Vermont Woman is a forum for news, issues, features, arts and entertainment from the perspective, experience, and voices of Vermont women. Vermont Woman is a bi-monthly newspaper published in South Hero, Vermont. This website is an extension of the print publication and many, but not all, articles are posted here. We encourage our readers to contact us, either here on the website or at our Facebook page.
Doreen Kraft began her journey in arts administration in 1983, in an office squeezed inside a janitor’s closet in the basement of city hall. She was the first paid, part-time staff person for the Mayor’s Arts Council (MAC), originally an all-volunteer organization established in 1981 by then mayor Bernie Sanders. The mission of MAC was to “make the arts available to all, regardless of social, economic or physical constraints,” which remains a guiding principle of Burlington City Arts (BCA) today.
Early on, festivals and concerts were seen by MAC as a vehicle to bring the arts to the people rather then keeping visual arts, music, and other cultural activities tucked away in the rarified and sometimes intimidating atmosphere of museums, concert halls, and galleries. The Battery Park Free Concert Series was started back then and continues today along with the Discover Jazz Festival, which was initiated through a partnership with the Flynn Center. This year the festival celebrates its 32nd anniversary of bringing jazz to Vermont audiences.
Photo: BCA Director, Doreen Kraft. Photo: Jan Doerler
Women in the arts are bucking the widely accepted belief that creativity is a product of youth, and as we age our energy and our ability to inspire or be inspired dwindles. Madonna, 57, and Meryl Streep, 66, are international stars who have not let aging slow them down. They continue to infuse their work with new ideas that keep audiences enthralled, and painter Georgia O’Keeffe was active until she died at the age of 99.
Vermont has its share of women whose creative energy has kept them actively at work well into their 80s, a time when many of us feel we are lucky to be able to still walk the dog. It didn’t take much digging to discover three amazing women: Alexandra Heller, Claire Van Vliet, and Fay Webern—all with long, productive lives behind them and exciting new opportunities and projects still ahead.
For the last 22 Septembers, Art Hop has brought together a wide range of artists, while drawing scores of visitors to Burlington’s South End. The upcoming Hop will feature 500 artists stretched over more than 100 sites, according to Adam Brooks, executive director of SEABA.
The South End Arts and Business Association, or SEABA, organizes the Hop, and is on the cusp of staging the annual 23rd show. Running September 11 through 13, ground zero for the Hop is the Queen City’s South End Art District. In fact, Burlington’s South End businesses along the Pine Street corridor are reinvented and take on the appearance of art galleries.
“We work on the Art Hop really year-round,” said Brooks, from his Pine Street office. “There’s a lot of planning, research, and marketing, and it takes eight to nine months to really make it happen.”
Celebrated Vermont choreographer Hannah Dennison has, for over 35 years, created and produced numerous dance pieces for stage and selected sites in Vermont, as well as founding a nonprofit arts and educational organization, Cradle to Grave Arts, in 1991. Now 67 years old, the Chelsea resident shows no evidence of slowing down and continues to initiate new projects, such as Threads and Thresholds, which was performed this past summer in Calais.
Cradle to Grave Arts
A key objective of Cradle to Grave Arts is to contribute to the community through both stage presentations and large-scale projects with dedicated themes. Through these productions, Dennison hopes to effect a connection with people who might not otherwise have access to the arts, she said.
Fracking for oil and gas is banned in Vermont and New York, and both states are among the greenest in the nation. But that doesn’t exempt them from being cogs in the machine of the vast fossil fuel industry. In recent years, the Champlain Valley has become a locus of oil industry operations in a more direct way than ever before. The disturbing face of the global petroleum economy is now squarely in our midst, and our communities, waters, and wildlife habitat are at risk, just as they are in so many other parts of the world.
In 2009, when 22-year-old Representative Kesha Ram (D- Chittenden) first tried to get her ID card at the State House, the administrators behind the desk told her the line was “only for legislators.” Though her soon-to-be colleagues, who were lined up with Ram, confirmed that she had, in fact, been elected to the legislature, Ram still had to sign more paperwork than normal to prove her rightful place.
After relating the story to her chairwoman, Representative Helen Head (D-South Burlington), Head asked Ram “Do you think it’s because you’re young, you’re a woman, or you’re a person of color?”
“All of the above,” answered Ram. “How do I separate these things?”
However, now 29 and in her fourth term, Ram says it’s a “blessing” to be young, female, and nonwhite because she can “find common ground” with and articulate the experience of so many Vermonters in her work at the State House.
I once took a four-day course about straight men. With 275 other women from around the country. For three nights and four days. In a windowless, clockless room. In Buffalo. Taught by one pompous, obnoxious, unbearable man, who was the creator of the course.
Here is how it started. We were all seated in a dimly lighted room by the logistics team, mostly men, and told not to speak for over an hour. This lasted until mostly everyone was sufficiently agitated. Next, the room darkened, and over a loud speaker a man’s voice boomed basic protocols and expectations for the next several days, including strict confidentiality.
Then quite suddenly the room went black, and there he was spotlighted on a pedestal high above us. With God-like intimidation, he formally opened the session with the following statement: Men are simple warriors. Women are neither. Give men what they want for 45 minutes every day, and you will get what you want. That includes praise, food, and, of course, sex.