Friday, September 30, 2016

Burlington Artist Assembles a Pleistocene-Era Lion Skeleton

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 12:05 PM

  • Sadie Williams
In a small, well-lit space deep inside Burlington's Soda Plant, artist Kyle Sikora settles the skull of an extinct female North American lion onto a blue, padded frame. The Conant Metal & Light employee disappears behind the massive skeleton, more than nine feet long, as he crouches down to adjust its 17-inch noggin.

Alan Stout of Rome, Georgia, owner of the skeleton, keeps a vigilant watch from the room's entrance as he simultaneously entertains this reporter. A retired food-safety official,Stout now operates an online business called Dinoland Plus. It offers "museum-quality reptile and mammal pieces for sale, fossil preparation [and] knowledge of animals in all time periods."

But this lion reconstruction won't be for sale. At least, not for a while.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Vermont Historical Society Talks Freaks, Radicals and Hippies

Posted By on Sun, Sep 11, 2016 at 4:09 PM

Goddard College students, 1971 - COURTESY OF GODDARD COLLEGE ARCHIVES
  • Courtesy of Goddard College Archives
  • Goddard College students, 1971
Experiences and legacies of 1970s Vermonters were fondly — and sometimes movingly — examined at a Vermont Historical Society event on Saturday, September 10, called "Freaks, Radicals & Hippies: Counterculture in 1970s Vermont Symposium."

The daylong event at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, which featured keynote speaker Edward Berkowitz, a cultural history scholar, bore some resemblance to an educational program at a senior center. But the topics weren't the least bit bland. Most of the 125 attendees seated at round tables in the college's Alumni Hall were old enough to recall the riotous 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago, the 1969 Woodstock musical festival, the 1970 killings of antiwar demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio and other tumultuous events of the era recounted by some of the speakers.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

St. Albans National Guardsman Chosen as 2016 Soldier of the Year, Plans WWI Exhibit

Posted By on Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 9:00 AM

  • FIle illustration by Andy Warner
It's not every day that Seven Days has reason to update a story from its annual Cartoon Issue. Then again,  Capt. Zachariah "Zac" Fike's story, which was featured in the 2014 Cartoon Issue, is not like many others.

Fike, 35, is a full-time, active-duty member of the Vermont National Guard and the founder of Purple Hearts Reunited. The St. Albans-based nonprofit is committed to returning those military medals, which are awarded to combat veterans wounded or killed in action, to their rightful owners or the owners' next of kin.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Revolutionary War Veteran to Receive Replacement Gravestone

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Johnson Cemetery - KEN PICARD
  • Ken Picard
  • Johnson Cemetery
A veteran of the American Revolutionary War buried in Waterbury will get a new headstone courtesy of the Veterans Administration. That's thanks in part to Seven Days readers who inquired about the long-abandoned cemetery for a recent "WTF" column.

The May 25 article, "What's the Story With the Hidden Cemetery in Waterbury?" explained the origins of the Johnson Cemetery visible from I-89, as well as the desecration of the grave of Zachariah Bassett, a Revolutionary War soldier, sailor and prisoner of war.

In May 2011, Mark Backus, an amateur genealogist living in Bristol, went to visit the grave of Bassett, his fifth grand-uncle, only to discover that his 19th-century marble headstone had been snapped off at its base and stolen. Backus reported the theft to the Vermont State Police but the headstone was never recovered.

Shortly after the publication of that story,  a member of the Vermont Society of the Sons of the American Revolution contacted Seven Days to get in touch with Backus. The "male lineage society" and historic/patriotic nonprofit is dedicated to keeping alive the spirit and memory of those who fought in the American war for independence — including the 174 veterans of that war who are known to be buried in Vermont. 

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Historian Thomas Crow Talks Pop Art and Counterculture

Posted By on Sat, Mar 26, 2016 at 4:24 PM

"LOVE," screenprint by Robert Indiana (multiplied by 6) - COURTESY OF FLEMING MUSEUM
  • Courtesy of Fleming Museum
  • "LOVE," screenprint by Robert Indiana (multiplied by 6)
In conjunction with current show "Pop Art Prints," renowned art historian, author and New York University professor Thomas Crow spoke at the Fleming Museum of Art on Wednesday, March 23. His talk was titled "Painting, Print, Poster, Album Cover: Pop Reproductions and the Counter-Culture" and focused on two images that have become ubiquitous since their creation in the 1960s. An incarnation of one of these is included in the exhibition: Robert Indiana's "Love" print. 

The second image was "Viva Che," a poster that Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick completed in 1968, following the Argentine revolutionary's death in October 1967. Crow asserted that the image has "never been out of view since." Fitzpatrick adapted his iconic emblem, which Crow asserted as "indebted to Warhol," from the "Guerrillero Heroico" photo taken of Che by Alberto Korda in 1960.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

A Nazi Film With an Unusual Perspective on the Holocaust

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 8:11 AM

Archival footage from What Our Fathers Did - WILDGAZE FILMS
  • Wildgaze Films
  • Archival footage from What Our Fathers Did
A college film professor of mine once remarked that if Nazis had never existed, Hollywood would have had to invent them. He was an eccentric guy and his lectures were pretty obtuse, but I understood his point: Nazis are so evil that they have filled the all-important Bad Guy role in countless films.

