cox says.“He said the surest way for economic growth is to take a sector that is underperforming but has potential and to develop that,” Cox notes.

Cox says he reflected on the potential of building visibility and momentum for the dozens of artists in the West Brattleboro region, who, like him, were toiling in isolation.

“I knew another couple of people like me,” he says, and soon Brattleboro-West Arts came to be.

The group has organized the gallery tours and other events. The loose consortium of artists also meets monthly for potluck dinners.

 “It’s an opportunity to exchange information, to support each other, to be inspired by each other’s work, to be stimulated to improve our work, and to commiserate,” Cox says. “That’s proven to be very welcome, very effective.”