And it’s not just Hollywood that loves to hate Nazis. Films of the Holocaust subgenre have an excellent track record with critics and prize givers. Just this past year, the Hungarian film Son of Saul, an intense drama set in a concentration camp, won the Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and other awards.

This particular cinematic well is a deep one, as evidenced by the upcoming Middlebury screening of What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy. The new documentary will play for a single screening at the Town Hall Theater on Sunday, April 3, 7 p.m., as part of the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival Winter Screening series.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

A 45-Foot 'Street Comic' Tells a Palestinian Story

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2016 at 2:12 PM

Michelle Sayles - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Michelle Sayles
Michelle Sayles and Jen Berger expected some backlash about their “street comic.” The 45-foot-long, black-and-white banner titled “Najawa: A Story of Palestine,” commissioned by Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel, tells the story of a fictional Palestinian refugee. It was first exhibited at the South End Art Hop last September and now hangs in Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library.

“I was nervous,” Sayles said. “But when we put it out at Art Hop, people were saying, ‘Wow, this is really powerful.’” Berger, who contributed to the research and installation of the piece, says, “Historically, pieces like this aren’t well received. But I haven’t felt any backlash at all.”

Their concerns weren’t unwarranted. Berger was referring not just to political art in general but to the work Bread and Puppet Theater founder Peter Schumann displayed at the Art Hop in 2007. “Independence Paintings: Inspired by Four Stories” compared the Israeli treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis' treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. The exhibit was met with protestors at a VTJP event that weekend. *

As it happens, a donation from Bread and Puppet made “Najawa” possible. The funding enabled VTJP to cover the cost of Sayles’ paints, brushes and canvases. But, as VTJP member Marc Estrin makes clear, neither organization had creative control over the content of the comic. “VTJP said, we trust you as an artist, and whatever you come up with we’ll be happy to fund,” says Estrin.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Flight Records: Finding a Tuskegee Airman From Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Jan 26, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Yearbook photo of Robert Cole, Northfield High School class of 1938 - COURTESY OF NORTHFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY
  • Courtesy of Northfield Historical Society
  • Yearbook photo of Robert Cole, Northfield High School class of 1938
This Friday, January 29, Black Angels Over Tuskegee comes to the Flynn MainStage in Burlington. The critically acclaimed off-Broadway play by Layon Gray is about the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black aviator corps that played a critical role in the U.S. air campaign during World War II.

When the curtain rises, many audience members will undoubtedly know something about the corps, and some may have seen the 1995 movie, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne. Yet few audience members will be likely to know that the Tuskegee's ranks included an aviator from the Green Mountains.

Robert Cole, who was born and raised in Northfield, was the only Vermonter ever to serve in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators in history. At least one living Vermonter, Bill Lyon of Northfield, personally remembers Cole from his days in Northfield both before and after the war.

Robert Arthur Cole was born in Northfield on March 8,1920, to Alonzo and Martha Cole. According to the Northfield Historical Society, U.S. Census data from 1930 shows that Cole had two sisters and two brothers.

Cole attend Northfield High School where, according to his yearbook, he belonged to the drama club, played basketball, sang in the chorus and played guitar in a dance band called the Blue Jackets. According to Lyon, now 68, Cole's father was himself a musician who played in and around Northfield. Lyon remembers that Alonzo Cole died tragically while his children were still young, after he fell off a trestle bridge in Northfield and drowned.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

History of America in 101 Objects Author Speaks at Norwich University

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:03 PM

Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects - SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects
In his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin takes what could be a gimmicky concept and turns it into a compelling work of public history. This week at Norwich University in Northfield, he'll give a talk that touches on many of those iconic, historic objects.

Kurin, whose free lecture is at 1 p.m. on Friday, October 2, holds the most excellent title of Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, and therefore had unprecedented access to the items about which he wrote his book. It’s difficult to say if selecting 101 items from a collection of more than 138 million was an enviable task or a back-breaking one. Probably a little of both.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

Lost Shul Mural Unveiled in Burlington

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 4:27 PM

  • Ethan de Seife
The mural that was recently unveiled to the public at Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue has been celebrated, forgotten, rediscovered, restored and transported, but, despite its 100-plus years, has not lost its ability to impress.

Hanging in the synagogue’s foyer from a specially constructed steel frame, the mural commands attention even though it hangs at second-story level. Its blues and yellows are rich not just in hue but in symbolism, and its three-paneled, triangular form is so unusual as to inspire curiosity. It’s a one-of-a-kind work of art, and those who have been working for years on restoring it are keen to give the mural its due.

In a ceremony at the synagogue on Sunday, dignitaries, religious figures and project supervisors gave the public its first look at the mural’s new, permanent home. Among those who spoke at the ceremony were former Vermont governor Madeleine May Kunin, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who had mentioned the so-called Lost Shul Mural in the Congressional Record of July 7.

Using that article to refer to the Lost Shul Mural as ”one of our state’s most significant treasures,” Leahy also praised the hard work of its restoration committee: “This important piece of Burlington’s Jewish history will finally be on proper display for all to enjoy.”

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